Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Beyond the Gates: Examining the Issues Facing Early Childhood Teachers When They Visit Art Museums and Galleries with Young Children in New Zealand

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Beyond the Gates: Examining the Issues Facing Early Childhood Teachers When They Visit Art Museums and Galleries with Young Children in New Zealand

Article excerpt

EXCURSIONS TO CULTURAL CENTRES, such as art museums and galleries, can add new and valuable learning opportunities for young children. This paper presents the findings from a large scale national questionnaire that asked early childhood (EC) teachers in New Zealand about their engagement with art museums and galleries for learning experiences, outside of their EC centres. As part of a mixed methods research project, the questionnaire also sought to ascertain the degree to which the EC sector uses art museums and galleries as excursion destinations, and the ways in which they are used (or not). The findings suggest that key factors that both help and hinder visiting art museums and galleries with young children include: the pedagogical approaches EC teachers have in relation to visual art education, the ways in which teachers view successful learning opportunities for young children, and a teacher's own perceptions and fears of art museums and galleries. This study suggests that teachers have mixed views about whether visiting art museums and galleries will provide appropriate experiences for young children.

Introduction

The New Zealand early childhood (EC) curriculum, Te Whariki (Ministry of Education, 1996), encourages educators to facilitate learning experiences for young children that will help them to explore both familiar and unfamiliar experiences of the world through excursions. These enable children to move into new realms of imagination and opportunity outside of their EC centres. Excursions to cultural centres, such as museums and art galleries, can add an important dimension to an education program in this regard (Falk & Dierking, 1997; Greene, Kisida & Bowen, 2014; Taylor, Morris & Cordeau-Young, 1997). Likewise in Australia, the early childhood curriculum document Belonging, Being, & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework (DEEWR, 2009) encourages teachers to provide children with experiences that broaden their understanding of the world in which they live.

Art museums and galleries can provide young children with important learning opportunities (Clarkin-Phillips, Carr & Paki, 2012; McNaughton, 2010; Piscitelli & Weier, 2002; Savva &Trimis, 2005). An extensive literature review of museum education for young children (Terreni, 2015) found that visiting cultural centres, such as art museums and galleries, can foster cognitive, aesthetic, kinaesthetic, affective, social, and cultural learning experiences. It found that children's curiosity and receptivity to new ideas can be cultivated in an art museum and gallery setting, and may help to establish a disposition towards future visits.

However, to date there has been little research about whether EC teachers in New Zealand undertake excursions as part of their programs and, if they do, where teachers actually take children. The degree to which early childhood teachers use visits to art museums or galleries as excursion destinations is also currently unknown. As part of a doctoral mixed methods research study, one of the data gathering tools was a large scale national questionnaire of early childhood services about excursions. Many of the questions specifically asked about the nature of the early childhood sector's use of art museums and galleries.

Methodology

This study employed a mixed method research design, which combined quantitative and qualitative research techniques, methods, and approaches (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004) to generate data for this study. Quantitative methods, such as questionnaires and surveys, which combined both closed and open questions, were employed to produce information that assisted with conceptualising and visualising relevant facts and statistics (Taylor, 2000) about the current relationship the EC sector has with art museums and galleries. The data generated from this method provided statistical snapshots of a range of factors--such as, the amount of EC sector visiting, where EC teachers took children for excursions, the number and type of educators employed by art museums and galleries. …

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