Information for teachers

All the answers you'll need

 
  1. Why Investigate? What kinds of investigation can you do there?
  2. Investigate is described as a hands-on science centre. What is meant by 'hands-on'?
  3. How does Investigate relate to the National Curriculum?
  4. How should I prepare for the visit?
  5. What kinds of learning outcomes are appropriate?
  6. How do I book a visit?
  7. How many students can I bring?
  8. What advice can I give to other accompanying adults?
  9. What links Investigate and the rest of the Museum?
  10. How can I follow up the visit?
  11. What is the role of the Investigate staff?
  12. What is the function of ICT in Investigate?
  13. Can schools use Investigate for CPD?
  14. Is there an underlying philosophy to Investigate?
  15. How does Investigate relate to the scientific research at the Museum?
  16. How does Investigate differ from other exhibitions or science centres?

Answers

Why Investigate? What kinds of investigation can you do there?

Investigate's key resource is hundreds of natural specimens. They are particularly good for those types of investigation that involve classifying and identifying, pattern-seeking, exploring or investigating models. Qcards (sets of questions related to specific trays of specimens) and questions on the specimen wall promote these types of investigation. They provide cues, clues or suggestions for investigation rather than direct instructions and students can use them as prompts for the sorts of investigations they might follow.

There are few opportunities in Investigate to set up experiments with controlled variables or to design and test systems, although some ideas raised in the exhibition could be followed up in this way back at school.

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Investigate is described as a hands-on science centre. What is meant by 'hands-on'?

Investigate contains many touchable objects. It has been carefully designed to enable visitors to make intimate observations and to find answers to their own questions. Visitors can make their own decisions about which specimens to look at and what equipment - physical or virtual - to use to aid exploration of those objects.

In this sense, Investigate is both hands-on and interactive.
'Interactive' is often associated with exhibits that require the operation of push buttons, levers or switches. Investigate does not contain such exhibits.

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How does Investigate relate to the National Curriculum?

It is possible to make use of the objects in Investigate for work in English, mathematics or art - and to use the whole exhibition as a stimulus for work in design and technology. However, the key links are with science.

For a full list of science curriculum links, please follow the link to the Teachers Resource

Teachers' Resource: curriculum links for Investigate

How should I prepare for the visit?

Students with some idea of what to expect will be able to make best use of the opportunities Investigate offers. Much of the activity in Investigate requires students to ask questions about specimens and find ways of answering them, make observations, record natural phenomena and group specimens. A pre-visit exercise in class that takes this type of investigative approach with available resources (such as rocks or houseplants) is recommended. Students will benefit from general awareness of the Museum and the different activities in Investigate.

The best way to use the resources during your visit is to set up open-ended tasks with a range of possible outcomes - such as those inspired by the questions on the specimen wall. Narrow and closely directed tasks (such as 'Find object x and draw it') will not take maximum advantage of Investigate.

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What kinds of learning outcomes are appropriate?

To make the most of your visit to Investigate, clear learning objectives related to your work in school are desirable.
Learning outcomes that could arise from the types of activity that can be done in Investigate include awareness of:

  • diversity in the natural world
  • the nature of scientific enquiry
  • the use and limitations of tools and techniques
  • what scientists actually do

Other specific objectives with reference to Sc1 may be suitable, but it is important to remember that learning during short visits to museums is primarily affective. Students have only a brief encounter with Investigate, and may need time to adjust to its highly stimulating environment. For advice on the kinds of activity that are suitable for a session in Investigate you are encouraged to contact an Education Officer by calling us on +44 (0)20 7942 5555, or 

Email us

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How do I book a visit?

Bookings for Investigate (at 10.30, 11.30, 12.30 or 13.30 Monday-Friday during term time) should be made by telephone.

You are encouraged to follow up your booking with a call to Education to discuss with an Education Officer how best to organise your session. Monday sessions are available for groups other than mainstream school groups.

All visits to Investigate are free of charge.

