School holiday thrills

  • Australian Museum Scientist For a Day

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    Scientist for a Day holiday program

    © Australian Museum

  • Australian Museum Scientist For a Day

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    Scientist for a Day holiday program

    © Australian Museum

  • Australian Museum Scientist For a Day

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    Scientist for a Day holiday program

    © Australian Museum

  • Australian Museum Scientist For a Day

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    Scientist for a Day holiday program

    © Australian Museum

One of the greatest thrills as a child is to be somewhere you shouldn’t be, touching something you shouldn’t touch, and making a mess without getting in trouble.

And one of the greatest thrills for a parent is to find a supervised fun and educational day-long activity for their children that provides all this (preferably outside their own home!).

Methinks this is the key to the popularity and success of the Australian Museum’s Scientist for a Day program.

After recently packing off my seven-year-old to the 'Into the Wild' session last July holidays, he is demanding we go again come this September holidays.

Last time he was met at the entrance to the Museum by a group of young, smiley-faced science educators who lead the small groups of children through the animal related exhibits. This included a mini-lecture on frogs by a resident biologist, hands-on experiments with blubber (yep) and an Indigenous session with an Aboriginal interpreter. Lunch in the park, animal-related craft activities and a bag of goodies to take home resulted in an immersive and memorable experience. Happiness all round.

This included a mini-lecture on frogs by a resident biologist, hands-on experiments with blubber (yep) and an Indigenous session with an Aboriginal interpreter.

Immersion and interactivity appear to be, on paper, the major experiential objectives of museums today. Children are looking to push this, pull that, interact with this screen and watch it all light up and move. But so many museums fall short and for a natural science museum like the Australian Museum with static collections and ever-contracting exhibition budgets, this is not always easy to achieve.

Museums have traditionally relied on accompanying text to explain objects on display. But for children and the visually impatient, “books on walls” just don’t cut it. And if Mum and Dad or Grandma can’t answer every question that teems from a small child’s mind, the standard museum collections often fails to speak to children.

Here in lies the true value of museum interpretive staff and the magic of story-telling which have an enormous impact on little hearts and minds. The interpreter holds an object in their hand presenting it to their eager audience with a reverence no mother can imbue even the most valuable of heirlooms. The little visitors can touch it, turn it upside down, smell it, pass it around, all-the-while listening to a yarn which may be factual, magical or in-between. Invariably this elicits a barrage of questions–some of them pitched so that a Phd candidate would have trouble answering, others turning midpoint into a story rather than question in the endearing manner young children pour out the inner workings of their minds.

So deft and patient are these interpretive officers, and as a result the museum engages with their audience in a way that ticks everyone’s boxes.

At $135 ($115 for Australian Museum Members) for a 9am to 3pm session, this immersive adventure does not come cheaply. However, the value of the experience is immeasurable.

 

Meet Catherine, one of our Roving Reporters. When she isn't working at the Australian Museum she gets her seven-year-old to entertain her by visiting museums.

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Museums & Galleries of NSW helps museums, galleries and Aboriginal cultural centres of NSW create exciting and inspiring experiences for visitors and strong, thriving local communities. We develop their skills, connect them with others in the industry, provide funding, point visitors their way, and give them access to ground-breaking exhibitions.

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