Teaching and learning with objects at Te Papa
This section looks at how to get the most from Te Papa as an educational tool and resource. Museums like Te Papa are exceptional educational resources for self-guided groups, but the ways of working here are different from those used in school settings.
‘You are not here to teach a lesson, nor tell all you know, nor to give all the answers. Your task is to help the children appreciate, at their own level, the significance of the exhibits, to arouse wonder and curiosity, to ask questions, to propound problems and to challenge their powers of reasoning’ - He Tikanga Māori in Museum Education - Discussions at a Museum Education Course held at Frank Lopdell Centre in 1985.
In general, using open-ended questions is the best approach. This enables students to exercise critical thinking skills and to create personal connections with the objects.
First, begin by looking at the object and asking questions about it. Encourage responses with questions that enable the students to make their own interpretations. Develop these connections with open-ended questions that keep students focused on their observations.
Of course, different age groups require different approaches. The following looks at the best ways to use Te Papa as an educational resource according to age.
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Student activity trails
For primary school aged students we have developed a series of student activity trails. These trails are exhibition specific and guide students through seven activities based within the chosen exhibition.
These student activity trails are available to download. You can then print and fold them into a booklet to bring with you when you vist Te Papa.
Download student activity trails here
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Approaches for students aged under five
Children under the age of five are naturally curious, which is a great reason to bring under fives into Te Papa. The more they are immersed in the Te Papa environment, the more they will look at museums and their objects as a part of everyday life.
It is important to remember not to teach beyond the basic facts. This age group is more likely to respond on an emotional level. Teachers can use Te Papa to achieve a number of educational objectives, including helping children to:
- socialise with others, children and adults alike, in surroundings and circumstances that are less than familiar
- learn what is appropriate behaviour for a museum context
- develop listening and cognitive skills
- expand their vocabulary
- develop the ability to differentiate between objects that occur naturally and those that are made by people.
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Approaches for students aged five to nine
Te Papa is an awesome educational resource for students between the ages of five and nine who are learning the basic skills they will need for later work. These students are progressing from playing to learning that objects and people have uses and stories. This age group is beginning to investigate and reason more, so that objects and stories hold a more logical place in their minds.
However, their concentration span is still developing. In order to hold their attention, a visit to Te Papa should include plenty of hands-on interaction to complement stories and objects.
Approaches for students aged nine to thirteen
Students between the ages of nine and thirteen are able to undertake more in-depth studies as they have acquired the skills of working with material culture. Te Papa offers many opportunities to continue developing these studies, especially in exhibitions of a more specialist nature, such as Awesome Forces or Mana Pasifika.
Teachers of students in both the five-to-nine and nine-to-thirteen age groups can also use Te Papa to help students:
- further develop listening and cognitive skills
- develop their investigative and reasoning skills
- broaden appreciation of things unfamiliar to them
- expand vocabulary
- develop interpretive skills and the ability to connect to objects on a personal level.
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Approaches for students aged thirteen to seventeen
Te Papa is also a very useful educational tool for secondary students. At this stage, students should be able to instigate their own investigation and research, and Te Papa holds many objects that can be used in specialised research.
An ideal situation would be to enable students to work as comfortably in the Te Papa environment, using Te Papa resources, as when they are working with text-based resources in the school or library environment.
Hein, George E. 1998. Learning in the Museum. London: Routledge.
Talboys, Graeme K. 2000. Museum Educator’s Handbook. Hampshire: Gower Publishing House.
He Tikanga Māori in Museum Education - Discussions at a Museum Education Course held at Frank Lopdell Centre in 1985.
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