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Kid Curators Overview

What

Kid Curators® museums are 3-dimensional school exhibitions created by students as part of the classroom curriculum. Students conduct research about the museum topic, design displays to show what they’ve learned, and interpret those displays for visiting audiences. Students of all ages—kindergarten through high school—can create a school museum.

Why

To thrive in today’s world, students must know how to acquire, use, and communicate knowledge creatively. This involves asking and investigating questions, finding and managing information, analyzing and synthesizing ideas, solving problems, collaborating, and creating valuable products. Today’s successful learner is a curator of knowledge.

How

The Kid Curators® model operationalizes the metaphor of kids as curators. In school museum projects, content is reframed as an information “design” problem where students create an exhibition about the topic they are studying. Students learn with a clear purpose in mind—to create an original school museum for the visiting public.

What If

A school museum project will excite your students and engage them in deep learning. Student curators become content experts as they conduct research, write for a unique audience, and communicate with a visiting public. Any curriculum topic can become an interesting museum design project. What will your students create? The possibilities are endless!

A Few Examples

Articles About Learning on Display


article-1-thumbNow, more than ever, students need active, experiential learning opportunities both in and outside of the school setting. With increased pressure to meet academic standards and to do well on accountability measures, Schools are tempted to sacrifice meaningful learning experiences in favor of a narrow focus on test preparation. Museum educators are feeling the pressure as well, and are increasingly aligning their programs to the state and district academic standards. But must this current age of educational reform represent a narrowing of learning opportunities for students? Or is this the time for both Museum and school educators to explore innovative ways to involve students in meaningful learning experiences that are both rigorous and relevant? Programs that involve students in designing and creating community exhibitions are such experiences.

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Screen-Shot-2015-05-13-at-12.09.11-AMAt the Bethesda Elementary School opening of the exhibition Forever Strong, developed by kindergartners, I visited exhibits on the importance of exercise, healthy eating, and hygiene. A gallery of self-portraits depicted students engaged in their favorite physical activities, and a family-in-motion photo display included images of students and their families biking, swimming, playing soccer, skiing, and so on. Student docents spoke with me at an interactive “My Plate” exhibit that challenged visitors to assemble a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner based on the USDA recommendations; at a toy and game area of activities that encourage stretching, strength-building, or aerobic exercise; at a flossing exhibit utilizing an egg-carton converted to an oversized set of teeth; and many more such exhibits.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 12.26.20 AMTo thrive in today’s complex, global, technology-rich world, acquisition of knowledge is not enough. Students must also be proficient using and communicating knowledge creatively. To do so students’ need to know how to ask and investigate questions, find and manage information, analyze and synthesize ideas, create valuable products, solve problems, collaborate, and communicate effectively in writing, orally, and visually. In our 21st century world, effective learners are not just consumers of information but also constructors and even curators of information and knowledge. Kid as curators is an apt learning metaphor in today’s information age. Curators and exhibit designers make deliberate decisions about what to display to the visiting public, how to display it and for what purpose.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 12.27.00 AMDuring the past two months, 6th graders in Pat Morrissey’s classroom at Elmwood Elementary School in New Berlin, Wisconsin, accomplished a challenging task: They created a school museum about environmental issues to share with their community. This process engaged their intellects, piqued their interest, and developed their communication, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. At the same time, students learned important content to meet rigorous state standards. Before students began their work, project planners (either teachers alone or teachers and students) developed a “big idea” for the upcoming exhibition. In a single sentence, they clarified what they wanted visitors (and students) to remember long after the event. The big idea for the Elmwood environment museum was Humans can hurt or help the environment.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 12.27.43 AMArts @ Large and Milwaukee Public Schools obtained an Arts in Education Professional Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Education to train three cohorts of teachers in the Kid Curator school museum process as outlined in Learning on Display: Student-Created Museums that Build Understanding (D’Acquisto, 2006). The Kid Curator instructional process puts students in the roles of researcher, exhibit designer and docent as they create and staff their own school museums. Throughout the process students learn academic content and important skills. The highly successful March to Equality exhibition (see QR code for more information) was a product of the school museum process, illustrating how the Kid Curator model of engaging students in exhibit design transforms teaching and learning. MPS C.R.E.A.T.E. teachers lead students in this dynamic work!

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