I’ve really enjoyed taking this class, and I feel like I learned a lot – this is not subject material that is covered in many library classes; at least, in my experience, it was all new to me. I think this makes it a unique and valuable experience, especially as developing technologies and evolving community needs continue to make participatory experiences increasingly popular for many modern institutions.
Although I really enjoyed all of our assignments and readings and found them interesting and informative, my favorite assignment was project three, for which we were asked to visit a museum, library or other space with a significant participatory element. Initially I felt reluctant about the idea of having to physically visit the space and write about my experience. On-site observation assignments have never been my favorite, and I’ve done quite a few at SJSU!
I ultimately decided to visit the Johnson Geo Centre, a local science museum. Although the subject matter – primarily geology but also covering topics from various other fields – is not really my cup of tea, I chose to visit the Geo Centre because it is one of the newest (and most expensive!) museums in the city. I also knew that the centre had many exhibits that are non-traditional and it encourages hands-on participation and active learning.
A large part of the reason why I ended up enjoying this observation experience more than others I’ve completed was because I brought “helpers” in the form of three cousins, ages twelve, six, and five. Watching them interact with the space, the exhibits and the staff, really encouraged me to take a new perspective on the science that was on display. Excitement is contagious, and I may have accidentally learned a thing or two! Physically visiting a museum with a prominent hands-on element really drove home the value of alternative, non-traditional programs and services; actively engaging with a space sparked an interest in geology for me – which I didn’t think was possible. Traditional, non-participatory exhibits do not have the same power. There is a place for both traditional and participatory elements within a space. However, when it comes to subject matter that doesn’t naturally grab us, I’ve learned that participatory elements can help us to view a given subject from a different angle, inspiring new interest and facilitating learning.