Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Rob Schuitema

Second Advisor

Amy Bentz


This project was designed to examine the impact of museums as authentic learning environments for traditional students, and analyze the role of student-centered educational programming in such an environment has upon student’s growth and connection to social studies content. The aim of this project was to develop an education program for secondary students, implement the program in a museum setting, and assess its effectiveness in encouraging student growth. The education program was created and taught at the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) in relation to the exhibit, Whales: Giants of the Deep. The program was developed under the supervision of the education team at the GRPM and aligned with the Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations (GLCEs). In its entirety, the program consists of a tour script, activity packets for the program, pre-visit and post-visit activities for educators, and an educational resource guide outlining connections to standards. Implementation of the program occurred with a group of sixth grade students from the Grand Rapids Museum School. Based upon the interaction and performance of the school group provided, it was concluded that with directed programming, education in a museum setting offers the benefit of authentic and purposeful environment for secondary learners. This thesis hopes to offer secondary educators, specifically those in social studies, an opportunity to direct students towards authentic learning environments, and therefore make a small contribution to shift the perspective of museums as a classroom for all learners.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access