Museology Master of Arts Program

June 4, 2018

Museum Education Course Highlight

By Seth Margolis, Museology Affiliate Instructor

Over the last 20 or so years, I’ve had the opportunity to wear many hats as part of the Museology Graduate Program. I have been a student, an instructor, a thesis advisor, a session panelist, a guest speaker, and (now) even a blogger. One role I have not had has been a perplexed observer.

Let me explain what I mean. I lead the Museum Education course, which is run like a museum program. It is hands-on, active, and highly participatory. Over the years, we have done a wide variety of activities around the University of Washington’s campus that have certainly raised some eyebrows; from Escape Rooms in the undergraduate library, to a Met Museum Workout simulation in Red Square, to Kentucky Derby Museum ‘fancy hat’ programs in the Allen Library Research Commons. But this winter, I think we perpetually intrigued students in the Alder Hall Commons. While our instruction was in our classroom, we often needed to use the space afforded by the the large open area. And use it we did.

Our Alder Hall neighbors may have first been curious by watching us make electric toothbrush robots as part of a lesson from KidsQuest Museum staff. While we did not yet spill out into the common area, the buzzing and giggling brought many lookie-loos to our windows. We really got some puzzled looks and even some stealth photos during our recreation of the Empathy Museum’s ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ program. With our earphones on listening to audio stories that explore our shared humanity, and wearing other people’s footwear, we walked laps around the common room. It may have seemed odd, but it was a powerful program. Most importantly, we were all in. None of the students balked at doing this. Our neighbors curiosity continued as we did a children’s museum storywalk that paced children’s stories written by the students around the hallways as a way to combine physical activity and learning, dropped different sized balls off of outdoor staircases to simulate moon craters, and had a visit from a therapy bunny to learn about access programming, or inclusive programming for museum visitors of all abilities. Never once did my students think it odd to do these programs, and more importantly, they supported each other in each of these unique experiences. Our neighbors may have been befuddled, but they were never disrespectful. They seemed to enjoy watching us learn. Perhaps we even made some of them consider enrolling in the program.

Of all our time in the commons, the event that got the most smiles was during our last class. It did not involve anything too out of the norm—nothing hands-on nor interactive nor high tech nor even a simulation. It was just a class photo to celebrate our time together. Mind you, the fact that we were wearing matching baseball hats may have raised some questions.

Photo of Museum Education course.