By Dr. Katherine Palmer, MIMʼs curator of education

Educational programming at MIM is as diverse as the representations in the galleries. From field trip tours to MIMkids educational classes, children of all ages are given the opportunity to explore a variety of soundscapes and material culture to help construct ideas about music making, musical instruments, and people. At MIM, we recognize that children live inherently imaginative and musical lives, and as facilitators of learning, we aim to tap into these sensibilities through child centered and play-based approaches that create a direct connection to MIM’s mission of fostering appreciation for the world’s diverse cultures.

MIM’s global nature and immersive galleries create interdisciplinary opportunities for subject areas to come together and create exceptional educational experiences. We believe that people build—or construct—knowledge based on their past experiences and that children have a lot of important ideas to share when interpreting exhibit content (this theory is called “constructivism”). In this way, we’re able to facilitate participatory lessons that create a dialogue for sharing these ideas. At its heart, MIM education is fun. When youth are having fun, learning can happen effortlessly. As educators, we have nearly one hundred years of research that states the importance of play-based approaches in education, and we know that through play, children develop cognitively, physically, and emotionally. From creating a gamelan jam session with toddlers to crafting Newfoundland ugly sticks with elementary students, MIM education strives to spark imaginative, playful inquiry and exploration, where youth can develop relationships with music making.

The impact of our educational approach is evidenced through conversations with caregivers, school administrators, and most importantly, the children who participate. One superintendent noted that “the teacher was thrilled to see one of our shy refugee students recognize a drum from her country in the Experience Gallery” during a field trip, and a caregiver explained that MIM programs have helped her child discover a love for cultural exploration that involves inventing their own maps and representative instruments.

As one Musical Adventures student (age 10) told us, “When we go into the galleries, everything makes sense. I get to learn about instruments, how they work, and where they’re from. I also get to learn about other countries and their traditions. I like that kind of thing.” It is our hope that MIM’s educational offerings inspire joy— joyful learning, music making, and awareness, creating opportunities for connection and a more empathetic future for us all.


Our educational philosophy takes inspiration and best practices from a variety of academic fields and methodologies, including these:

Ethnomusicology is the study of the world’s diverse music cultures, including the sound, behaviors, and social aspects.

Object-based learning is an educational approach in which objects guide the scope and aims of a lesson. Objects become a way to further investigate what students know, wonder, and learn in a space.

Community music is a type of music facilitation that takes place in a community setting. Closely related to music education, it aims to facilitate “unconditional hospitality” through inclusive music making (Higgins 2012).

References: Parten, 1929; Piaget, 1962; Vygotsky, 1978; Paley, 2008