Children as Teachers in a Museum: Growing their Knowledge of an Indigenous Culture: Preschoolers as Museum Guides

By Jeanette Grace Clarkin-Phillips, Margaret Carr, Rebecca Thomas, Cheri O’Brien, Neil Crowe and Garth Armstrong.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This research paper reports on a study of preschool (3-4 years old) children acting as museum guides for their families. The research questions for the study were: how do young children as teachers engage their families in learning in the museum and how do families as learners respond to the children’s storytelling and explanations?
The children in the study attend a kindergarten located in the national museum of Aotearoa New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. During an exhibition of indigenous (Māori) woven cloaks (korowai), the children constructed their own cloaks back at the kindergarten. The curator exhibited the children’s cloaks in the official korowai exhibition, and the children then began to act as docents for their families and the teachers. This research explored the knowledge and meaning-making acquired by the children and communicated by them to the visiting families and teachers.
The study was an action research project in which university researchers worked alongside teachers, children and families. Children’s visits were observed and their conversations were recorded; teachers and parents were interviewed. Analysis of the data revealed the complexity of the children’s meaning-making and communication, the modelling of cultural practices that they had learned, together with their unique and personalised perspectives.

Keywords: Representations, Culture, Museums, Research

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 6, Issue 4, December 2014, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 675.035KB).

Jeanette Grace Clarkin-Phillips

Senior Lecturer, Department of Professional Studies, School of Education, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Jeanette Clarkin-Phillips is a Senior Lecturer in the Early Childhood Programmes at the University of Waikato, Faculty of Education. In this capacity she works with student teachers to explore the ways they implement the national early childhood curriculum. Her research interests include museum education and early childhood services that support children, families and communities through multi-service collaboration.

Prof. Margaret Carr

Professor, Wilf Malcolm Institute of Education Research, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Margaret Carr is a Professor of Education with a special focus on early childhood education. Her interests include pedagogy in early childhood settings, young children's learning outcomes, and museum education. She has published widely on assessment as narrative documentation in early childhood; her most recent, co-authored, publication is entitled "Learning Stories: constructing learner identities in early education," publshed by Sage Publications.

Rebecca Thomas

Tai Tamariki Kindergarten, Wellington, New Zealand

Rebecca Thomas is the Assistant Head Teacher at Tai Tamariki Kindergarten. She has a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood and is enrolled in a Masters of Museum Studies. Rebecca has been the lead teacher-researcher at Tai Tamariki Kindergarten.

Cheri O’Brien

Tai Tamariki Kindergarten, Wellington, New Zealand

Cheri O’Brien has been teaching at Tai Tamariki for three years and holds a Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Early Years. Cheri is passionate about working alongside young children, particularly when teaching infants and toddlers.

Neil Crowe

Tai Tamariki Kindergarten, Wellington, New Zealand

Neil Crowe has been teaching at Tai Tamariki Kindergarten since it opened in 2010 and brings a strong musical background to his teaching. Neil has a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education.

Garth Armstrong

Tai Tamariki Kindergarten, Wellington, New Zealand

Garth Armstrong has a Kindergarten Diploma and has been involved in early childhood education for many years in a variety of roles—teaching in kindergartens and working for Group Special Education and the teachers’ union.


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