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While there is no common nationwide curriculum, the Museum's schools programs are designed to be relevant to a broad range of school curriculums. The Museum presented programs for preschools, primary and secondary schools including activities for visiting school groups, events and activities specifically directed to school students, publications to reach national school audiences, and web-based resources for schools. These programs enable students to investigate Australia's history, cultures and environment. In addition, the Museum has developed a program of professional development for teachers throughout Australia to promote the programs and resources it provides.

The National Museum of Australia is an amazing treasure house of educational resources. If you thought the Museum was just about displays and exhibitions, think again.

Education Review/Campus Review, April/May 2003

Approximately 81,740 students from 1734 schools visited the Museum this year compared to 82,393 school students and 1869 schools last year. As in previous years, two-thirds of student visitors were from Year 5 or 6 and nearly 60 per cent of students came from New South Wales.

Although a slight decline in overall numbers, it is an expected 'leveling off' after the Museum's first two years of operation. However, the number of students and schools are expected to rise again by the end of the next financial year if forward bookings received by the end of June 2003 are an indication.

New marketing initiatives aimed at schools and bus and tour companies included a new brochure mailed to all schools in Australia and advertisements in major school excursion planners published by commercial operators. The schools program was also advertised in materials produced by the National Capital Educational Tourism Project. Evaluation of the schools bookings process demonstrated that the top 50 tour operators who book schools programs with the Museum were highly satisfied with the services provided by the Museum.

Program evaluations continued to demonstrate that all programs are well received by both students and teachers, with over 95 per cent of schools visiting the Museum stating they were satisfied that the schools programs met their core curriculum requirements. A new schools programs evaluation database will become available in 2003-2004 which will enable the Museum to more closely monitor and report on the effectiveness of schools programs.

Highlights of the schools programs at Acton during the year included:

  • expansion of the Springboard into Horizons program with the addition of Springboard into Eternity, Springboard into Nation and Springboard into First Australians. These programs have been designed to help students investigate important themes in Australian history, understand the main concepts of the permanent galleries and make connections between the content focus of the galleries and the curriculum

  • revision of all preschool to Year 4 programs following program evaluation

  • the creation of a performance program for students in conjunction with the To Mars and Beyond temporary exhibition

  • a cartooning competition for secondary school students as part of the Museum's temporary exhibition, Cartoons 2002: Life, Love and Politics.

In 2003-2004 a new senior schools program for Year 10, 11 and 12 students will be developed as well as themed, interactive guided tours for younger students.

The following charts reflect the number of schools and students booked to visit the Museum and do not include those schools and students who came to the Museum as unbooked visitors.

Number of schools by State- 2002-2003
Number of students Primary/Secondary 2002-2003
Number of students comparison 2001-2002/2002-2003
Number of students paid v unpaid- 2002-2003

Collaborative programs

The pre-service history fellowship program, established in 2001-2002 in collaboration with the Australian War Memorial, Monash University and the National Capital Educational Tourism Project, was expanded with the inclusion of the University of Sydney and Newcastle University. Nearly 50 postgraduate students have already taken part in the program which enables them to experience schools programs at the Australian War Memorial and the Museum. Evaluation of this program has demonstrated that these prospective history teachers find their visits to the Museum and the Australian War Memorial enriching experiences. The program will be extended next year to include students from the University of Tasmania.

Other collaborative programs included:

  • membership of a Commonwealth Government reference group established to revitalise history teaching in schools and provide comment on primary and secondary draft history curriculum materials produced by the National History Centre and the Curriculum Corporation

  • hosting an Indigenous education forum attended by the state and territory Indigenous education managers as well as representatives from the Catholic and Independent school sectors. The forum's principal aim was to create an ongoing relationship between Indigenous educators and the Museum's Indigenous schools program to ensure that the work of the Museum complements the work of state and territory Indigenous education units. This relationship will be formally established in 2003-2004

  • a visit by an education officer from the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Ms Miriam Goldmann, to study the Museum's education and public programs

  • continued collaboration with the National History Challengeprogram and the Australian History Teachers' Association to enable students to create museum displays on specific history topics.

