You might recall that a primary goal of Teacher Tour Guide is to develop a curriculum that is accessible to a variety of families. I realize that destinations like The Field Museum are not available in all areas!
We are – without a doubt – a city family. As part of that, there will be some tours that are easily accessible to us that may not be to others. Even if they aren’t easily available to you, visiting museums while traveling or exploring the museums in your region is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.
One of my primary goals when visiting The Field Museum is to keep it appropriate for B’s attention span. I have spent days upon days in the museum and have not seen everything… there is absolutely no reason to try to do it all with a preschooler in tow. Instead, my goal was to focus our attention on a few key exhibits. We are lucky to have world class institutions like The Field Museum at our fingertips, but the truth is smaller regional museums are often even better for young children because they force visitors to focus on a few key exhibits by their very nature.
For B, The Field Museum is first and foremost the home of Sue the dinosaur. Sue is the largest and most complete T-Rex ever found and does not disappoint. She is on display in the main hall of the museum and impossible to miss during a visit. Despite our intention of seeing Sue, we began our visit downstairs, choosing to enter through the accessible entrance rather than the main entrance. This allowed us to bring a stroller just in case the massive museum became too much for B. Entering downstairs also started our visit near the Field Museums’ Play Lab, a special exhibit geared towards young children.
The Play Lab has a variety of hands on exhibits related to the “big” exhibits throughout the museum. One of these is uncovering dinosaur bones in sand using a variety of tools. I hoped that B would be interested in this but she was distracted and unfocused and didn’t spend much time looking at anything in the Play Lab.
After a brief spin through the downstairs we headed upstairs to the main hall. B was SO excited to see Sue that she ran to her and checked her out for quite some time. As B was looking at Sue, I began to speak with some educators who had set up a station nearby. As we talked, B began exploring the computer-based activities that they had set up. The activities were much too advanced for her but she enjoyed clicking on the keyboard and using the mouse. Initially, I didn’t mind since this gave me an opportunity to continue my discussion. In hindsight, I wish we had moved on more quickly.
B had started out the day lacking focus and screen time only seemed to worsen her attention span. From that point forward, she was drawn to the computer/screen based displays wherever we went in the museum. And The Field Museum is filled with screens! It felt like there was one around every corner. Rather than exploring the various exhibits, B was simply looking for buttons to push or screens to touch. I was frustrated that she wasn’t more engaged with the exhibits. She was frustrated that I was constantly asking her to move on from the screens.
We made it through the dinosaur exhibit but it wasn’t our finest hour… B occasionally humored me by looking at the dinosaur bones and answering my questions but I doubt that she gained much from the experience beyond her encounter with Sue.
There are a ½ dozen possible reason’s why B was so off this particular morning. Poor sleep, lousy breakfast, potty training distraction, overscheduled week, the novelty of our guest… Kids, like adults, have off days and I’m empathetic to that. I’m not sure what I would do differently if this scenario repeated itself… Perhaps we should have returned to the (screen free) Play Lab in hopes some hands on play would have re-engaged B in the experience? Maybe I should have simply bailed on my “school” hopes for the day and just let her do her thing? Maybe simply seeing Sue was enough and we should have headed outdoors for a walk on the Museum Campus and a picnic lunch after a brief visit to the museum?
Teaching (like parenting!) sometimes throws me for a loop. Luckily there’s always another chance to try again tomorrow.
What would you have done?