New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown kicked in a month after Kerrin Carr took up his new position as education facilitator at Te Awamutu Museum.
It meant halting the face-to-face delivery of the Learning Experiences Outside the Classroom (LEOTC) programmes he was just getting accustomed to and devising a strategy that would facilitate the sharing of information with school students aged 5-18 during lockdown.
Fortunately, Kerrin’s background in media – he wrote and voiced radio ads for years – plus what he has gleaned from his own kids and educators within his family, gave him the tools he needed to re-create and expand the museum’s existing digital resources.
“We launched into creating a new set of resources, based on what we already had, but presenting it in an interactive magazine-style format where the schoolkids could ask questions and do activities,” he said. “I didn’t want the presentations to be too text-heavy.”
Junior and senior resources for Anzac Day were among those which went out during lockdown. The Anzac stories were there, and younger children were shown how to make a wreath from poppies. “Some of it was like infographics. Just before lockdown, I did something similar related to a visit to Pirongia maunga – that was my first programme in this role, and it worked really well.”
Another set of resources Kerrin worked on during lockdown is based on the museum’s ‘In Days Past’ series. He also did a Zoom session on the New Zealand Land Wars for senior high school students, one that included expert-led discussions around the causes and consequences of the wars.
Knowing what students required and what gaps would need plugged over the weeks of lockdown saw Kerrin touch base with schoolteachers before going on to craft online sessions that were deliverable via Zoom. He continues to work closely with schools to create programmes based on what unit standards they are seeking to support using the online resources.
The success of the new strategies, and the fact the sessions have been utilised by schools outside the region, has excited Kerrin about how technology might enhance the museum’s education programmes in the future.
“I’m keen to tell Waipā’s stories,” he said. “They have always had amazing educators at this museum, but now that everyone is more familiar with the digital arena than they were before lockdown, there are new opportunities out there.
“Familiarity with Zoom means we can expand our delivery … we can offer wider access to the material we have in hand. It makes the information more accessible,” he said. “The only downside is that the students can’t touch things, or do activities in the moment, but it does allow us to ‘deep dive’ into material and bring experts on board.”
Kerrin believes that what has come out of the lockdown is an opportunity for the museum to be more innovative in the way it delivers its education programme.
“So, while we’re back to normal now, we can build on those opportunities and add value to our stories.”