In all of the work I have been doing with museums and science centers lately, I hear the same concerns over and over again:  How do I add more engagement to my existing exhibits without breaking the bank on new tech or hiring more staff? History museums in particular face this obstacle.

Well good news!  I’ve got some ideas listed below that can solve your concerns and NOT bust your budget.

1. Hands-On Replicas and Artifacts

Provide replicas of historical artifacts allowing visitors to physically handle and examine items up close, offering a tangible connection to the past. This approach makes the historical experience more relatable and less abstract, inspiring a deeper understanding and curiosity.

2. Interactive Boards and Flip Panels

Adding interactive boards or flip panels to the exhibits can encourage visitors to actively participate in their learning experience. These can include questions, puzzles, or hidden information that visitors can uncover, which adds an element of discovery and engagement without needing digital technology.

3. Static Clue-Based Scavenger Hunts

Create a scavenger hunt that visitors can engage with at their own pace which encourages exploration and attention to detail. Providing clues or questions that lead visitors through the exhibits can turn a visit into an adventure, making learning fun and memorable.

4. Storytelling Through Letters and Diaries

Incorporating facsimiles of letters, diaries, or historical documents within displays allows visitors in history museums to explore personal stories and perspectives from the past. This method helps humanize historical figures and events, creating emotional connections without the need for digital aids or live performances.

5. Thematic Pathways

Design thematic pathways through the museum that guide visitors on a journey through specific topics or eras. By organizing exhibits around exciting themes and providing clear, engaging signage, your museum can offer structured yet self-guided tours that cater to varied interests.

6. Question and Reflection Prompts

Place thought-provoking questions or reflection prompts throughout the exhibits which encourage visitors to think critically about what they are seeing and how it relates to their own lives or contemporary issues. This strategy creates personal connection and deeper engagement with the content.

7. Interactive Maps and Timelines

Large, printed maps or timelines with movable markers let your visitors track historical movements, events, or developments. This hands-on approach helps visitors understand the scope and scale of historical events in a tangible way.

8. Role-Playing or Persona Cards

Offer visitors the chance to adopt an historical persona or a role when they enter the museum and engage with the exhibit through the eyes of that persona. This adds a layer of immersion through the use of the visitor’s own imagination.

9. Feedback Walls or Comment Books

Encourage your visitors to leave their thoughts, reflections, or answers to specific questions on a feedback wall or in a comment book. This allows them to contribute to the collective museum experience.  It can also provide a sense of community and shared discovery, as well as provide valuable feedback for the museum.

10. DIY Craft or Activity Stations

Set up activity stations where visitors can engage in historical crafts or activities at their own pace allows for hands-on learning without the need for digital technology or additional staff. These stations can include simple instructions and materials for activities relevant to the museum’s theme, such as making mini catapults (with soft projectiles, of course) in a medieval exhibit.

By adding these low or no-tech and low staff solutions, history museums can create more engaging and interactive exhibits that enhance the visitor experience by encouraging active participation, personal reflection, and hands-on learning. Give one of these ideas a try (or let us know if you need help) and help make history accessible and engaging for all ages.


 

Guardian Adventures provides immersive and interactive elements consulting and program development for museum and science centerssummer campsamusement & attraction industries, and more.



Live Action Role Playing (LARP) has emerged as an innovative and engaging vehicle for museums to educate visitors about artifacts and cultures. This immersive approach involves participants actively engaging in role-playing scenarios that are often based on historical, cultural, or fantastical themes. By integrating educational LARP (also known as EduLARP) into their programs, museums can offer a more dynamic way to experience history and culture, moving well beyond traditional passive learning methods like reading a placard or watching a video.

 

Educational Benefits of LARP

 

  1. Enhanced Engagement and Learning Retention: LARP activities in museums create a participatory learning environment. Numerous studies have shown that active participation in learning activities significantly enhances memory retention and understanding. For instance, a study by National Training Laboratories found that the average retention rate for participatory teaching methods like practice by doing was 75%, compared to just 5% for lecture-based learning1.

 

  1. Fostering Empathy and Cultural Understanding: By stepping into the shoes of historical figures or cultural representatives, participants gain a deeper understanding and empathy for different perspectives and ways of life. This experiential learning approach is shown in research indicating that role-playing can effectively foster empathy and social understanding2.

 

  1. Encouraging Critical Thinking and Creativity: LARP in museums challenges participants to think critically and creatively as they navigate through scenarios. This aligns with educational theories that emphasize the importance of critical thinking and problem-solving skills in learning3.

