Museum Study Puts Small Voices Under the Microscope

17 September 2014

Child in the Pacific Cultures Gallery with an iPad.

Download a PDF of this media release.

The results of a groundbreaking South Australian Museum study on early childhood learning will be launched in an exhibition at the Museum today.

Over the past five years, both the South Australian Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia have observed a significant increase in the number of preschool children visiting the organisations.

The Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) teacher seconded to the Museum, Karen Hogan, developed a study to investigate how young children connect with a space and objects, and draw meaning from them. The results will be used to develop better programs and facilities for children visiting Adelaide’s key cultural organisations.

“It has been great to have had the opportunity to observe young children in the gallery spaces, to build relationships with them and to discover the objects and stories they connected with,” said Ms Hogan.

The study was part of the Museums Alive for Under 5s project, supported by a grant from the Minister for Education and Child Development to the South Australian Museum Foundation. It draws on the principles of the Reggio Emilia model of educating children, which values creativity, independence and the individual potential of the child.

Ms Hogan worked with her DECD counterpart at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Mark Fischer, to study how children explore and relate to artworks and objects. They invited four preschools to take part over a series of visits to the organisations. The visits were documented and filmed as part of the research phase.

The Director of the South Australian Museum Brian Oldman says the research is valuable in highlighting how the institutions can maximise the value of their spaces and collections.

“Young children are among our most valued visitors, as it possible to develop in very young minds the lifelong motivation to learn about science and culture. It is important that their experience here on North Terrace is welcoming and helps them to understand our research and collections on their level.”

Surveys, images and interviews were collected throughout the process.

A new exhibition of the study’s process and findings will open at the South Australian Museum today in the North Foyer and will be on show until 3 October 2014.


The Children’s Voice Exhibition Launch – Media Welcome

Wednesday 17 September
North Foyer, South Australian Museum

10:15am  Formalities
10:45am  Drinks, nibbles and exhibition open to view
11:15am  Museum and Art Gallery open to explore at your leisure

The results will act as a catalyst for community discussion on how to best cater for early childhood learning in our arts and cultural centres, as well as create connections with local preschools and primary schools to inspire their classroom activities.

Photographs and videos of the children being interviewed and interacting with the spaces are available for media use.


About The Children’s Voice

All preschool centre directors and interested staff met to discuss the project and its aims, and to consult about best way of conducting the study.

First visit

Children were filmed in the space, their responses were recorded and maps were drawn by parents tracking their movements in the gallery. The children worked with artists to do an initial drawing of an object they liked, and were encouraged to consider colour, the material it was made out of and intricate details.

Second visit

The children’s movements were observed. They were given a step stool to use to see if that changed their movements in the space. iPads were given to the children to take images of objects of interest. Children then reflected on the images they took and edited them down to five of their favourites.

Third visit

The children observed the space. They drew their one favourite object guided by artists. Next, they recorded why it was their favourite and told us a story about their chosen object. They were asked what aspects of their object they would like to learn more about.

Fourth visit

Education Managers conducted site visits to childcare centres with objects to share and discuss their cultural history and scientific observations. 

Fifth visit

Children revisited both the Art Gallery and the Museum to look closely at their favourite objects. Children worked with artists to recreate their favourite chosen object at both the Museum and the Art Gallery. Children were filmed giving their responses to a set of questions asking them to reflect on their visits to both cultural organisations.

Sixth visit

Exhibition launch of their work. The children involved in the research shared their learning with the other children in their centres.