Research and programs to support Little Learners across the Queensland Museum Network

by Shalini Gautam (PhD candidate, School of Psychology, University of Queensland) & Amy Boulding, Head of Lifelong Learning.

Young children (and their carers) have lots of fun participating in QMN’s Little Learner programs, but what else is happening? PhD candidate in child cognitive development Shalini Gautam conducted research to find out.

Little Learner Programs, for children aged 6 and under, are offered at each campus across the Queensland Museum Network. A recent study set out to determine how these programs align to best practice research and frameworks for supporting learning in young children, and learning in museums.

What happens at a Little Learner Program?

If you have young children, you might have participated in one of the museum’s programs for Little Learners, or watched the “Little Learner” video series online.

Every Little Learner program features objects from the Queensland Museum Network’s education collection, with an experienced presenter engaging children and their carers in guessing games, stories, interesting facts and hands-on activities related to the collection item. Children and their carers can learn together, explore specimens and artefacts (sometimes including live animals!) and exercise their imaginations through arts and crafts, singing, role play and storytelling.

The four integrated learning objectives

Following a review of relevant research and frameworks for supporting learning in young children, and learning in museums, the following key learning objectives were developed:

  1. Active participation: Children are encouraged to be actively involved in activities, and they have agency in what they choose to do.
  2. Supportive environments: Activities are age-appropriate yet still challenge children to try something new.
  3. Wellbeing and value: Activities provide a valuable and enjoyable experience for both children and carers.
  4. Connectedness: Activities encourage children to draw connections with their own daily lives. This may include considering perspectives different from their own or may involve considering how their actions in the environment might have consequences.

How do carers and children experience Little Learner Programs?

Through surveys, we asked parents, carers and staff members to share their experiences of the Little Learner programs in order to assess how our activities are meeting these four learning objectives. We were delighted to find that all respondents were having an overwhelmingly positive experience at our Little Learner programs, and reported that the key learning outcomes are all being met to a high satisfaction. Participants said that they had particularly enjoyed learning in an environment other than home or school, and the open-ended exploratory play components of activities.

Supporting children’s learning now and into the future

This study indicates that participants of Little Learners programs have positive and engaging experiences, and that these programs support learning outcomes relevant to the development stages of Early Years learners. The four integrated learning objectives provide guidance for future development of Little Learner programs, to ensure our programs continue to meet the needs of our youngest visitors and their families.

Interested in attending a Little Learner program? See what’s on at each campus, or find us online!

Queensland Museum, South Brisbane
The Workshops Rail Museum, Ipswich
Cobb+Co Museum, Toowoomba
Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville
Online Little Learner videos