For Teachers: Planning a Museum or Gallery Visit

Two children looking through an exhibit from the Museum of Science and Industry.

Museum of Science and Industry

© Museum of Science and Industry

    • Museums and galleries are unique and powerful tools for supporting classroom learning. When used well, visits ignite imaginations, stimulate curiosity and deepen understanding in ways which are meaningful, relevant and are often remembered for a lifetime. They can be used to support all areas of the curriculum. Visits to museums and galleries are also great fun! Check out the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom for the latest news and resources.

      Follow these tips to make the most of your visit:

      1.    Timing: will you use your visit to kick off a project and spark ideas, or to consolidate and deepen skills, knowledge and understanding in a topic already introduced or covered? It’s not always possible to book your visit exactly when you want it, but timing your visit carefully can make all the difference to the experience and its impact on classroom learning.

      2.    Be prepared - students: learning during the visit will be more effective if pupils have already been introduced to some of the ideas and concepts and things on display that they will encounter. Having some idea of what they might see and do stimulates curiosity, builds anticipation and deepens engagement. Check the museum or gallery website for classroom activities, images or films to help prepare your pupils and familiarise them with your chosen focus – or ask them to research this themselves and present what they have found to the rest of the group.

      3.    Be prepared – adults: if possible, take time to make a preliminary visit to the site. Knowing where the best stuff is and where the nearest toilets are can make the world of difference! Bring as many adults with you as you can and brief them carefully.

      4.    Getting there: leave plenty of time for your journey. Pupils can help with the planning.

      5.    During the visit: make the most of the staff’s expertise and experience by booking a led session or workshop. Check the museum or gallery website to see whether they have ‘trails’ or ‘self-led’ activities to support and focus exploration of the displays. Group leaders can help pupils’ to look closer and investigate further by:
      •    Asking pupils to photograph, sketch or make a note of the five most useful items they have found to support their chosen topic, or answer an enquiry question. They must be able to justify their choices.
      •    Asking questions about the objects or artworks links to How to use objects to find out about the past; Looking closer at paintings
      •    Asking pupils to personify an object or artwork: if it could talk what would it say? How might it feel? What would it wish for?
      •    Asking pupils to choose which object or artwork they would take back to school with them – what would they tell their peers about it?

      6.    Following up: how will you use your visit back in the classroom? Pupils could:
      •    Use their visit to stimulate ideas for creative work link to How to use museums and galleries as creative starters. Sketches, photos and notes collected during the visit will prompt memories.
      •    Use their visit to add to classroom investigations and enquiries into the past, artists and art genres, or scientific explorations link to How to use museums to find out about the past. Sketches, photos and notes made during the visit can be added to ‘evidence files’, written work or presentations.

      Take another look at the museum or gallery’s website for resources to support classroom work; get some tips for using online collections here.

      Museums and galleries are amazing places. However you choose to use your visit, have some fun with it!

      Curriculum links
      Museum visits can enrich and support learning across the curriculum:

      Historical enquiry

      -    Identifying and using useful primary sources
      -    Gathering, selecting, assessing and presenting evidence
      -    Questioning
      -    Assessing reliability and bias
      -    Looking at multiple perspectives – was everyone’s experience the same..?
      -    Thinking about what/which voices might be missing?
      -    Developing and substantiating an answer, argument or narrative

      Creative and critical thinking
      -    Generating ideas
      -    Questioning assumptions and exploring possibilities
      -    Innovating, testing and adapting
      -    Creating


      -    Developing language and vocabulary
      -    Persuading and arguing
      -    Qualifying and justifying
      -    Discussing and debating
      -    Communicating in different forms for different purposes

      -    Effective searching
      -    Analysing
      -    Selecting
      -    Evaluating
      -    Presenting
      -    Repurposing
      -    Combining multiple applications

      Personal development
      -    Working collaboratively
      -    Taking responsibility
      -    Planning

      Artsmark and Arts award

      Artsmark is a nationally recognised sign of commitment to high quality arts and cultural education. It enables education settings to evaluate, celebrate and strengthen a quality arts offer and contributes to the cultural aspect of Ofsted’s requirement that a school promotes students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Using museums and galleries to support classroom work, or developing you own museum, gallery, archive or exhibition is a great way for your school to gain Artsmark.  Find out more about Artsmark and its impact here.

      Arts Award is a range of unique qualifications inspiring young people to connect with and take part in the wider world of arts, heritage and culture through different challenges at different levels. Through Arts Award young people gain a nationally recognised qualification enabling them to progress into further education and employment. Find out more here and how museums and galleries can support young people in gaining Arts Award.
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