A New Zealand Museum explores the City as School
The New Zealand Chapter recently toured Wellington’s Te Papa Learning Lab and discovered a museum that is leading the charge in change and renewal for learners of all ages.
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the national museum and art gallery of New Zealand, located in Wellington. It has embarked on a significant programme of change and renewal. Its Learning Lab is one of the first visible signs of this.
The conversion of a dull tired “classroom” space, the Learning Space is a prototype for further change. Here are some of my takeaway thoughts and highlights from the discussion under the theme “City as School”.
- Te Papa is the guardian of significant taonga or treasures, not just for New Zealand, but with an interest across the Pacific. Yet many of these taonga are not accessible. How can these taonga become more accessible, as a catalyst for learning?
- The lab has the latest in virtual reality equipment, banks of 3D printers and a variety of connected devises. The large touch tables are stunning, but learning is first and technology second. All children are seen to have a right to access the treasures - how does Te Papa better connect. How do you connect with the small rural schools and parallel Sugata Mitra’s work?
- It’s hands on and digital: stuff you can handle and play with. There is games-based learning and learner-centric experiences and that's why they call it a lab. Museum education has been traditionally static, but it needs to follow the interest of the learner.
- An event is planned to make musical instruments from upcycled materials. They will then take them to the studio at Capital E to make a recording.
- There are coding sessions after school once a week, with a focus on developing games based learning.
- A central theme is accessibility and connectivity. How do we connect learners together and with specialised nodes? Not just learners in schools - we are all learners. The aim is to provide social context, the ballet of the street as it were, both the informal as well as the formal.
- How do you reach every child and extend the learning beyond the walls? One of the most intriguing uses of technology was a school group coming into Te Papa. They then connected with an Australian school over Google Hangout before picking up video cameras and taking them on a virtual tour of the museum, explaining the exhibits, and answering questions, explaining what a waka or traditional canoe is to children who had never seen one.
- This discussion connected with members of Wellington Public Library and National Library about how they could also collaborate. It was noted that it is easy to reach the primary schools but more difficult to reach the teens, who are the most vulnerable. Examples included making museums and libraries Pokémon stops. Room to Rise, an American intensive arts museum programme for teens was found to inspire their career choices.
The Learning Lab is a test. It is already acting as a catalyst for other teams in Te Papa’s renewal. There will be an external evaluation on the contribution to schools and museums. In the future, it is envisaged that kids will be involved in finding objects for the collection - devolving the institution and involving others.
Wellington Committee, NZ Chapter