Museum Studies at TMSE

By Joyia Pittman

Four weeks into the outreach program at the Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary and we have covered a range of anthropological topics that include: culture, ethnography, and archaeology.

This was my first real experience at teaching and leading a class. I was given the task of presenting a lesson on museums. One response I received from the students was a flat out, “No!” (I thought that was pretty funny). This was actually one of my biggest fears in presenting this lesson, that they would not find it enjoyable. Luckily, we teach a great group of students who are always excited to learn.

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My lesson on museums included hearing what they thought a museum was and how they thought it worked. We talked about curators and exhibits and what purpose they served in museum work. One thing I wanted to make sure that I drove home about why museums were important, is the fact that artifacts provide critical information about the people who created them.  We have been focusing on Southeast Asia so to tie that in we traveled to Cambodia where we visited the National Museum of Cambodia. I made sure to use pictures and ask a lot of questions so that I was engaging with the students instead of just talking at them.

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For the lesson activity, we were curators. I explained to them that a curator is a keeper of a collection and it is their job to catalogue artifacts as they come into the museum. Each clan was given an artifact and it was their job to catalogue it. They were asked a series of questions and then each group presented to the class a little about the item they curated. This was the most rewarding part to me. I enjoyed seeing them be so excited about presenting their artifact to the rest of the class.

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Overall, this was a learning experience for me just as much as it was for them. I have always been the student, not the teacher. I think the students learned a lot from my lesson and they seemed to enjoy the activity, especially when they were able to present their findings. I am looking forward to seeing what information they retained when we free list next week. I think what the University of Alabama is doing with this partnership program is going to be extremely beneficial to us and the students at TMSE and I look forward to teaching them again!

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