In our last blog we looked at some of the ways the Pine Rivers Heritage Museum effectively plans for and organises a visit by lower primary students. In this blog we will be looking at what type of activities lower primary teachers are looking for and how to effectively engage students from this age group.
The Australian Curriculum history focus for grade 2 is The Past in the Present and for grade 3, Community and Remembrance. With this in mind, teachers wanting to visit social history museums will be looking for museum programmes that, among other things, show how technology has changed over time, what aspects of life today are different from life in the past, tours which tell the stories of local historical buildings or sites and tours which reveal the importance of different groups and people in the development of the local area.
If you want to capture a school market it is imperative that you design your tours around themes which relate to these topics, just as the Pine Rivers Heritage Museum has done. For example, teachers who visit the Museum may choose a tour which allows students to investigate how people once did things (such as the washing) without the use of modern technology. Other tour choices allow children to experience what it was like to go to school in the past, while another includes a walk around the adjacent historical park to hear the stories of the heritage buildings which now call the park home.
When designing an education programme include activities which allow students to be active. If children in this age group are not doing, they are not learning and you will quickly lose their interest. This following proverb should be your mantra when designing education programmes for any age group but especially for younger visitors.
I hear…I forget.
I see….I remember.
I do….I understand.
The most successful tours for any age group are those that include more student investigations and less guide dialogue. Don’t tell them what it was like, let them experience it themselves. During the Pine Rivers Heritage Museum Wash Day tour children hauled water buckets, stirred clothes, pegged clothes, sorted clothes, used a mangle and much more.
The new History curriculum recognises the virtues of investigative learning through its emphasis on the use of the historical inquiry process. At its simplest level this means investigating questions. During tours children will naturally ask questions when their curiosity is aroused. Encourage this and use their questions to shape your presentation. If they want to know where the water used in the wash tub came from, tell them, even if it doesn’t quite stick to your original plan. The trick is to tell them quickly, then move on. Don’t get bogged down on one thing.
When designing an education programme there is a lot that can be included but it is important to select only a few themes and to do these themes well. Quality not quantity is the key.
Look out for my next blog which will focus on the most important element of any guided museum education programme – the tour guides themselves. I will be looking at their role, how to support them and how to train them.