Building your own virtual museum – helping students to understand a sense of period and significance

I’ve barked on about about the importance of using artefacts in lessons before and I think it’s something I’ll be back to again before the year is out.

Anyway this got me thinking. Instead of me introducing artefacts to the kids I decided I wanted the Year 10 kids to introduce me to artefacts as a way of building their own sense of period and consolidating their learning from a busy Term 1 (we’d covered Prehistoric Man to the Dark Ages in the Medicine course).

To do this I asked them to build virtual museums where they were the curator. I’d seen sites where you could do this before, like Museum Box ( but if I am honest I always thought they were a bit clunky and inflexible. So instead I said that they needed to build a virtual museum using GoogleSites (it’s very straightforward). The instructions were kept simple. Students had to build a room for each period we’ve studied so far (with the aim that this will be built upon as we progress our learning) and in each room they had to choose five artefacts to sum up that period, justifying their choices, as a curator would. The hope was that this would consolidate their sense of period and establish a chronology for them.

Lots of the students lifted some of the artefacts I’d used in class, for example most of the Anglo Saxon rooms had Frank’s Casket and Beowulf in them. But some really got engaged and put some very random objects in their rooms, such as a loaf of mouldy bread in the Egyptian room to represent Egyptian obsessions with rotten food blocking passages to some really beautiful Egyptian amulets that I had never seen.

Engaging the students in the choice of artefacts was a good way of consolidating what they’d already learnt and really got them thinking about the key features of each period. But don’t just believe what I am saying take a look at James’ site below:

James Front Page

We’ve now built upon this idea with Year 9 who are studying the Second World War. Leaving the instructions even more open students were told that they needed to create a virtual museum on WW2 which could have 5 rooms with a focus of their choice, e.g. battles, women, family history etc. As some of the Year 10 students even found GoogleSites clunky we said they could use what they wanted and many chose Wix or MoonFruit, neither of which I have previously used but produced amazing results. We stuck with the 5 artefacts per room idea but instead of focusing on sense of period our PGCE student suggested turning the focus to significance so students were told to justify their choices according to Counsell’s 5 R’s of significance. When they are complete I’ll link a couple from this blog.

UPDATE: Here’s Matt’s ace example!

The job of a curator is hard. Our kids have come to realise this and through this process have improved their historical understanding of the topics we’ve studied. This idea can be adapted to any topic so please do feel free to steal it – just share the results so I can see please!

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