Background to the programme
Brazil has developed huge enormous social inequalities in the distribution of wealth and land, access to materials and cultural assets, and ownership of scientific and technical knowledge. For much of Brazilian society, science is boring and society has absolutely no interest in it. Several researchers place emphasis on the importance of informal educational environments (botanic gardens, eco-parks, zoos, museums, cultural centres etc.) where the curriculum can be taught more playfully and in a context where pupils can interact with the environment and society.
Objectives of the programme
The Institute of Chemistry of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) planned visits to the National Museum to offer an alternative approach. Indeed, science museums are recognised as providing some of the best informal environments for developing and expanding knowledge. Guidance was provided in an informal environment to groups of up to 8 pupils per guide (4 guides in total); pupils came from the Centro Integrado de Educação Pública (CIEP), Rio de Janeiro.
- Preliminary visits to the National Museum (the guide team) to produce a detailed description of its contents
- Questionnaires completed before, during and after visits by pupils
- First, the guides would introduce themselves, explain how the visit would be organised and distribute the first questionnaire assess the sociocultural profile of the pupils and their expectations of the visit. Then, students and guide visit the gardens
- Visit of the museum with the guide and distribution of the second questionnaire (chemical, historical, artistic and cultural questions). Pupils are stimulated to look by themselves for the answers
- At the end of the visit, distribution of the third questionnaire which compares actual impressions with expectations, cognitive gains (learning) with affective gains (emotions and motivation to find answers).
Quantitative and qualitative results from the implemented actions
- 5 visits organised, by a total of 118 pupils (56% of them had already visited a museum). About ¼ of the pupils took after-school classes, mainly English and/or computing
- In the youngest group, the expectation that the visit would be interesting and/or entertaining was mentioned more often. The opportunity to learn new things was the expectation most frequently mentioned
- The high percentage of good responses (60-97%) indicates that the pupils were motivated to find the answers
- The pupils made affective and cognitive gains through greater interest in certain aspects of science.
- Initial expectations were exceeded in all groups; high level of agreement; all groups examined made affective and cognitive gains from the visit. guidance motivated and helped pupils to find answers
- The procedure and dynamics applied produced pleasurable and relaxed visits that generated affective and cognitive gains in a population of pupils from an area without cultural spaces
- The lower proportion of correct answers given by pupils in year 9 of compulsory education was the result of their lack of familiarity with the chemical concepts discussed
- As an informal space in which to teach chemistry, the National Museum is a promising alternative that can at least partly mitigate the structural shortcomings of the state
- The physical environment of the National Museum can provide an informal chemistry classroom for secondary school pupils
This programme knew how to make attractive a knowledge place (the National Museum) that pupils previously judged as boring. This partnership benefits everyone: the Museum, the pupils and their teachers, the pilot programmers, and likely society in general. Moreover, the collaboration between a research institute and a museum is quite original within a social development programme.
Partnership(s) developed in the context of the programme
The National Museum, the Centro Integrado de Educação Pública.
Difficulties and/or obstacles encountered during the programme’s implementation :
The younger pupils found some questions too hard, and could not correctly answer, maybe because they did not understand the chemical concepts involved. This could reduce the motivation for them to find answers.
Summary of factors responsible for the programme’s success :
- Opportunities for the visitor to interact with others, the presence of guides and other artistic and/or educational activities intended to make the visit as pleasurable and enjoyable as possible
- The context for learning in museums involves a series of architectural factors that include illumination, groupings of people, the quality and quantity of information presented, the availability of a general map of the museum etc.
- Visitors should leave museums with additional knowledge that will improve their understanding of the events that have occurred or will occur in nature, the world and society in general
- Relaxed and playful visits create a friendly relationship between the guide and the visitor in a pleasant environment recognised as facilitating learning
Cordeiro da Graça de Oliveira, G., Curan Turci, C., Teixeira, B. M., Mendes de Andrade Silva, E., Soares Garrido, I., Moraes, R. S. « Social inclusion through access to heritage culture and education in an informal environment », FACTS Reports (2013) in press
To know more
Falk and Storksdieck’s Contextual Model of Learning (2005) is a well-known theory. Learning is defined as a targeted and contextualized effort that constructs meaning to solve problems, survive and prosper in the world; it is a dialogue through time between the individual and the environment that connects past and current experience. The model describes the targeted dialogue as a process/product of interactions in various personal, sociocultural and physical contexts, each of which involves a large number of factors that facilitate learning. The model was developed and applied on the basis that learning was to take place in a museum.