Museum Educators are constantly thinking about how to get people excited and KEEP them excited the museum. After all, they want you to come back! Besides having interesting things to do when you are actually there, many educators (especially those working with schools/groups) leverage the “pre-visit” and the “post-visit.”
As it sounds, the “pre visit” happens before you even arrive. There are activities, logistical information for the adults and things to get you thinking and looking the minute you arrive at the museum. Sometimes, the Museum Educator themselves can come to the school, but other times they send a kit or a “traveling trunk” so the teachers can present it to the class.
A “post visit” is a way for everyone to debrief and extend the learning when you’ve left the museum. There might be activities that use materials or tools you can’t bring in the museum (like paint) or things to research and ways to turn what you’ve learned into projects. The hope is, everyone is still buzzing with excitement about what they saw and they want to go further!
Although museums may not offer something as formal for visiting families, you can create the same benefit for yourself! Your “pre visit” might be as simple as looking up how to get to the museum and planning some of the sites you want to see (if your kids are old enough this is a great activity for them to take part in!). You could also read some books about the topic or look up information online to give you a head-start. Talk to your local librarian and they might be able to send you home with a stack of books all about it!
Not only does incorporating a “pre visit” get you excited, it also takes some of the nerves away. For kids (and adults!) that like to know what to expect, seeing the map and figuring out how you are getting there, where you could eat and what you might see can take some of the anxiety out of visiting a new place.
The “post visit” is where you can really let your imagination run wild. Maybe now you go to the library and get out books on the subject. Recreate the art styles you saw at home, sculpt with play-dough, use figurines and blocks to build the museum yourself, turn your photos into a scrapbook (physical or digital) and get your kids to narrate what they saw and why it was important. For more ideas, you can visit my Pinterest boards or keep an eye on Facebook
It doesn’t have to be a formal “project” like you would do at school, but any follow-up will help them feel connected and interested in learning more about what they saw. As a bonus, for the kids that might not resonate off of the visit itself they may be more able to get into the messy, creative, aftermath at home. Training yourself to think about your museum visit in three parts (planning the trip, actually going and how you’ll turn it into play after) will help keep the excitement going long after you’ve left the museum.