It is increasingly common for museums to focus on educational work, thus also supporting the school education. At museums’ disposal there is a great database in terms of the collections, which can be engaged to enrich and supplement the school education using the correct methods and programs. The vision of the Estonian Museums for the year of 2015 provides for the museums’ educational activities, offering experiences, scientific entertainment and supporting the formal studies through everything mentioned above.
The purpose of the Master’s Thesis was to investigate whether and how museums at the moment operate in a role of the study environment, and support the formal education. In order to do that, the author carried out the analysis of the national curriculum, under which museum is an appropriate study environment, offering practical and all-round study opportunities. Museum education can be age-adjusted and illustrated with the exhibits. In the museum, subjects can be inter-integrated, supporting the opportunity to acquire various basic competences such as value-oriented, social, study, communication and entrepreneurship competences. The current national curriculum defines the opportunity to carry out the research and creative works, which can be supported by museum.
The Master’s Thesis reviews the museum role in 21 century including development of the museum pedagogics in Estonia. By virtue of the analysis of seven museums’ educational work, the author provides a current overview of the museums’ pedagogics and opportunities for supporting social subjects, in the first place, history studies. The research subject is better introduced via the analysis based on the surveys of the museum educators and history and social sciences teachers, and the conclusions thereunder. The Master’s also contains specific recommendations for cooperation between museum and school, supporting/enriching studies of social and other subjects.
Analysis of the surveys carried out in the thesis allow us to conclude that the museum pedagogics enriches study work. Museum educational programs supported studies of social subjects in terms of topics, offering teachers the opportunities to reach the study results, first, in teaching history. The purpose of the provided museum lessons is mainly to create interest for the topic and offer experiences. When preparing museum lessons, educators consider different target groups, whereas they often combine both the basic and secondary school levels. Normally, lesson topics for particular form are not offered, so the programs in use do not support striving for study results.
Based on the surveys of the history and social sciences teachers and museum educators, we may state that museum is considered to be the formal education supportive study environment. A museum visit can be regarded necessary when teaching history, and a lot of teachers actively use the all-round museum opportunities to enrich their study work. The national curriculum recommendation to expand the study environment allows educators to do so more often. However, the recommendation alone is not enough. Visit to museum involves multiple problems, which prevent many teachers from visiting. The biggest issue is lack of the economic and time resources or their insufficiency. The Ministry of Education and Research and local governments might help tackle that problem via financing and event arrangement. Besides, school and museums could enter the cooperation agreements or write common projects to promote museum studies.
The purpose of the museum visit lesson is often to enrich the topic of the lesson or illustrate it, and to create interest to the subject in general. Teachers seldom think about reaching specific study results. The museum workers themselves do not focus on the RÕK principles while organising museum educational work. Teachers neither would pay much attention to considering RÕK. Museum lesson cannot substitute school lesson – It can only enrich it. The museum lesson can be done in a free format and more playful form than the school lesson. A significant place in the museum lesson is given to practical tasks and topic illustration. Such lessons should also take into account the target group and the appropriate method and tasks.
One of the opportunities to elaborate the museum lesson could be cooperation of museum and school. Such museum lesson contains three stages, the first and the third of which are conducted in a classroom. The museum would elaborate the relevant guidelines and materials explaining how to conduct the prior to the museum visit and follow-up lessons. In a view of museum lesson elaboration and success, a significant role is played by students’ feedback, which can be recommended for regular and organised collecting on the part of museum.
The museum lesson uses such methods similar to the school lessons as group work, worksheet, quiz. At the same time, one may apply in museum education the methods which are seldom used in a classroom. These are: role play, illustration of topic using exhibits, board game, film, search game. As other educational activity, offered by museums, the respondents named orientation game, brainstorms, computer games. School and museum cooperation were also mentioned as very important. Some museums did project-based cooperation with a certain school. Education of teachers was not very frequent though regarded to be necessary.
Success of visiting museum depends not only on the well-prepared museum lesson, but on the museum worker’s contribution. A good museum pedagogue is a professional, who knows how to introduce the topic excitingly and adapt study activities according to the age. Museum pedagogue is literate and a good speaker. Preferably, museum pedagogue should have pedagogical education. Based on the questionnaires, we may conclude that currently more than a half of the museum pedagogues in Estonian do have it.
Cooperation of museum and school have more opportunities than just visit to museum. Museum may offer schools a possibility to invite school to conduct subject lesson in museum. There are interesting projects like „Museum in a suitcase” or „The subject suitcase”. In addition, museum could offer school the following: mobile exhibitions, partner projects, school trips, excursions, thematic days, hobby activity, orientation games, additional materials, and, why not, guidance of creative and research works. Various museums have already successfully attempted a variety of such activities.