The BIG shift: Open House to Exhibition Inspiration

Say goodbye to boring open houses. This blog is part of a four-part series about creating exciting exhibitions of student work that excite parents, engage students, and make YOUR job of setting up an open house much more interesting! Arranging exhibitions are a perfect way to help students take their PBL to a new level.

Part 1: Understanding Exhibition

When time for open houses comes around, it’s a lot of responsibility for teachers to not only creating a museum of work but then single handedly curate it (read: entertain parents). More importantly, attending a standard-issue Open House is not that much fun for parents and, most importantly, it completely removes students from the process.

By creating an exhibition instead of an “open house” you can help students actively share their learning with a real audience, while improving your own PBL skills.

How is Exhibition different than a traditional Open House?

As teachers, we are always seeking ways to create a more valuable experience for students and parents. An exhibition is better than an open house because it is:

  • Creating opportunities for students to actively share what they are learning instead of posting it to a wall and sitting it out.
  • Enhancing student learning and speaking skills by allowing them to talk about their project process.
  • Including a broader set of community members, making the invitation open to people beyond parents and school board
  • Involving the “audience” of the open house – whether they are listening to a presentation or actively asking questions of a student who is presenting at the exhibition.
  • Offering a fresh setting that doesn’t look anything like a daytime classroom.

Why Exhibitions Matter

Exhibitions allow you to keep impacting your students’ lives even after hours. A small effort can have rather large impact, including:

  • Students who present their work and learning to an authentic audience feel “known”; it fosters their agency to be of service in the world
  • It raises the stakes and improves the quality of student work. When students know somebody real is going to see their work AND that they will be held accountable to stand next to and speak to their work, they are more motivated to put in the extra effort to produce beautiful work! Adding in an authentic audience is a boost for project work (all leading definitions of High Quality Project Based Learning (HQPBL) preach the importance of an authentic audience)
  • It fosters a culture of critique; students are more likely to help their peers with feedback because they are “in it together”; the Exhibition is a group project with each student’s section playing an important role
  • It engages parents in the learning process, thus strengthen home-school relationships; more on that HERE.
  • Similar to #5, it strengthens relationships with local industry experts, deepening connections for future field work. By inviting professionals from industries, such as architects, city planners, scientists or designers-they can get a better of how PBL works, and more importantly begin to see how their role and work can support student learning in future projects.

Are you feeling excited about exhibition? Maybe a little apprehensive because you still don’t know how to do “it”? I’ve got you covered. The rest of this 4-part series will tell you step-by-step how to bring an exciting exhibition to YOUR classroom.

SPRING SPECIAL!: I’m offering Year-End Exhibition staff training and virtual project coaching. Contact Jenny today to make the shift from Open House to Exhibition-!


Wonder what an exhibition looks like in person? Here are a few examples – with adults at the Deeper Learning conference, from a kindergarten and a middle school exhibition..