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Virtual Museums

Discover the Web's best science, art, history, and journalism museums, with highlights of their exhibits, tools, and teaching materials.

Who says your class can't go to the museum this year? Many "bricks and mortar" museums now offer virtual alternatives, with activities designed just for kids Education World highlights a few of these not-to-be-missed virtual field trips!

Exploratorium, a site from the Museum of Science, Art, and Human Perception at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, doesn't just digitize existing collections, it does far more. Check out any of the exhibits on the main page -- such as the science of music -- and you'll find movies, questions and answers, and online activities designed to engage students. For example, in Step Remix, students can drag and arrange film clips to create their own step dances. On the main page, click Explore to see a listing of major exhibits by topic. Click Educate to see information just for K-12 teachers including hands-on lab activities, a newsletter, and even science snacks!

With hundreds of virtual museums to visit, sometimes you need a little help finding the perfect one for the topic you're interested in. TryScience is a partnership of 400 science centers, as well as other corporate and educational entities, designed to give you a starting point for your quest for the right online activity. If you're looking for a specific topic, type it in the search blank, otherwise, let's take a look around. The main page is fairly simple, but seeing all that's here at this site can be a challenge, so you'll want to click Site Map at the bottom of the page. Here you'll find an index of experiments, field trips, adventures (more extensive online activities), and navigational help. The live cams also are a great stop. Finally, click the Teacher link at the bottom of the page for information on using the site in class, links to standards, help using the Web, and much more!

Educational Web Adventures
Educational Web Adventures -- or EduWeb -- is unique in this list in that it's not a real "bricks and mortar" museum, but a company that designs art, history, and science exhibits for museums. Although the list of topics is small, the details and interactivity of each role-play, simulation, creative play, puzzle, mystery, and interactive reference exhibit are amazing! Click Kids and Teachers, then look on the left side of the screen and click a topic that interests you. Most link to the "real" museum's site. Click Harvest of History, Explore this Village, for example, to show students how food production has changed over the last 200 years; students watch video clips on specific questions then use an online tool to compile the videos into a custom-designed project. Note that by synthesizing data rather than simply reading it, students are thinking on a higher level than they would be on another site! Access to primary sources and information for teachers also is included.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the very best stops for art students, The Metropolitan Museum of Art's permanent collection and student-centered activities are unparalleled! Begin by clicking Explore & Learn on the left side of the page. Then, click a topic of interest, go to the Index by Subject, and explore. If you click Cezanne's Apples, for example, you'll see the sections Cezanne, the Painter; Look Closely; and Things to Do. Under Cezanne, you'll find six sections of art and text. Descriptions, written for grades 4 and up, are short and question-based ("How would you draw an apple"). Take the online quiz or play with shapes on the drawing tool. But don't limit your stay here to the Explore and Learning section. For the teacher, the better part is the actual online collection with thousands of images available for your next lecture or for use in student research projects. Browsing here is not for the faint of heart, so pick a topic or genre before diving in!

The Newseum -- a not-to-be missed site for your civics, journalism, speech, or current events classroom -- was founded in 1997 expressly as a venue to educate the public on the First Amendment and the rights guaranteed there. Start your tour here by clicking today's front pages to see, well, today's front pages! You'll see the actual image of 480 front pages of newspapers from 44 countries. Those include small town papers as well! Return to the home page, then rollover each image to get an overview of the online exhibits available here. Click the War Stories link and see video interviews from current journalists explaining what it's like to cover wars. The Media & Technology section gives a historical overview of the media and American wars since the Civil War. Last, on the home page, be sure to click Education at the Newseum to request print teaching guides and lesson plans for exhibits. Do note, however, that the "bricks and mortar" Newseum is in the process of moving, so availability of print materials might be limited.


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Article by Lorrie Jackson
Education World®
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