National Science Week 2016 is upon us again and this year a great array of programs are on offer, including a re-vamped Sydney Science Festival. In the lead-up we are hosting a special #MuseumEdOz twitter chat on all things #museums and #STEM.
There were a great couple of articles in most recent The Weekend Australian addressing a variety of issues around #STEM in Australia that are worth a read. The one that caught my attention was Start Young & Prosper, by Tony Peake, PwC Australia, who started by noting that:
“In a world that’s becoming increasingly complex, where success is driven not only by what you know, but by what you can do with what you know, it’s more important than ever for Australians to equipped with the fundamental knowledge and skills required to solve complex problems.”
“One thing that can be guaranteed: unless we enhance or dramatically change the teaching of mathematics and science we are unlikely to attract more students to venture inot and stay in these domains.”
Peake makes an interesting point that perhaps the focus on secondary students in STEM may be the wrong approach, stating emphatically that “… we need to start with our primary schools” with the observation that “…less than 3 per cent of total primary school teaching time is devoted to science in Australia” compared to 9 per cent in Western Europe for example.
This is where museums can play a role. There is a strong evidence base for the proposition that museums contribute to educational outcomes, particularly with children (Falk and Dierking, 2000; Freeman, et al, 2016; Kelly, 2007), and good evidence that museum programs positively contribute to early childhood development and school readiness (Dockett, Main and Kelly, 2011). We also know that positive museum experiences in childhood positively correlate with museum attendance in adulthood (Falk and Dierking, 2000; Groundwater Smith and Kelly, 2009). In addition, learning on museum field trips have been found to be a valuable supplement and addition to classroom instruction and a way to prepare students for future learning (DeWitt and Storksdieck, 2008; Kelly, 2011). Digital learning offered by museums has also grown substantially in the past two-three years, providing museums with new ways of reaching huge audiences, both at national and global levels.
Many museums are also taking a broader STEM focus in their programs. As Peake observed there should be better collaboration between business and universities so that “… they can secure the workforce they need.” I would also strongly argue that cultural institutions in the broadest sense (including science centres, zoos and parks) are also valuable sources of STEM learning opportunities, with much to offer students and their teachers.
My question is this: As key providers of STEM education how can cultural institutions be at the forefront of these conversations?
Something to think about and reflect on in tonight’s #MuseumEdOz chat – we hope you join us!
- DeWitt, J. and Storksdieck, M. (2008). A Short Review of School Field Trips: Key Findings from the Past and Implications for the Future. Visitor Studies, 11(2).
- Dockett, S., Main, S. and Kelly, L. (2011). Consulting Young Children: Experiences from a Museum Visitor Study. Visitor Studies. 14. (1): 13-33.
- Falk, J., and Dierking, L. (2000). Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.
- Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., McKelroy, E., Giesinger, C., Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Museum Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium
- Groundwater-Smith, S. and Kelly, L. (2009). Learning outside the classroom: A partnership with a difference. In A. Campbell and S. Groundwater-Smith (Eds), Connecting Inquiry and Professional Learning in Education (pp.179-191). London: Routledge.
- Kelly, L. (2007). Visitors and Learners: Adult Museum Visitors’ Learning Identities. PhD diss., University of Technology, Sydney.
- Kelly, L. (2011). Student Learning in Museums: what do we know? Report prepared for The Sovereign Hill Museums Association.
- Peake, T. (2016). Start Young & Prosper. Rewire, The Weekend Australian, August 6-7, 7.