 

How to Add LARP into Your Museum

 

  1. Design Culturally and Historically Accurate Scenarios: Right from the start of the planning stage, it’s vital for you to collaborate with historians and especially cultural advisors, who are active members in that culture, to ensure the accuracy of the LARP scenarios. This not only respects the represented cultures but also provides an authentic learning experience that doesn’t cross over into cultural appropriation. If you don’t have program designers on staff, you can bring in an experienced designer who knows how to work with cultural advisors. Another important consideration is making the LARP accessible.

 

  1. Incorporate Artifacts and Exhibits: Your LARP scenarios can be designed around specific artifacts or exhibits, allowing your guests to interact with the history or artifacts (such as replicas) and learn about them in a contextually rich setting. This method can bring life to your museum’s historical artifacts and make their stories more relatable.

 

  1. Train Staff and Volunteers: Effective implementation of LARP in museums requires recruiting and training staff or volunteers who can guide participants and ensure a safe, respectful, and educational experience. Another important aspect of the experience is to engage the participants in a Debrief so that they can connect their new knowledge with their own lived experience. Ideally, the training is accessible as an online course or hybrid program so that your additional or future staff can learn how to run the adventure outside of the original training group. This helps ensure that you are not left with a lack of people capable of running the LARP due to limited staffing.

 

Case Studies and Examples

 

Several museums have successfully integrated LARP into their educational programs. For instance, the Guangdong’s Jiangmen Museum in China has conducted LARP sessions where participants engage in scenarios based on ancient civilizations, providing a hands-on experience of history4. Similarly, the Museum of the Moving Image has hosted LARP events that immerse visitors in their exhibition “Creatures from the Land of Thra: Character Design for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”5.

 

More museums are stepping into the realm of high interactivity in a way that doesn’t necessitate investment in expensive technology and instead capitalizes on the human to human interaction that guests of all ages crave.

 

Key Takeaway Points

 

  • LARP in museums represents a dynamic intersection of education, history, and interactive storytelling. 
  • LARP enhances engagement and learning retention, fosters empathy and cultural understanding, and encourages critical thinking and creativity.
  • Its successful implementation, as seen in institutions like the British Museum and the National Museum of Denmark, proves its potential in transforming how museums educate and connect with their visitors. 
  • The key to its effectiveness lies in the careful design of scenarios with cultural advisors, integration with artifacts, and skilled facilitation.

 

References

  1. National Training Laboratories, “Learning Pyramid,” 
  2. The Effect of Roleplay to Increase Empathy Toward Students with Disruptive Classroom Behavior
  3. The Importance of Critical Thinking on Teaching Learning Process
  4. Guangdong’s Jiangmen Museum LARP
  5. Museum of the Moving Image LARP

 

Guardian Adventures provides LARP and game consulting and program development for museum and science centerssummer campsamusement & attraction industries, and more.



EduLARP, or educational live-action role-playing, is a creative and effective approach to learning academic subjects or social emotional learning that has been gaining popularity around the globe. EduLARP involves immersing students (or summer campers) in a fictional world and having them take on different roles within a story or scenario and then complete tasks that are related to the learning topic. 

Engaging and Interactive Learning Experience

One of the most significant benefits of EduLARP is that it offers a highly engaging and interactive learning experience. Instead of just reading textbooks or listening to lectures, students get to actively participate in a fictional or simulated world where they can apply what they have learned inside the story – usually with associated consequences. By immersing students in this way, EduLARP makes learning more engaging and memorable, which can help improve retention and comprehension as well as the transfer of the knowledge into life outside of the learning environment.

Multidisciplinary Approach

EduLARP also offers something traditional schools lack: A multidisciplinary approach to learning. By creating fictional worlds, students can explore a wide range of topics and academic subjects. For example, the EduLARP plot might involve learning about different periods in history so that the students can solve the mystery, while also learning about biology, physics, and chemistry in order to defeat an antagonist. This kind of multidisciplinary approach can help students understand how these subjects are interconnected and even dependent upon each other for the end goal.

Improving Communication and Social Emotional Learning

EduLARP can help improve communication and social emotional learning (SEL) when students take on different roles, interact with one another, and learn to communicate and cooperate effectively in order to complete tasks. This process can help students express themselves, listen actively, and work collaboratively. These skills can be beneficial not just in academic settings, but also in personal and professional settings later in life.

