Student explores the impact of museum programming on children

August 20, 2020 | Arts & Culture

Isabelle Madsen, a second-year Arts and Cultural Management student, says her ultimate career goal is to work in a museum, and so when an opportunity to do research came about, she thought back to the field trips and summer camps at museums, heritage sites and art galleries that she had taken as a child.

"I asked myself what I had gained from those experiences," she says. "Apart from being fun and a way to fill up time, had I learned anything from the programs that had stuck with me?"



MacEwan University is celebrating student research with an ongoing series of stories that look at subjects our students were investigating throughout 2019/20. Many students who were planning to present at the 2020 Student Research Day have submitted their papers, posters and presentations to the university’s research repository, RO@M.

For Isabelle, the experience that stuck with her happened in middle school. She was attending a summer camp at Fort Edmonton Park about how to be a historical interpreter. The week-long camp gave her a behind-the-scenes tour of the buildings and the various jobs needed to make the park come alive.

"I fell in love with the way the park taught the history of Canada and Edmonton through the decades, and I realized I wanted to include this passion in my career somehow," she says. "The camp also opened my eyes to the various ways that someone can be involved in teaching history."

Title of work: "Impact: Children's Programming at Museums"

What is the research about?

Isabelle examined the impacts that children's programming in museums had on participants in their youth. She split her project into two parts — one, to interview MacEwan students about their own experiences and two, to analyze programs offered by various museums around the world.

"In the end, I compiled all the data and focused on what makes a program successful and what should be included in one to strengthen it," she says.

Why is children's programming at museums important?

"Museums are a natural place for children to learn history," explains Isabelle. "Learning about the past allows for children to also learn about the present and understand the world around them. Being able to participate in a well-run museum program can help a child learn while also making sure they are participating in an interactive activity that will reinforce the learning."

What was the most surprising thing to learn?

Isabelle says that the deeper she dove into the subject, the more she realized the complexity of running children's programs in a museum setting, but the most surprising thing she learned during her research was the wide variety of ways a program can impact a child.

"It goes beyond teaching knowledge and extends to developing skills and interests," she says. "And those interests lead to life decisions such as the choice to study a certain subject at school and go into a certain career."


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In applied statistics, students are encouraged to study topics of personal interest for their research projects. For Nicholas Lupul, that meant watching a lot of basketball.


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