Professional development of teachers

The professional development of teachers has been a high priority for the Museum since it opened in 2001 and this year more than 1000 classroom teachers attended professional development workshops at the Museum. Evaluations from these workshops were overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating that the Museum's focus on providing teaching strategies and resources to support a variety of curriculum areas are likely to have a positive impact on the quality of teaching in Australian classrooms.

Even as an Australian history teacher I learnt a lot.

October 2002 visitor

Reaching a national schools audience

Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone, Senator Bob Brown, the Hon. Ms Julia Gillard, MP and the Hon. John Howard, MP, Prime Minister of Australia were Studio guests in the Museum's Talkback Classroom
Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone, Senator Bob Brown, the Hon. Ms Julia Gillard, MP and the Hon. John Howard, MP, Prime Minister of Australia were Studio guests in the Museum's Talkback Classroo
Photo: Dean Golja, George Serras and Brendan Bell

In 2002-2003 the Museum presented a range of projects to provide services to national school audiences.

Talkback Classroom

Now in its third year, Talkback Classroom gave more than 1000 nationally selected senior secondary students from around Australia a voice on matters of their concern, allowing them to question leaders on issues of national and international significance. The students also spent a day at Parliament House meeting politicians and learning about the role of Parliament, and a day at the Museum polishing their journalistic and broadcasting skills before their on-screen debut. Teacher resources published by the Museum and on the website,, encourage teachers to use Talkback Classroom as part of their curriculum.

A highlight of Talkback Classroom this year was the forum with the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard, MP and student panellists from Australia and the United States

This program was the first collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Education Office. Discussions are in progress to conduct future forums with the Smithsonian and with students from other countries.

Nine forums were held in 2002-2003 covering such topics as the Iraq conflict, Australia's alliance with the United States, homelessness and child poverty, alternative energy resources and education. They were all broadcast on the ABC's youth digital channel, Fly TV, and the first five were also broadcast on ABC's Triple J. Radio National broadcast the final four forums of the year and Radio Australia broadcast the forum with the Prime Minister.

The guests of Talkback Classroom from July 2002 to June 2003 were:

The Hon. Ms Julia Gillard, MP Shadow Minister for Population and Immigration
The Most Reverend Dr Peter Carnley Anglican Archbishop of Perth and Primate of Australia
Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone Minister for Family and Community Services
Ambassador Tom Schieffer United States Ambassador to Australia
Dr Philip Nitsche Director EXIT (Australia)
Senator the Hon. Robert Hill Minister for Defence
The Hon. Brendan Nelson, MP Minister for Education
The Hon. John Howard, MP Prime Minister of Australia
Senator Bob Brown Leader of the Australian Greens
Our Voices primary schools publication project

One of the Museum's most ambitious school projects to date, Our Voices, is a primary school teaching resource written by Museum staff and based on its core themes of land, nation and people. Through an agreement with Rigby publishers, the resource comprises 21 books, three teachers' resource books, three poster packs and a CD-ROM. Our Voices examines historical and contemporary issues shaping Australian culture and is closely linked to the study of society and the environment in the primary school curriculum.

The series was launched in February 2003 at the Museum, has been favourably received by directors of education and teachers in a number of states and is already being used in many schools across Australia. It was a winner in the Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing, primary series category. It is also a finalist in the open award category of the Australian Business Arts Foundation Awards (ABAF).

Australian History Mysteries secondary schools publication project

The video, print and website resource, Australian History Mysteries was launched by the Museum, Ryebuck Media and ScreenSound Australia in October 2002. This resource provides middle secondary level students with case studies based on materials from a range of museums, historical collections and historic sites. The website component of the series has been shortlisted for the Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing and has received favourable reviews in teacher association magazines. Over 300 kits have been sold since its release in November 2002.

Studies of Society and Environment magazine

The Studies of Society and Environment magazine is a classroom curriculum magazine distributed by Ryebuck Media free of charge three times a year to all Australian secondary schools. It features investigations of current ideas and issues on topics relevant to the curriculum for Years 9-12. Following its contributions to the magazine last year, the Museum prepared four inquiry-learning units for the magazine involving subjects from the Museum's permanent and temporary exhibitions. These were also placed on the Museum's website.

Leonor, Nakiya and Manuel Xyrakis at the launch of Our Voices
Leonor, Nakiya and Manuel Xyrakis at the launch of Our Voice
Photo: George Serras

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