Testing Our Ideas: Working with Littlest Learners at the Burke Museum

 
 

By
AnnaMaria Paruk, BurkeMobile Manager and
Julia Miller, Early Childhood Education Specialist
The Burke Museum

Burke1
The Burke Museum is working with the Port Angeles and Royal City communities to bring programming and resources to these areas. As an institution we have developed many onsite programs for our littlest learners but we have yet to develop specific programming for our outreach efforts. Because of this, we wanted to test an activity before we brought it to our partner communities, and the Burke staff jumped in to help and volunteered their kids!
 
 
We had a blast with the Burke kiddos! After weeks of research and planning, it was incredibly helpful to see how our ideas worked when kids were actually participating (and we were actually facilitating) in our activities. We would advise every organization to do something like this and work out all the kinks before going “live” with your project.
 

“The teeth feel very sharp.”

“The teeth feel very sharp.”

“Bats live in the forest.”

“Bats live in the forest.”

"I want to be an owl because they can fly at night."

“I want to be an owl because they can fly at night.”

 

One element we were curious about was how the young children would respond when holding delicate specimens and fossils. We purposefully set up an art station with shells, feathers, rocks, and skulls in a very particular and calculated manner that we were hoping would elicit respect from the preschoolers. Turns out, it works! The preschoolers were very gentle with our specimens and we honestly believe it was because of the way we set up the station because earlier in the activity, they were running and jumping around in the gallery with stuffed animals we had provided them.

 
Burke5Throughout the whole test activity we were documenting with pictures and notes, something that was actually harder than we realized. We wanted to engage with the kids, as this is what we typically do, but we needed to document the whole experience. It was a really good practice for us in the evaluative element of this project. We will be making some changes to facilitation and materials, but we were happy with the basic idea. In fact, the activities were so appealing, we had casual gallery visitors join in as they passed by! We’re taking that as a good sign to forge ahead!
 
 

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