Two schools recently joined the Australian Museum in helping design the up and coming exhibition Birds of Paradise. This was the first day we met with the schools, and being new myself, I was excited to see what the students thought about the coming workshop.

What is Kids' College?

Kids' College is an on-going program in partnership with The Australian Museum and the Coalition of Knowledge Building Schools that brings different schools and age ranges to the museum to participate and influence the course of specific projects the museums are doing. These projects can include exhibits, web site design, just about anything. This program truly listens and responds to the common needs of the students the results of which can be seen in the final product. I have yet to see any exhibition process (in my young museum career) that involves the audience to such an extent where they have a very real impact on the exhibit or specific project.

The program this time is to hear what two schools think about the up and coming exhibit on Birds of Paradise and, more importantly, have them directly influence the course of the exhibit design.

Which schools are involved?

  • A Metropolitan Boys High School from western sydney (a wonderfully diverse group of 7-8th graders from around the world including India, Turkey, Lebanon, and Afghanistan); 
  • An Independant Girls Middle School consisting of 6th and 8th graders.

What does the museum want from this?

Primarily, the Museum is interested in learning is what sort of text appeals (and does not appeal) to this age range, how would they design it, what kind of text draws or repels them. The Museum is also interested in knowing what activities they would do in an exhibit like this one.

What will the workshop consist of?

The workshop will allow students to voice their opinion that will in turn influence how the exhibit is designed. The workshop will harness their creativity in art and cultural dances (which the students at the boys' school have already participated in before large audiences), some of which may even be included in the exhibit.

What will the students get from this?

This project gives students confidence in their opinion and voice while helping the Museum design content and interpretation that would directly appeal and benefit that specific age range.

How excited are these students in participating in this program?

When we briefly explained their important role while showing them a sampling of photos of birds of paradise I heard
“Wow,” “Look at this!”

When asked what their thoughts were on such a project, they replied “Can’t wait,” “Will be exciting, a good experience,” “Different features, colorful, magic.”

I am equally excited to see what their thoughts are and how this collaboration of minds will affect the look of this exhibit.