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Museum History NSW: Unlocking the past with Museums of History NSW

Stages 1 to 6 

At 10 am each weekday morning, groups of students of all ages begin the most exciting day of the year. It’s a day that will stay in their memory long into the future – their excursion to a historic site in the care of Museums of History NSW (MHNSW). 

Their visit might begin with climbing the steep staircase in grand Vaucluse House, taking in the impressive courtroom at the Justice & Police Museum or marching up the hill towards an 1888 schoolhouse at Rouse Hill Estate. Wherever their journey into the past begins, one thing is certain – it will be a memorable and meaningful experience for every student who visits our heritage sites. 

In the dynamic landscape of education, where engagement and real-world connections are paramount, MHNSW is a beacon for teachers seeking innovative ways to inspire their students. Our learning programs offer a unique blend of immersive experiences that can transform your teaching and inspire your students. 

The power of place-based pedagogies: Connecting history to the real world

Place-based learning forms the cornerstone of MHNSW’s approach to education. Recognising that students benefit immensely when their learning is connected to specific places or environments, our programs are thoughtfully aligned with the historical and cultural significance of each site. This ensures students can relate their classroom knowledge to the real world.

When students step into our historic sites across Sydney, they embark on a journey that transcends textbooks. They immerse themselves in history, culture and heritage, forging connections between the past and the present that leave a lasting impact.

As groups of enthusiastic and curious year 5 students enter the gates of the Hyde Park Barracks, they look up at the brick façade and take in the imposing building. Their footsteps crunch as they walk across the gravel, treading the same path as female Irish immigrants 170 years ago, convicts 30 years before that, and First Nations peoples for 60,000 years. Inside the Barracks, students are full of wonder as they take in the spaces that housed the workforce of early Sydney. They can often be heard saying ‘I can’t believe I am in a building this old’ and ‘Did convicts actually sleep here?’, as they lie in hammocks and stare in awe at the rustic roof beams and handmade bricks. 

Learner-centred education: Tailoring experiences to individual needs

Our programs take a learner-centred approach to cater to the unique needs and interests of each student. Learning becomes a personal journey as facilitators adapt and customise activities to suit students’ individual learning styles and abilities. Whether it’s catering to a group of students or an individual, our team works with teachers so every student has a rewarding experience.

Students in wheelchairs recently visited Elizabeth Farm’s hands-on museum where they explored the colonial house and participated in a range of fun activities specially designed to suit their capabilities. On another visit, a group of enthusiastic EAL students engaged with visual props to make links with language and objects while also sharing their own stories. 

Inquiry-based learning: Fostering curiosity and critical thinking

Inquiry-based learning is woven into the fabric of our programs, encouraging students to ask questions, explore and discover answers on their own. Through guided inquiry, students develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and research abilities.

Excursions to MHNSW sites spark curiosity and inspire students to become active participants in their own learning journey. As they investigate historical artefacts, engage with immersive exhibits and interact with experts, we see them become historians in their own right.

Students love to feel a sense of ownership and pride for their learning. We hear them tell their teachers ‘I discovered that...’, ‘This object told me...’ or ‘I love being a history detective...’. At the Museum of Sydney (on the site of the first Government House), students use a variety of primary and secondary sources to investigate key people in the early history of NSW, including Governor Macquarie, Bennelong, Cora Gooseberry and Barangaroo. The joy they exude on making their discoveries is priceless.

Curriculum-linked learning: Enhancing classroom learning

MHNSW programs are not standalone experiences; they are curriculum-linked experiences that build upon and enhance classroom learning, providing students with a deeper understanding of topics. By enhancing classroom instruction with our programs, educators can transform abstract concepts into tangible, real-world experiences that resonate with students.

At Elizabeth Farm, students laugh with delight as they experience what life was like in one of Australia’s oldest colonial homes – they scrub the washing, enjoy the warmth of the kitchen fire and let their ink writing dry in the breeze. Students also have the opportunity to handle Aboriginal artefacts and learn the enduring culture of the Burammatagal while immersed in the beautiful outdoor Indigenous reflection space.  

Object-based learning: Engaging senses and minds

Object-based learning is a central feature of our approach. As students interact with historical artefacts, they engage their senses and minds simultaneously. This multisensory experience creates a profound connection to history and culture that transcends traditional teaching methods. Whether students are holding an artefact in their hands, examining a relic, touching a building or witnessing an historical re-enactment, it forges a connection that goes beyond words and fosters a deep appreciation for the past.

At the Justice & Police Museum, excited Stage 3 students re-enact courtroom drama. They listen intently as crimes are analysed and debated and they attain an understanding of some of the important decisions and events that occurred in this unique building. They experience the cells that once held bushrangers and walk the corridors looking, feeling and contemplating the various characters that walked the very same corridors years before them.

Hands-on exploration: Learning by doing

MHNSW firmly believes in hands-on exploration as a powerful tool for learning, and our programs encourage students to participate in activities that bring history to life. Whether they’re cleaning and preparing food in a 19th-century kitchen, deciphering historical mystery objects or re-enacting lessons from the past in an old schoolhouse, students become active participants in the learning process. Through these hands-on experiences, they not only gain a deeper understanding of history but also develop practical skills and a sense of empowerment.

At Rouse Hill Estate, a range of hands-on activities allow students to ‘live’ history. Energetic groups of Year 1 students dressed in olden-day costumes march behind the formidable Miss Fox, ready to learn about school life in the 1800s. They’re given a name from yesteryear, dance around the maypole, write with slate pencils and sew. 

Unlocking the impact: Stories from the field

Teachers often remark on the transformative impact of our pillar-based learning programs. One teacher visiting Vaucluse House with a group of year 2 students wrote to us after the excursion: 

‘The impeccable organisation and engaging guidance made the day a great success. The enthusiasm and passion the leaders brought to the experience were evident in the smiles that lit up the students' faces as they stepped into the shoes of children from another era. 

The immersive activities that were orchestrated provided valuable historical insights and allowed the students to gain a profound appreciation for the comforts of the present day. Your approach sparked curiosity and fostered a sense of wonder. Thank you!’

Ignite learning with MHNSW

Students visiting Vaucluse House plant a seed and take it home in the hopes it will thrive and grow. Similarly, our education programs, held across MHNSW sites, plant the seed to inspire young learners’ interest and curiosity in history, culture and the stories that have shaped the past and present. 

Museums of History NSW offers an exceptional opportunity for teachers in NSW to elevate their teaching and ignite their students’ curiosity. Our engaging and inclusive programs empower educators to immerse their students in history and create an exciting learning experience unlike any other; one that will create memories that last for years to come. 

At Rouse Hill Estate, a young policewoman recently visited the property and recognised Miss Fox in her 1889 costume. Elated to see her she called out ‘Miss Fox, I still remember my day at the schoolhouse. It was the best excursion ever.’

Book your excursion: 

Phone: 02 8239 2211

Or contact our learning team to find out more!

02 8239 2211


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