Please note that Investigate will be closed approximately one day per month for essential maintenance, staff training etc

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How many students can I bring?

Investigate will accommodate up to 50 students at Key Stage 2 or 40 students at Key Stage 3. Groups can be split up between the workstations, the Courtyard garden and the Sticky wall.

Booked school sessions last for 50 minutes and it is recommended that you divide students into three groups of equal sizes. Each group can then spend two-thirds of their time at the workstations and one-third engaging with the other activities.

Suggested plan

 

Group working at workstations

Group working at workstations

Group working on other activities

1st 15 mins

A

B

C

2nd 15 mins

A

C

B

3rd 15 mins

B

C

A

 

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What advice can I give to other accompanying adults?

Make sure colleagues and other accompanying adults know what you want to achieve from the visit to Investigate. Reassure them that they don't need to know what all the objects are and they don't need to know the 'right' answers to every question your students might ask. The most useful thing to do is to encourage the students to talk - to develop vocabulary to describe what they are seeing and to express what they want to investigate as clear, well-phrased questions.

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What links Investigate and the rest of the Museum?

Most of the objects in Investigate are closely related to others on display elsewhere in the Museum, and there are numerous cross-references within the ICT system. Many exhibitions contain specimens and interpretative materials that can contribute to ideas explored in Investigate, while several exhibitions have easily accessible objects that can be subjected to similar investigative approaches.

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How can I follow up the visit?

Students will return to school with information and ideas. Some of these may lead to further investigations in class. Others will provide a basis for thinking about science concepts or processes, or discussion about the nature of science and what scientists do.

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What is the role of the Investigate staff?

Investigate is staffed by science educators whenever it is open. These staff can assist with use of the tools and with any of the activities. They are keen to help students with their investigations and help them to formulate suitable questions to explore. You should make our staff aware of your intended learning outcomes, so that they can support your visit effectively. Teachers accompanying school groups continue to be responsible for their students in Investigate as elsewhere in the Museum.

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What is the function of ICT in Investigate?

Investigate has been designed so that computers do not dominate the exhibition, but become a useful tool to support learning from objects, as they are for research scientists. Specially designed software gives access to additional information about many of the objects, suggestions for investigations and links to other objects, both within Investigate and elsewhere in the Museum. Every specimen is included in the Investigate database, which can be accessed from the exhibition.

The database is continually added to and updated. Unlike many computers in museum exhibitions, ICT in Investigate is not a substitute for objects.

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Can schools use Investigate for CPD?

We are happy to arrange sessions in Investigate as part of a CPD programme. This might focus on investigation, hands-on interactive learning or developing teachers' own knowledge and understanding of life and earth sciences. Please Email us.

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Is there an underlying philosophy to Investigate?

Investigate is intended to be constructivist in that it takes a dynamic, empiricist view of scientific knowledge and an active approach to learning.

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How does Investigate relate to the scientific research at the Museum?

The Museum employs hundreds of scientists. Many of these are engaged in fundamental scientific research across the life and earth sciences, in subjects including meteorites, human origins, pollution monitoring, disease control, DNA analysis and biodiversity. This work is supported by a collection of almost 70 million natural history objects and has led to the Museum's world-renowned reputation for taxonomy and systematics.

The activities in Investigate promote an investigative, enquiry -based approach to learning from natural objects similar to the scientific processes used by scientists working in the field or on the Museum's collections.

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How does Investigate differ from other exhibitions or science centres?

Investigate aims to engage visitors in the challenge and excitement of the process of scientific exploration. It has been very carefully designed to encourage and facilitate curiosity, with emphasis on developing questions and on seeking answers.

This contrasts with museum exhibitions that frequently present science simply as expert knowledge, and with the activities in many science centres, which often lead along pre-determined routes to the discovery of particular concepts or principles.

If you have any specific questions please 

Email us

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Cartoon image of a hatchet fish on a museum pass

Until 1938 whale carcasses were buried in the Museum grounds so that their flesh would decay leaving only the skeletons.