Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bats and Lasers

Several years ago I read a story about a bat exhibit that had been installed at a natural history museum. The exhibit was about how bats navigate with sound waves and they used an interactive laser to illustrate the point. When they previewed the exhibit, everyone wanted to play with the laser. No one wanted to read about bats.

What do you do in this case? Clearly the visitor is not getting it. The museum exhibit is about bats.

The museum removed the exhibit about bats and installed an exhibit about lasers.

When working with children in any program, the key is to create an environment where they can be successful and learn on their own. I received a comment a few weeks ago about the museum mind map we created. The mind map included a large discussion of "EDUCATION" which is something the museum does...and said nothing about "LEARNING" which is what the visitor does. Learning is a user directed activity.

Most museums think of themselves as educational institutions, as was evident to one of the readers of our mind map. When in reality, we should think of ourselves as learning institutions. 

Making coiled clay pots is hard. But working with clay is fun. On Thursday, there were a bunch of kids here. Most of them had never been inside the building before. They were not very successful in creating pots. But they were very successful in creating small things out of clay.

What do you do in this case? Clearly the visitor is not getting it. The museum program is about pots.

When they were leaving I heard one of the little boys tell his sister, "this place is fun."

I did not have the heart to tell him its not fun

...its a museum.

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