Introduce crawling bubs to science and technology at the Powerhouse Museum
“We really believe there’s no such thing as ‘my child’s too young to learn science’,” says Stefanie Ferguson – a child educator at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Ferguson runs kids’ sessions at the Powerhouse Museum, Museums Discovery Centre and the Observatory under the names MAAS Tinies and MAAS Minis, which began in August 2017. “Studies that have shown that coming to any session with a parent or a carer really hones in that bonding, but it also allows them to explore new activities, new sensations, and to experiment and see the world in a different way.”
Ten adults and 12 children sit on a silver parachute in the Museum’s Turbine Hall during our MAAS Tinies event, which is designed for babies under two (Minis is for ages 3-5). Ferguson introduces the theme ‘sound’ by encouraging parents to repeat their baby’s babbling noises and rocking to a rhythm. There’s scrunched up tissue paper to play with, as well as a wooden glockenspiel, a xylophone, coloured feathers, pom-poms and rattles. Nine-month-old Mika makes a beeline for the tissue paper, whereas two-year-old Zoe is busy stacking neon hourglasses and watching them fall down.
“We’re trying to incorporate play-based learning and STEAM into everything we do,” says Ferguson, who explains that if children need to move, make noise or explore at their own pace they’re very welcome to. “While we guide the lessons, the child is in charge of their own learning.” One of the carers, Tessa, says part of the appeal is encouraging her granddaughter to socialise outside of the family group and to broaden her world.
Tinies runs for around 50 minutes, incorporating song and movement, but there’s also the chance to see the Museum’s collections before or afterwards – from looking up at the aircraft suspended from the ceiling to visiting the child-friendly exhibitions like The Wiggles and Experimentations. Each event finishes with a calming wind down – in our session we made swishing ocean sounds as the facilitators waved blue fabric over us – but every month will be different, drawing on the experiences of each venue. “For example, at the Observatory we might explore the sun or the moon, or how the rain sounds. For older children, we ask big questions like ‘Why can’t I touch the sky?’ then we all fall down and talk about gravity.”
At the moment, Tinies and Minies run at one of the three MAAS venues each week, but Ferguson says the Museum is keen to trial weekend sessions too. “Further down the track we’d like to equip parents with resources to continue STEAM-based play at home, as parents really are the best facilitators for learning.”