When museum folks think of “play,” the “go to” place that comes to mind is often one of the many amazing children’s museums found across the country. For many, when used together, the words “play” and “museum” conjure images of boisterous children engaged in hands-on learning experiences in an interactive museum play space or exhibit. On the other hand, early childhood educators are inclined to think about play in the context of their classroom. A carefully structured environment supports literacy development in the dramatic play area, pre-math concepts in block building and social emotional growth during “free choice” time. Whether working in a museum setting or classroom environment, educators that work with young children recognize the power of play in developing skills essential to one’s future success in school.
What does “play” look like for young children in a traditional object centered museum setting? Is it possible to help early learners embrace the “free choice learning” aspect of museums in a constructive and meaningful way? In early May, SEEC will launch a new two day professional seminar called, “Play: Engaging Young Learners in Object Rich Environments.” Museum professionals and early childhood educators will collaboratively explore potential intersections between play and traditional object centered museums. The workshop will feature new approaches to museum learning used by SEEC educators as they determine how to best connect children’s emerging interests to museum exploration. This pilot program makes use of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection and enlists the perspective and expertise of participants as workshop content takes shape over the course of the two day Smithsonian based seminar. No doubt you have some questions, considerations, or examples of your own that come to mind as we post these thought provoking questions about play in museums. Please share!
Through SEEC’s flagship seminar, “Learning Through Objects,” we have had an opportunity to present ideas about using objects and museums to build critical thinking skills in young children to hundreds of museum and classroom educators. SEEC’s latest “Play” workshop takes this foundational information to the next level as we challenge ourselves to consider how to support positive learning experiences for young children through the use of play, objects and museums. Participants will consider the role that storytelling and question asking takes in play and museums as we encourage children to become curious explorers, creative thinkers, inquisitive learners and 21st century problem solvers.