Our first professional development day was held at the Pine Rivers museum, where 30 of us had the privilege to observe a cohort of year twos enjoying the highly structured excursion activities on offer there. Joan Kelly enjoys the dynamic role of managing the network of museums for Moreton Bay Regional Council, which takes takes in the Pine Rivers Heritage museum, Redcliffe museum and Bribie Island Seaside Museum. It is a diverse set of museums, with a diversity of audiences. Joan has kindly given us the opportunity to interview her about the vision for the Moreton Bay Regional museums in meeting community education needs. I know the information Joan has shared below will be very useful to museums.
[Stay tuned for our next Professional Development Event – Thurs 4th September 2014 4.30 -7.30, a networking evening, Transcontinental Hotel, opposite Roma Street Station. Theme ‘What 21 C Learners Need’. Drop by and say hello.]
Here’s Joan’s interview:
What is key for museums to meet community education needs?
Museums interested in attracting schools need to be mindful of the current curriculum requirements and develop programs to meet the curriculum outlines. In a very competitive environment, the more closely the curriculum is followed, the more likely it is that schools will be encouraged to attend YOUR museum.
What is unique about each of the museums in my region? What do they offer schools? What is the strength of each museum?
The Moreton Bay Regional Council Museum Network includes three museums: Bribie Island Seaside Museum , Pine Rivers Heritage Museum and Redcliffe Museum .
Bribie is a relatively new museum, being 5 years old in 2015 whose main visitors are weekend tourists and bus trippers. The island has only one primary school and one secondary school. A member of the Bribie Island Historical society brings different levels of the primary school through the museum each year. The nearest other schools are in Caboolture, who tend to visit the Caboolture Village museum.
Pine Rivers has a well-developed school program that has been in place for approximately six years. The program was initially developed by an education officer as a hands-on program across a small number of museum themes. Over the next four years, the program was slowly expanded to include the current six themes. With the roll out of the National Curriculum in 2010, we took the opportunity to link the school program directly to sections of the curriculum. The major themes relate to Then and Now comparisons. We then directly targeted schools at the appropriate year level with an invitation pack outlining the programme. Once a school books into the program a confirmation pack is sent.
We are able to charge for this program. The administration of the program is supported by an 18 hour, 3 day a week paid position. With a combination of paid staff and long-term volunteers we have managed to make this programme largely self-sustaining.
Redcliffe Museum also runs a sizeable school program which has been in place for several years. This program has been developed on an ad hoc basis by dedicated staff and volunteers and is currently being aligned to the National Curriculum, along different themes to those at Pine Rivers (convicts, explorers, but also a Then and Now component). The program is free to students and as such is largely reliant on volunteer presenters. With no funds to employ additional staff, the program is currently not able to expand, however, during 2014 we will be developing a more hands on, fee-for-service program. If this is achieved, the Redcliffe program will also be able to become more self-sustaining and directly target schools to increase school bookings.
What is the key to the success of the education programs in your museum
Giving the schools what they need to meet their curriculum needs, not just what we think we can offer them in terms of an excursion.
What were the main impacts of the Australian History curriculum on your museum education programs?
The existing program at Pine Rivers targeted those parts of the curriculum that it most easily aligned with, which fortunately sat within the pioneering themes of the museum. This has given the museum an advantage when offering targeted programming.
The Redcliffe Museum program is less established. While it had set work sheets related to the exhibits, it also delivered programs on request. Before the introduction of the national curriculum it sought to engage with the local schools to determine what schools wanted. The needs were diverse and the museum program struggled to market itself. With the curriculum in place, we are now aligning the museum themes to particular areas of the curriculum, keeping them as different as possible from the pioneering themes of Pine Rivers, such as the convict/early settlement, explorers and transport, which includes boats and bridges.
By matching our school programs to the curriculum we are providing valuable class material that teachers do not have to prepare. We offer as much hands on activity as possible to cover different ways of learning and while the Pine Rivers model is quite structured, at Redcliffe the program is more inquiry based.
What activities are the most popular with the kids?
Across all our kids programs, hands-on activities are most popular.
Is there a flow on of more family visits of a week-end? Are there any challenges with that?
We are seeing an increased number of school children bringing their families in on the weekend. All three museums tend to offer kids weekend public programs and/or self paced and/or school holiday activities based predominantly on the Temporary Exhibition of the time (which changes approximately every three months). Therefore, weekend activities are quite different to those experienced in the school setting. We also offer the GAME (Gallery and Museum Explorers) program once a month in each venue which has a following of approximately 800 families across the region. GAME members belong to a special ‘snail mail’ club whereby they are sent a quarterly newsletter outlining the different weekend and school holiday programmes for the next 3 months. Weekend front of house staff/volunteers have recognised (and been recognised!) that some of these children are from school groups that have visited the museum
The musuems also offer a fun and safe environment for access parents and grandparents looking after children during the school holidays to spend time with their children in an engaging environment.
What are the most successful methods of attracting schools to the museum?
The key attractor appears to be offering a program that fills in gaps in classroom learning. Having two museum programs to observe, it is also apparent that having the staff to properly market the program also helps create a successful program. Schools appear more likely to visit a program that is tailor made and basically delivered to them rather than seeking out a general museum visit – even if they have to pay for it.
What plans do you have for education in the museums in the future?
Based on the success of the Pine Rivers program, we are working toward recreating the hands-on curriculum specific model at Redcliffe and will then develop a more concrete program at Bribie.
How does this fit with the cultural strategy for the region
The school programs at all venues, together with GAME, help tick our boxes for engaging with youth. Given the flow on weekend/holiday visits, it also increases the overall visitor numbers who engage with cultural venues in the region.
You have an excellent team of staff and volunteers How do you support the volunteers?
We do indeed have excellent staff and volunteers who we support by ensuring that they have adequate training, support and resources to maintain the program. We also offer recognition events in the form of social events/excursions.
Apart from schools, what do you offer in terms learning for other community sectors visiting the museum?
As mentioned, we offer the GAME club to kids at large. We also have a policy of ensuring that we have at least one (or more) community and/or multi cultural partnership in our exhibition program each year, preferably at each museum. We also try to program at least one exhibition that links to the curriculum per year, preferably per museum, and aim to offer family oriented exhibitions over the summer break and/or over other school holidays.
Any suggestion for museums starting out with their education programs?
Find a way to link your museum exhibitions/objects to a section of the curriculum and then develop a program that you can market to the schools in your local area – and beyond. The more hands on, the more attractive to teachers it will be, and the more fun for the students. Hands on activities with real objects usually offer something that schools can’t actually provide so they will come to you to get that experience. Volunteers are also often more comfortable with hands-on objects that they are familiar with themselves so more engaging (and more relaxed) presenters.
Check out some of the other blogs about the day: