Illinois State Museum (ISM) - Land, Life, People & Art.

J.B. Pritzker, Governor
ISM System :Teacher Resources
Visitor Information
Programs & Events
Stores & Artisans Shops
Teachers & Students
Lesson Plans!
Online Exhibits
Research & Collections
Staff Directory
Job Opportunities
Members & Donors
Public Museum Grants
About ISM
News/Press Room
Search/Site Map

Join Our E-Mail List
For Email Marketing you can trust

Teacher Resources

ISM Education Programs

The Illinois State Museum offers a variety of resources for preK-12 teachers and students including exhibit-based school programs, self-guided tours, professional development opportunities for teachers, and online lesson plans.

The ISM is an exciting and educational field trip destination. Your group's Museum visit may be a self-guided tour, or include an exhibit-based school program taught by a Museum educator. For older students, behind-the-scenes tours are available of the Museum's Research and Collections Center.

  MuseumLink Native American Module   

MuseumLink Native American Module

Learn about the Archaic, Woodland, Late Prehistoric and historic eras of Native American lifeways in Illinois. Lesson plans include the topics of foodways, architecture, clothing, rituals, symbols, and games. This is the most thorough exhibit on the Web of Illinois-related Native American information. Activities are also provided for the Cub Scout and Boy Scout badges.

MuseumLink Native American Module

  School Programs   

Programs are offered as independent activities or guided programs. Independent activities are led by the classroom teacher and all materials are provided by the Museum. Guided programs are led by a Museum educator and subject to staff availability. The Museum’s school programs are correlated with the Illinois Learning Standards. All school programs are available to students with special needs.

For more information about independent activities and guided programs, please contact the Education Section at or (217) 782-0061.

Cultural History

Peoples of the Past

Grades: PreK–12
30 minutes for Grades PreK-2
45 minutes for Grades 3-12
Guided & Independent Activity
Pre & Post Visit Materials

This program is offered in the Peoples of the Past exhibition, four life-sized dioramas that depict Native American life­ways in Illinois from 2500 B.C. to the 19th century. Activities are tai­lored to grade level. Students examine real and reproduction artifacts, explore life­style changes over time, and gain an apprecia­tion for other cultures.

Peoples of the Past—Pottery

Grades: 3–6
45 minutes
Material fee: 50¢ per student

In this hands-on program, students use tools from nature to create and deco­rate their own pinch pot, and gain an understanding of the significance of pottery to Native American life. This is an optional extension of the Peoples of the Past program.

At Home in the Heartland

Grades: 4–5
30 minutes
Independent Activity

Students explore the history of domestic life in Illinois through an independent activ­ity in the At Home in the Heartland exhibition. Students focus on specific artifacts as they walk through six time periods from 1700 to the 1990s, and gain a broader understanding of Illinois’ rich history through the eyes of people who lived here.

Natural History

Animal Habitats

Grades: PreK-2
30 minutes
Guided & Independent Activity
Pre and Post Visit Materials

Students are introduced to a variety of Illinois animals and their habi­tats. Prairie, cave, forest, and river habitats are explored, along with animals that live in each habitat and their adaptations. Students will examine specimens representing the ani­mals and their lifeways.

Rocks and Minerals

Grades: 2–5
30 minutes
Guided & Independent Activity
Pre and Post Visit Materials

This program gives a broad overview of rocks and minerals including: the three rock groups and their formation; the definition of a min­eral; basic mineral properties; and practical uses of rocks and minerals. Illinois examples and connections to the Changes exhibition are emphasized.

Focus on Fossils

Grades: 2–5
30 minutes
Guided & Independent Activity
Pre and Post Visit Materials

Focus on Fossils uses the Changes exhibition to teach students about fossils, their formation and importance, and how scientists use fossils to learn about extinct organisms and past environments. Students discover how fossils are col­lected, and how scientists determine fossil age.

Exploring the Illinois Prairies

Grades: 6-8
45 minutes
Guided & Independent Activity
Pre and Post Visit Materials

This program features the prairie diorama in the Changes exhibition. The program cov­ers the formation of Illinois’ prairies, why prairie soil is so rich, why fire is essential for prairies, plants and animals in the prairie, and how the prairie disappeared.

Exploring the Illinois River

Grades: 6-8
45 minutes
Guided & Independent Activity
Pre and Post Visit Materials

This program features the Illinois River gallery in the Changes exhibition. It covers the formation of the Illinois River, the three parts of the river system (channel, levee, and backwater lake), the importance of the river as plant and animal habitat, adaptations of plants and animals to the river envi­ronment, and the importance of the river to people from 12,000 years ago to today.

Exploring Changes: Evolution, Geology and Ecology

Grades: 9-12
45 or 60 minutes
Guided & Independent Activity
Pre and Post Visit Materials

This program uses a variety of Changes dioramas to show how evo­lution, geology, and ecology have impacted Illinois’s environmental history over the last 500 million years. Students will examine dioramas for evidence relating to evolution, geology, and ecology. Students will discover how concepts from the three disciplines created the diverse ecosystems shown in Changes.

  Self-guided Programs   

Self-guided Tours

Most school groups visit the Museum for a self-guided tour of the exhibits. Recommended visit time for school groups is 45 minutes. Self-guided tours are scheduled through the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCVB) by calling 800-545-7300 or 217-789-2360. You can also download a SCVB reservation form at

  Online Resources for Teachers   

Lesson Plans
We have developed 196 lesson plans in art, history, anthropology, archaeology and the natural sciences for grades K-12.
Lessons are correlated to the Illinois Learning Standards.
Web Exhibits
Come visit our 23 world famous web "exhibits" such as At Home in Heartland, Geology Online, and Ice Ages. Most of the lesson plans and activities were developed to be used with these exhibits.
Access to the ISM Collections
The Museum has over 10 million objects in its collections, but only a small percent are on display in our exhibits. Gain access here to some of our prize objects, specimens, and works of art.
Online Activities and Games
We have developed 8 online activities or games that cover a wide range of topics.

  Planning Your Visit   

The Illinois State Museum inspires discovery and caring about Illinois' cultural and natural resources and heritage. The Museum’s extensive collections and research activities provide the foundation for exhibitions and public programs that tell the story of the land, life, people, and art of Illinois. The Illinois State Museum is headquartered in Springfield with branch facilities throughout the state.  Use the links to the side to find information about current and upcoming exhibits, public programs, and other events at all of the Museum’s sites.

Come to the Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum!

The Play Museum is a free children's area at the Illinois State Museum-Springfield. Load a jeep; crawl through a cave; dig for fossils; put together a baby mastodont puzzle; frame art; explore collections of fossils, insects, artifacts; and toys; and play museum! The Play Museum is designed for children ages 3-10 and their families.  Hours are Tuesday-Saturday (10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) and Sunday (1:00 to 4:30 p.m.). The Play Museum is closed on Mondays.

Play Museum Teacher Kits

ANNOUNCING: A new, exciting resource for teachers from the Illinois State Museum!
Thanks to a grant from the Susan Cook House Educational Trust, teachers of grades preK-4 may borrow a Play Museum Outreach Kit free of charge. The easy-to-use, light weight kits were created to help educators and their students get the most out of a field trip visit to the Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum.




Contact Information

Visitor Information


ISM Springfield
ISM Dickson Mounds
ISM Lockport
ISM Chicago
ISM Rend Lake

Copyright © 2012 Illinois State Museum Site Map | ISM Privacy Information | Kids Privacy | Web Accessibility | Webmaster| Illinois DNR
Last updated 2017-01-18, 14:40 by lc