“Why shouldn’t your local school be a museum?”

Proposed as being good for pupils, teachers, institutions as well as safeguarding our cultural heritage, this newspaper story demonstrates the potential benefits of moving out of the classroom and in to the museum (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/21/local-school-museum-classes-pupils-teachers). It caught my attention for two reasons: 1) My mum is a teacher and she is often angered by the restrictive curriculum in Welsh and UK education that has seen a decline in creative subjects, and 2) I immediately imagined what it would be like for my classroom to be in a museum and how that would have shaped my education. By reading this newspaper article, I argue for the value of placing the arts in education through this project, as well as gathering research from within the creative industries in Geography to formulate an approach where creativity, curiosity and initiative are valued throughout education.

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RAMM (Exeter)

‘My Primary School is at the Museum’, a project by King’s College London, bringing over 100 pupils from 3 nurseries and primary schools into the local museum and out the classroom. This is a response to criticism that classrooms (and lecture theatres for that matter) constrain rather than enable learning (Heppell, 2008) and is in line with what Phillips (2014) suggests, that education spaces, should be designed to encourage curiosity and creativity. Following the fall in the number of students taking art and design related subjects at GCSE level and the near complete removal from the curriculum of arts subjects at primary school level, this article proposes the benefits of immersing pupils in a cultural institution such as the museum, outlining that pupils’ “confidence, creativity, and social and communication skills were all enhanced” and that the benefits were not just restricted to the children, with teachers and museum staff also benefitting.

Bull’s article states that the arts embedded in her education equipped the author with essential life skills such as curiosity, initiative, creativity, perseverance, self-confidence, courage and responsibility amongst others. Skills that, as suggested, may be lost due to the erosion of creative education in the classroom. The AHRC Cultural Value Project (2016) argued that this is damaging career prospects and future British creativity in the economy. It highlights the transferable skills that are gained through arts education and the powerful effects for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It has been demonstrated that creative education can add skills, knowledge and value, albeit a value that is difficult to measure in financial terms, so how can we make sure this value is recognised? As demonstrated, it may not just be of value to the pupils, but also the cultural institution of the museum, diversifying its visitors and encouraging more funding. Richard Florida has written that cities must establish the right ‘people climate’ for creatives (2002), a diverse, dynamic and ‘cool’ urban environment. This article highlights the diverse and dynamic nature of classrooms in museums and could answer criticisms that creative cities commodify arts and cultural resources (Peck, 2005).

References:

Arts and Humanities Research Council (2016) Understanding the value of arts and culture: The AHRC Cultural Value Project, Swindon, AHRC

Bull, D. (2016) ‘Why Shouldn’t your local school be a museum?’, The Guardian, 21 November, < https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/21/local-school-museum-classes-pupils-teachers> [viewed 20/02/2017]

Florida, R. (2002) The Rise of the Creative Class, New York, Basic Books.

Heppell, S. (2008) Places to learn in the 21st century, in Levinson, R., Nicholson, H. and Parry, S. (eds.) Creative Encounters: New Conversations in Science, Education and the Arts, London, Wellcome Trust: 82-89.

Peck, J. (2005) Struggling with the Creative Class, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(4): 740-770.

Phillips, R. (2014) Space for Curiosity, Progress in Human Geography, 38(4): 493-512.

See also:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/feb/17/arts-and-culture-systematically-removed-from-uk-education-system

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/Cultural/-/Projects/My-Primary-School-is-at-the-Museum.aspx

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