Experience-based learning in the Heritage CentrePrint
As the New Year dawned, the opportunity to reopen the Heritage Centre to small on-site groups became reality. Sr Anne Taylor expressed interest in scheduling Year 7 students from St Vincent’s College to visit the exhibition – as we had done with the same year group in pre-COVID 2020.
Following on from their foundational learning of the history of the Sisters, we discussed how we might engage students in a deeper consideration of relevant themes. We were operating without our usual volunteer base and Allison O’Sullivan was already developing resources supportive of a largely self-guided, inquiry-based program; in response we developed and delivered, the Object Discovery Tour.
Museum educators advocate the benefits of experiential, object-centric learning, whereby students are engaged in active rather than passive activities. This type of interaction allows students to construct meaning, initiating deeper inquiry via their own observations, questions, and emotional responses. Learning in a Museum is a unique experience, providing opportunity to investigate cultural and artistic ingenuity by means of historically significant objects and in the context of broader shared histories and social movements.
The Object Discovery Tour focuses on deeper engagement with the Sisters of Charity exhibition, by means of several carefully selected artefacts, ephemera, and photographs, each representative of broader themes and considerations. Students worked through a series of questions to pique their curiosity and teachers and Heritage Centre staff were on hand to answer questions and guide discussions amongst the students. Some participants preferred to work individually, whilst others adopted a collaborative approach – sharing ideas and insights with classmates.
The response to the new program is overwhelmingly positive. Below is a snapshot of written commentary provided by year 7 students from St Vincent’s College.
Reponses: St Vincent’s Students, Year 7
‘Something interesting I would like to share is how health care and education has evolved in the past years. It was so interesting to look at different things they used before new technology, such as the operating table which was made out of metal instead of a comfy bed’.
‘I would definitely recommend this tour to future year sevens because after visiting the Heritage Centre, I feel quite inspired by the great lengths the Sisters of Charity have done to help those in need. Whenever I’m feeling angry or frustrated, I can think about them and go out and live my life guided by their core values’.
‘This tour has been so fun and exciting. It was engaging, everything was in perfect sections and all really organised. It was so, so clean and everyone there was really helpful. The amount of things they had from the 1800s, to second class relics of Mary Aikenhead, to even how the Sisters are doing today, was immensely interesting. Every new Vinnies girl should know this which is why I would absolutely recommend this exhibit to all up and coming pupils at St Vincent’s College!
If I was to say the thing I learned the most about, it would probably be about how much the Sisters really worked with those in need. I would happily go back there and learn so much more, especially how the 1800-1900s were. In conclusion, this tour was just amazing and thoroughly expanded my knowledge for both Religion and History which is now top notch…’!