Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The fatal flaw in the Arizona Experience Museum plan

The Arizona Experience Museum was to be a high dollar, highly interactive museum, depending on digital displays and simulations to enhance education. It displaced a top rated, low cost museum that displayed real historic artifacts and real geological and mineral specimens.

A recent study showed that replacing real objects with simulations is a very big mistake. Four American History teachers from two high schools in Mesa, Arizona participated in the study. They assisted in the development of a lesson on mining and mining communities that met Arizona curriculum guidelines. Two museums lent 46 historic artifacts and mineral specimens to reinforce the lesson. Twenty classes participated in the study.  The control classes were only shown images of the objects, but the other classes were permitted to handle the actual objects. Tests were administered to all 20 classes the day after the lesson and two months after the lesson.

All classes performed equally well on tests administered the day after the lesson. However, the classes that were allowed to handle the real objects performed significantly better in the tests administered two months after the lesson.

The obvious conclusion is that, if eventually built, the Arizona Experience Museum will not be as effective a learning experience as the museum it displaced.

Museum objects in the secondary classroom. A comparison of visual and tactile aids to learning
Paula Kay Liken
Doctoral Dissertation, Arizona State University, 2009


  1. For earth science instruction, hands-on with the real AZ rocks, and lots of minerals is the way to go. Just go to some AZ 3rd grade classrooms and ask the teachers what they w ould rather have, another link to existing internet data, or a person to bring rocks and minerals to their classroom and have their students participate in a lesson where they have the real thing! It's a no-brainer!!

  2. A recent AZ Republic article on AZ's low science scores mentioned the need for a "hands-on" approach to teaching our students. So what does our Governor and the AHS do? They close our one, well-used, earth science museum and replace it with more websites for teachers and want everyone to believe that locking our students out wasn't really a big deal.