Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Children in museum spaces

Source: South Australian Museum

Museum Study Puts Small Voices Under the Microscope, 17 September 2014, South Australian Museum

The results of a groundbreaking South Australian Museum study on early childhood learning will be launched in an exhibition at the Museum today.

Over the past five years, both the South Australian Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia have observed a significant increase in the number of preschool children visiting the organisations.

The Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) teacher seconded to the Museum, Karen Hogan, developed a study to investigate how young children connect with a space and objects, and draw meaning from them. The results will be used to develop better programs and facilities for children visiting Adelaide’s key cultural organisations.

“It has been great to have had the opportunity to observe young children in the gallery spaces, to build relationships with them and to discover the objects and stories they connected with,” said Ms Hogan.

The study was part of the Museums Alive for Under 5s project, supported by a grant from the Minister for Education and Child Development to the South Australian Museum Foundation. It draws on the principles of the Reggio Emilia model of educating children, which values creativity, independence and the individual potential of the child.

Ms Hogan worked with her DECD counterpart at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Mark Fischer, to study how children explore and relate to artworks and objects. They invited four preschools to take part over a series of visits to the organisations. The visits were documented and filmed as part of the research phase.

The Director of the South Australian Museum Brian Oldman says the research is valuable in highlighting how the institutions can maximise the value of their spaces and collections.

“Young children are among our most valued visitors, as it possible to develop in very young minds the lifelong motivation to learn about science and culture. It is important that their experience here on North Terrace is welcoming and helps them to understand our research and collections on their level.”

Surveys, images and interviews were collected throughout the process.

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