Friday, April 24, 2015

Kids Explore: Activities at the Art & Archaeology Museum

What better way to introduce children to objects of our past and human history than through an art and archaeology museum school holiday program. Just 40mins north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is a wonderful museum with a generous size collection of artifacts on display. The museum is set out in a logical order -a timeline of history. It can be walked through (if reading the didactic and information panels) between 30-60mins. But that is more for the adults than the kids. However, there are some lovely murals painted on the walks which document a visual representation of times past which the kids would enjoy looking at. 

In terms of the offering for the school holidays public programs, I was very impressed with the number of activities available and the variety:
  • Archaeological dig
  • Archery 
  • Craft (Mask,
  • Drumming story time
  • Oil Lamp
  • Mammoth Puzzle
  • Cave Painting 

Overall this has been one of the best kids programs I have experienced yet, but, as my child gets older, she is able to participate in more things.  

Check out The Abbey Museum for their school holiday program.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Transforming Gallery Space for Children's Exhibition

A review of Exhibition: Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing: From book to film

I had the opportunity to visit a nearby (30mins away from Brisbane) local gallery, Redcliffe Art Gallery to view the Shaun Tan exhibition based on his children's book "The Lost Thing". Immediately walking into the Gallery I LOVED the set up. I could tell straight away thought had gone into the layout of the exhibition, to make it exciting for children. The exhibition was a collection of; original artworks, a few sculptures and documentary segments on how they turned the book into a short 15min film. 

How the curator displayed the film clips was imaginative. All the exhibition was themed to look like the book. So the films were display on screens which were encased in a fictional looking TV Box. The engaging part for participates was that they had to pick up an old retro telephone handset to listen to the audio. This was a great idea as there were a number of film clips that could play at once and this meant it did not disrupt the experience of others. Also, to play the video, the children had to press a red button which was a symbol used in the book.

I loved how every page of the book was laid out in order and on view with some of the accompanying artworks. Props associated with the exhibition really gave the sense of the space being not only transformed but incorporated, for example, the fake pipes attached to the wall. Other fixtures included display cases masqueraded as a sense from the book, or protruding walls with window holes. Another feature was a large open 'pipe' which had sounds playing so children could go and put their ear to the piece. 

All in all a very engaging (though small) exhibition, it wad just right with number of artworks. That was another aspect, to the interesting design and layout of the exhibition. The artworks were arranged deliberately to be bunched together in asymmetrical format. 

The only criticism I have, which is not solely related to this exhibition is the blurred line between what children could touch and not touch. General Gallery etiquette is that you don't touch the artwork. And this would still be true for those things framed and on the wall, however it was unclear for the 'props' where something we could touch. Small issue but nonetheless I have found this uncertainty among other children focused exhibitions.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Crikey! Engaging children in the (Australia) zoo experience

Whenever I choose an experience or event to attend, I always consider what is there for kids to do. I hate going to something, designed for children, that lacks adequate audience engagement. With my desire to persue a role in Public Programs, and possibly a Masters of Art Education in my future, I thought critiquing and reviewing my experiences would be a wise record to start. So, this post is my first official published review, though surprisingly not of a gallery or museum exhibit, but of an educational experience at a zoo.

I was excited probably more than Miss 5 to be going to not just any zoo but the Australia Zoo. Having experienced a few different zoos BC (Before Child), the Australia Zoo is quiet large and impressive in the animals they show. (Also from an Artist point of view you are always on the look out for source material, and as I am a painter of animals and birds, I was especially mindful of an opportunistic photo).

On the whole I was quiet impressed with the level of interactivity the Australia Zoo offers for children. I think the best section was Bindi's Bootcamp, right at the end of the zoo (see map here). This had a large enough area to cater for a large group of children, and enough activities to be substantial. As well, there was something for all ages from 5 - 12. My only criticism was the interactivity did rely on the ability to read to better participate though not a hindrance. A negative was this area was exposed to the elements and on the day I visited it did shower. Activities at Bindi's Bootcamp included:
  1. Animal crates with holes for children to put their hand through and guess the animal
  2. Guessing whose poo belonged to what animal (mulitple choice)
  3. Guessing whose dinner belonged to what animal
  4. A globe with animal silhouettes which could be matched to the country (The globe didn't turn, and the animals pieces didn't stay stuck to globe)
  5. Tipee/Caves for the littlies to play in
  6. A rock wall to climb along
  7. Peek-a-book boxes with animals inside (This could have been more interesting than just a photo of an animal)

Other activities included:
Bindi's Treehouse -This was a disappointment. Considering this was the drawcard for coming during the holidays as advertised on TV, there was nothing for the kids to actually do. There were two bad telescopes which were not easily reached by children as there were no steps, and nothing to do at the treehouse. There is definitely room for improving this experience.
Park Sculptures -Throughout the zoo there were bronze sculptures which acted as photo attractions and 'play' equipment for children. At one of the sculpture areas was a fossil dig. This is such as great idea, however it was not undercover, so on the day I attended it was wet sand and the interaction with this space was not an option, as well, there was no tools for children to use to dig.
Rides -There were some rides throughout the park of jumping castles, and the spinning teacups, as well as those pay your $2 to ride on those things you see in shopping centres. Rides are ok and good to break up the day for the kids, however for us, we had to explain to Miss 5 we came to the zoo to see the ANIMALS not to go on rides.
Public Programs: Live Talks and Demonstrations -These were very educational, and great to listen to as an adult though not targeted at children. Older children would have listened and picked up on things. Even posing questions to the audience ie children would make a difference in better engaging them.
Animal Encounters -Photographs with the Animals & Touching the Animals -This is another consideration for engagement in terms of physical interaction and tactile experience. 

In terms of what could be improved to increase the level of interactivity and engagement I have a few suggestions as I don't believe the zoo has maximised the potential in this area. For example;
  1. considering we are in the digital age, there was no use of technology by children or for children to engage with
  2. Children could go on an explorer/adventurer quest by following clues
  3. Headphones for animals sounds at suitable stations
  4. Touch screen monitors to engage in learning
  5. Even simply making the live talks interactive by asking the children questions
  6. What about a colouring in station or something with chalk like a communal wall.  
These suggested improvements do not have to be from an educational perspective rather increasing the fun and overall engagement, learning and interactivity experience.

Finger Print Hands

Level: EASY 3+ A simple yet fun activity.

  1. Get children to trace around hands with pencil (or get an adult to help for little ones)
  2. Then get them to trace the pencil with black texta. 
  3. Next is the messy part, using stamp pads show children how to work there way from pinkies to thumb. Immediately hands need to be wash (this will get messy). I used a baby wipe and it got most off but there will be staining.
  4. Extension: scan one print and photocopy it larger.

  • Talk about finger prints being unique to the individual. Talk about identity and DNA.
  • Talk about finger prints being used in society to catch criminals. How to you capture fingerprints? What is a detective?
Curriculum Links:
  • Early Childhood -Counting, Fine Motor coordination skills, identity and being
  • Lower Primary -Science