Learning through play may not be a new concept, but for Tamaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum it is a new initiative to get kids learning and understanding the world around them.
Te Whihinga The Imaginarium, which opened last Friday, is the final stage of a wider visitor upgrade at the museum in the Auckland Domain, aiming to provide a new dedicated education space for learners and a showcase for the museum's collections.
"The kaupapa for this new development is that learning through play, exploration and discovery helps build knowledge in young people in a more effective and sustained way" says Dr David Gaimster, chief executive of Auckland War Memorial Museum.
It marks a significant shift in the way the museum engages with school-age visitors, with three distinct zones.
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The Learning Base houses collections and stories aimed at school groups to engage with learning specialists against a backdrop of four large "hero" cases that connect themes of whakapapa (family), korero (story), ahu-tana (features and wahi (place). Digital technologies and lab-style spaces allow for immersive and science-based programmes.
Haumanu is for children to explore stories of the forest and its critical role to our environment based around an art installation comprising a light canopy and a tree sculpture that soars more than 9m over the gallery.
Collections & Connections brings more than 500 carefully curated objects and specimens from the museum's impressive archive in 74 display cases.
Stephen Lethbridge, Auckland Primary Principals' Association (APPA) president, says "Auckland schools are fortunate to have an amazing learning resource in the Auckland Museum. The Imaginarium galleries are another wonderful resource that all our schools can utilise to provide rich learning opportunities for their students."
The Imaginarium was made possible through sponsorship, including the Douglas Goodfellow Charitable Trust, the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust, the Becroft Foundation and the Maurice Paykel Charitable Trust.
"Auckland Museum is immensely grateful to have received generous support from these funders who shared our vision to provide an outstanding learning experience for millions of our Auckland tamariki," said Dr Gaimster.