C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 7 - Nov. 2001
Children Speaking Out
With a shy smile, Kaone Leero, age nine, stands up in front of her fellow schoolmates and villagers in Selokolela, Southern Botswana. Today, the Mobile Museum, known in Setswana as Pitse ya Naga no Maontwaneng (The Zebra on Wheels), has come to her school to teach about Batswana culture, heritage and traditional objects. Now it is Kaone's chance to share her own ideas about her culture. Holding up a snuff container made by her father from a cow's horn, she tells everyone about what it is, how it is used and why it is important to her heritage.
Her voice was just one of the many children's voices I heard during the course of my six month internship with the Group for Children in African Museums (GCAM) at the National Museum, Monuments and Art Gallery (NMMAG) of Botswana. Throughout my time at NMMAG, I was given the opportunity to learn a great deal about the creation of educational programmes for children in Africa, both from the educators at the museum and from the children with whom I came into contact.
While at NMMAG, I worked on a number of different projects. Part of my time was spent developing educational materials for school children. I researched and wrote resource pages for an Archaeology Study Kit which will be used by Secondary School students. I also helped to create and "In Gallery" detective search called Home Hunt. This activity sheet is designed for children to do on their own when they come to the museum. It is only the first step which NMMAG is taking towards turning the museum into a fun filled place of learning and discovery. Plans are already in the works for the creation of a "Handling Room" where children will be able to look at and touch actual artifacts along with participating in other educational activities. The Handling Room and Home Hunt detective search are two initiatives with which NMMAG is currently experimenting. Their aim is to ensure that children's visits to the museum are both enjoyable and meaningful.
Another new project aimed at children is the creation of a magazine about culture entitled Zebra Tales. The majority of my time during my internship was spent getting the first issue of this magazine off the ground. The Zebra Tales project has grown out of the many trips which the Mobile Museum Service has taken around the country. While on the road, the Education Staff at NMMAG has learned a great deal from the children they have met in different regions. These children have shared with the museum many of their own cultural creations such as praise poems, stories, dramas and village histories. In the past, these stories were just gathering dust on the shelves of the Education storeroom. Now, however, with the creation of Zebra Tales, a forum exists in which these children's creations can be shared with other children throughout Botswana. It is hoped that Zebra Tales will go a long way towards meeting the GCAM principle of giving children a "voice in the museum" and helping them feel that their perspectives on culture and heritage are valued and important.
Overall, my internship was a very positive experience and I would like to thank the National Museum of Botswana, the Commonwealth Association of Museums and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for making this opportunity possible. As well, I would like to thank the wonderful educators at NMMAG who shared with me many excellent children's programming ideas. I leave inspired by their creativity and vision.
CAM also placed a GCAM intern at the National Museum, Monuments and Art Gallery in Botswana in 2000 2001. Jennifer Carlile continued to work on many of the programmes that Colleen Bauman started. In particular, she devoted much time to the development of the Handling Room often referred to in museum literature as a discovery room.
In addition she documented a considerable number of the NMMAG programmes and during the next months a number of these will be distributed to GCAM members as part of the ongoing sharing of program ideas through the network. Jennifer has remained in Botswana since her internship having accepted a position at the Learning Centre in Gaborone.
Jennifer writes of her experience: "This internship has been very educational for me, both on a personal and professional level. It has given me an excellent opportunity to learn about another culture, both on an academic level and by day to day immersion in this culture. Professionally, I have observed what kinds of efforts and activities are required to see programmes succeed."