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The Museum provides a range of interactive, student-centred and curriculum-based programs for preschool, primary and secondary schools throughout Australia. These programs enable students to investigate Australia's history, cultures and environment.

During 2003-2004, the Museum refined its suite of 15 core activities for visiting school groups and expanded the focus on outreach for schools unable to visit the Museum in Canberra. The highly successful Talkback Classroom project continued and educational material on the Museum's website was increased to include further classroom resources and interactive activities.

Special programs offered during the year included:

  • the annual schools cartooning competition, held in conjunction with the Museum's temporary exhibition on political cartooning, Behind the Lines. The competition attracted entries from more than 100 primary and secondary schools students. The cartoons were displayed as part of the exhibition and the winning entries placed on the Museum's website
  • a program based on the science of forensic archaeology, held during National Archaeology Week in May 2004
  • Springboard into Historical Inquiry - this new program in the Springboard series for middle to senior secondary schools challenges students to investigate how museums create displays and exhibitions
  • a performance program, created in conjunction with the Outlawed! Discover the Stories behind the World's Rebels, Revolutionaries and Bushrangers temporary exhibition.
Photo of Nigel Sutton performing
Performer Nigel Sutton enthrals visitors with stories from Outlawed! Photo: George Serras.

Evaluations continue to indicate that all programs are well received by both students and teachers. A new schools programs evaluation database will become available in 2004-2005 which will enable close monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of schools programs.

Attendance at on-site programs

Approximately 85,168 students from 1816 schools visited the Museum in the reporting period. The number of bookings for schools programs for 2004 at the end of June was slightly higher than for the corresponding period in 2003.

Two-thirds of student visitors were from Year 5 or 6 and nearly 60 per cent came from New South Wales. The following charts reflect the number of schools and students booked to visit the Museum - and do not include those who came as unbooked visitors.

The Museum marketed its schools programs to schools and bus and tour companies through a range of initiatives. These included a new schools programs brochure mailed to all schools in Australia and a number of paid and free advertisements in major school excursion planners published by commercial operators. In addition, programs were advertised in the marketing materials produced by the National Capital Educational Tourism Project.

Pie chart showing the number of schools by state 2003-2004
Bar Chart showing number of students Primary and Secondary 2003-2004
Bar chart showing number of students comparison 2002-2003 / 2003-2004
Bar chart showing the number of students paid v unpaid 2003-2004

Collaborative projects

The Museum continued to run its very successful pre-service history fellowship programs in conjunction with the Australian War Memorial and the National Capital Educational Tourism Project. The number of universities involved in the project increased to three to include Monash University (Melbourne), the University of Tasmania and Griffith University (Queensland) - a total of 36 students. Evaluations from participating students indicate that these prospective teachers find the experience of visiting and experiencing the National Museum of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and other cultural institutions very enriching for their future history teaching career.

The Museum again sponsored the Australian History Teachers' Association's National History Challenge which enables students to create Museum displays on a specified history topic. In this way the Museum continues to support the teaching and learning of history in schools.

Professional development for teachers

The Museum's professional development workshops for teachers, held at the Museum and at conferences around Australia, attracted more than 1000 participants.

Evaluations from the workshops were overwhelmingly positive and indicate that the Museum's efforts to provide teaching strategies and resources to support a variety of curriculum areas have a positive impact on the quality of teaching in Australian classrooms.

Reaching a national schools audience

Major outreach activities for schools and teachers this year included:

Talkback Classroom

Over 1000 students from the Australian Capital Territory, regional New South Wales and Western Australia participated as audiences in Talkback Classroom with student panellists selected from all states and territories. Ten Talkback Classroom forums held during the year enabled senior secondary students to interview the following major decision-makers from politics, the business sector and the wider community:

Margaret Jackson Chairman of Qantas
Laurie Oakes Journalist
The Hon. John Anderson, MP Deputy Prime Minister
The Hon. Kim Beazley, MP Member for Brand
Mark Latham, MP Member for Werriwa
The Hon. Larry Anthony, MP Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
Ramu Damodaran Chief, Civil Society Service, United Nations
Senator Aden Ridgeway Australian Democrats Senator for NSW
Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats
Geoff Pryor Cartoonist, Canberra Times
The Hon. Carmen Lawrence Member for Fremantle, ALP President
Senator Aden Ridgeway, Laurie Oakes and the Hon. Larry Anthony, MP
Senator Aden Ridgeway, journalist Laurie Oakes and the Hon. Larry Anthony, MP, face student questions during Talkback Classroom. Photo: George Serras/Dragi Markovic/Dragi Markovic.

Each forum was broadcast on ABC Radio National's Life Matters program and three were also broadcast on the SBS youth television program, School Torque.

Highlights included Talkback Classroom in April 2004 with high-ranking United Nations official Ramu Damodaran interviewed by student panellists from Australia and the United States. This program was the second in a series of collaborations between the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum. The Museum also produced forums with the Powerhouse Museum and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Each museum was linked by videoconference to the National Museum's Studio allowing a larger number of students to watch the interviews 'live'. It is planned to continue this initiative in 2004-2005.

Australian History Mysteries primary schools publication project

Following the successful production of Australian History Mysteries for secondary schools, a primary school version was made available to schools in June 2004. The five original case studies - discovery of Australia, the life of female convicts, the Eureka rebellion, frontier conflict and Ned Kelly - were retained but simplified and linked to primary school curriculum outcomes.

Studies of Society and Environment magazine

The Museum prepared three inquiry-learning units of work based on a number of the Museum's permanent and temporary exhibitions for Studies of Society and Environment, a classroom curriculum magazine (distributed free of charge to all Australian secondary schools three times a year) which explores current and historical events and issues occurring in Australia and overseas. These materials were also placed on the Museum's website with full colour images.

Online educational materials for schools

Additional classroom resources were made available on a wide range of issues and topics related to the Museum's themes. Several new interactives are now available, including an interactive based on the recent Behind the Lines exhibition.

Snapshots of remote school communities

The Museum extended its outreach activities for remote school communities by providing the opportunity for them to document their community life through photographs. The project encourages school students to complete a unit of work and then construct an exhibition based on photographs of their community. Although the project is still in its infancy the Parliament of New South Wales and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston have agreed to collaborate on the project. Photographs generated by this project will be featured on the Museum's website.