Encouraging Creativity and Critical Thinking

Students must use their imagination to bring their roles to life in an EduLARP and solve problems within the context of the story they are navigating. This requires them to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to challenges. The scenarios may also make room for mistakes and failure… but with opportunity to continue forward so that the student understands that failure is not the stopping point. Additionally, EduLARP often involves complex plotlines and mysteries that require critical thinking and a variety of different approaches. 

EduLARPs differ from LARPs in that the student actively learns real-world knowledge and applies it within the story.  While in LARP, participants might learn knowledge that is only applicable within the fictional world of that LARP or it may only test the knowledge they already have (such as role playing scenarios for training emergency response personnel). LARPs can contain SEL aspects, but the primary focus of a LARP is entertainment, while the primary focus of an EduLARP is education.

As EduLARP continues to grow, more schools, summer camps, and other informal educational programs will see the depth and breadth of value that this exciting and engaging vehicle for learning has to offer.

 


About:  Guardian Adventures provides free and licensed educational games, adventures, and LARP systems for summer camps, schools, and recreation organizations. 



LARP, or live action role play, can be a tool (or perhaps a better term is “vehicle”) in education that involves students role-playing various characters or scenarios in order to learn and understand new concepts. Educational LARPs are also known as EduLARPs.

Subjects for study can vary from SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) to academics like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  Which learning concepts the teacher wants to explore can determine the best story for the experience (what we call “Adventure” or “Module”).

LARP can be effective in teaching for a variety of reasons:

  1. LARP promotes active learning: LARP requires students to actively participate in the learning process, rather than simply listening to lectures or reading materials. This can make learning more engaging and interactive, and can help students to better retain and understand the information being presented. As well, if time for active reflection is provided after the adventure, LARP can improve transfer of this knowledge into both the academic setting as well as their personal lives.
  2. LARP encourages critical thinking: LARP can encourage students to think critically about the information being presented, as they must consider the perspectives and motivations of different characters and make decisions based on that information. This can help students to develop their critical thinking skills. It can also make room for “in-game” (during the adventure) consequences which shows why the critical thinking skills are important.
  3. LARP can be inclusive: LARP can be inclusive and culturally sensitive, as it allows students to bring their own experiences and perspectives to the role-playing scenarios. Allowing a student to bring their full, authentic self into the learning environment can improve their sense of belonging and therefore motivation. As well, by using scenarios from a variety of cultures and viewpoints, teachers can create a more diverse and inclusive learning environment.
  4. LARP can be adaptable: LARP is flexible and can be adapted to a variety of different subjects and age levels. Teachers can use LARP to teach a wide range of concepts, from language and literature to STEM and history by making the successful outcome of an adventure dependent upon this knowledge. LARP can also be useful in Informal Learning environments where participants want an immersive learning experience.
  5. LARP can teach SEL: LARP can provide a safe environment for participants to exercise positive social behaviors and relationships with their peers and adults. The safety to explore and decide which directions they want to take their character encourages students to bring those decisions to their lives. They build their own sense of moral, purpose, self-awareness and confidence which leads to decreased emotional distress, reduced risk-taking behavior, improved test scores, grades and attendance.
  6. LARP can be entertaining: LARP can be a fun and enjoyable way to learn, which can help to create a positive and welcoming classroom environment. 
  7. LARP can teach Improv:  Improvisational skills are vital in both the workplace and personal life. If the adventure is getting boring, a teacher can use improv to adjust the interactions and make the story more exciting.

LARP can be a challenge to use in educational settings if the students or teacher are confused by the “game” aspect of the adventure.  This can best be addressed by creating a simplified LARP system that can be easily and quickly understood. Other venues, like summer camps, can have time to explore a more complete LARP system that can be profoundly immersive.

And yet, LARP can be a powerful and effective tool for engaging and educating students. By using LARP in the classroom, teachers can create a more dynamic, interactive, and inclusive learning environment, and help students to better understand and remember important concepts.

 


About:  Guardian Adventures provides free and licensed educational games, adventures, and LARP systems for summer camps, schools, and recreation organizations.



Meghan Gardner in Korea 2019

This summer, I was once again honored to visit Seoul, South Korea as a lead trainer for the STEM Initiative, an educational alliance between ST Unitas (the parent company of The Princeton Review), professors from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Guardian Adventures.

The trip was filled with training, meetings, visiting local destinations, and a banquet of learning for all of us.  As well as meeting our team of 20 teachers and over 100 students, I had the opportunity to interview one of the top executives of ST Unitas who was present at the company’s start: Vision Director Kahee Kim.

