“I have been to the museum, too”: Why newcomer children should go with their schools to science museums

Our museum colleague at Teylers picks up the phone, and hears on the other side: “I teach a group of newcomer children, and we would like to visit your museum”. The museum has not had much experience with children with a recent migrant background before. So we get to work.

Two experienced museum guides join us in the mission, as we set out to adapt the visits for children with varying levels of proficiency in Dutch, the language of the visit and of the museum.

In the end, six newcomer classrooms come to visit. A few days before one of such visits, a teacher at the newcomer school near an AZC tells us: “Exciting! Most of all, I am glad that when these children go to the mainstream classroom, they will be able to tell the other children: ‘I have been to the museum, too’.”

Teylers is the oldest museum of the Netherlands, a fact that does not go unnoticed by the children: “This museum is older than my father!”. In one of the visits, as the guide asks the children what their favorite stone of the museum hall is, one of the girls gives a shy answer in Arabic. The teacher calls Ayoub, an Arabic-speaking child, and asks him to translate for her. “Oh yeah! Amethyst is so beautiful”, the guide moves on. At the next stop, the children and the guide discuss how a compass is used. The word sounds similar in several languages that the children speak. The guide asks where the needle of the compass points to. With some difficulty, a child explains in Dutch how the compass tells you where North and South are. The guide nods, the child looks proud.

After the visits, we ask the children what they have learned: “Everything! Everything was new to me”. We invite them to write or draw in a piece of paper. Compasses, thermometers, a mountain top, stones. Words in Dutch, words in Arabic.

After a few weeks, we learn that one of the children brought their parents to the museum the weekend after the school visit. “Leuk, he?”, emails the teacher.

– Lucía Chisari | PhD researcher, Subproject ‘Science museums’

Currently, this blog is only available in English and Dutch. To read it in another language we recommend using the translation tool DeepL.com