My interview with Ms. Kim was eye-opening to me on the cultural differences between Asia and the USA as it pertains to education, business, and even how certain words like “innovation” are defined.  If you are interested in knowing more, join me in the LinkedIn group about Informal Education & Learning.  I will be posting articles there about various interviews I conduct with individuals from around the world as we explore what Informal Learning and Education is and why it’s important.

Each day, Dr. Uche Amaechi and I would be picked up and brought to Seoul National University.  Found in 1946, SNU is considered the most prestigious university in the country (with an international tuition of $5,500 a year – no, that’s not a typo).  We trained the teachers in the curriculum based on the story that all of the students are Mars colonists and trying to survive on Mars while also trying to expand beyond the solar system.

On the last day in Seoul, just as we were leaving for the airport, our hosts asked us to chat with the students who had just arrived for the start of the first session of camp.  Disregarding the fact that both Uche and I were in our informal travel clothes in preparation for a 14 hour plane trip, we agreed to meet with the kids and cheered them on as they stepped into the educational adventure we helped create.  During the meet & greet, we had the opportunity to talk up our Winter Camp where kids from Korea visit the US to attend classes at Harvard and then an immersive adventure at Guardian Adventures.

Outside of working with the generous and diligent students, teachers, and business executives at the STEM Initiative, I was also provided with exquisite culinary experiences, jaw-dropping walks through Seoul’s largest Buddhism temple, and endearing conversations with a number of people about their day-to-day lives and Korean culture.

If you haven’t been to Seoul and have the opportunity, I highly recommend it.  It is a very modern city with gorgeous architecture that looks as if it were designed either 100 years into the future or 500 years into the past.  It’s immensely clean (the subway station especially) and safe.  Many of the residents speak English and are excited about sharing their beautiful city with foreigners.

I came home to discover that Guardian Adventures has been contracted by another international organization to develop educational programs for their clients.  We will share more about this project after the news goes public in November.  But we are very excited to see our company expanding into the global market and helping students of all ages all over the world learn through our educational adventures.  Stay tuned and let’s make this journey together.

 

 


About the Author:


Meghan Gardner is the founder of Guard Up, Inc. which owns and operates Wizards & Warriors and Zombie Summer Camps, programs and events. These educational camps and events are STEM and story-based experience where instead of watching movies or playing video games about heroes, mythological creatures, mystery, and adventure, the campers get to live it. Kids and teens spend the summer playing a character of their own design and fighting monsters with foam swords or NERF Blasters, physics, biology, chemistry, and more. Gardner is also a STEM Curriculum Designer for ST Unitas (the parent company of The Princeton Review), a guest lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education and other major universities, and an international speaker on the topic of Informal Education and Learning for all ages.



Role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons have an undeserved reputation for being somewhat … nerdy.  It’s entirely unfair especially considering the massive benefits that role playing games provide.  We wanted to share an article from LifeHacker showcasing the many benefits to be found in the world of RPGs.

Here are a few highlights:

When I first heard about role-playing games, I immediately thought it was something that was just for the nerdiest of nerds out there. I could only imagine how ridiculous it would feel to sit around a table with other people and act like someone—or something—else, pretending to fight goblins and dragons. The entire premise just sounded way “too geeky” for me—even as someone who was way into video games and other “nerdy” things.

Fast forward a couple years, and I found that I was completely wrong. As soon as I took a moment to strip away the facade of monsters and swords, role-playing games revealed themselves to be something far more interesting than other traditional games. Behind the fantasy adventures was a fun social gathering that required you to think on your toes, solve problems, be creative, and ultimately learn how to become a team player. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s because it’s like every job out there. It turned out that it really wasn’t about the dungeons or the dragons at all—it’s about thinking critically and working like a team.

Playing Cultivates Creativity

Creativity is the bread and butter of role-playing games. They have a certain quality that allows you to transcend typical game interactions. You have real freedom and the ability to move the story forward how you see fit. There are rules for each game, but they are merely the skeleton to whatever story you and your team want to create.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to activate our brains, and role-playing games do this incredibly well. When we tell stories—or experience them—our brains have to process language, the cause and effect of events, and also relate it to our own pre-existing experiences. While you’re playing a role-playing game, your brain is firing on all cylinders.

Playing Levels Up Your Social Skills

When you think Dungeons & Dragons, you probably don’t think social skills—but once again, that’s a stereotype that doesn’t necessarily hold true. Role-playing games are 100% social. You need to be able to talk to other people, express how you feel about certain situations, all in a group of people.


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