Can early years children learn from live science?

Our sunfish science extravaganza was a huge hit with adult science enthusiasts from across New Zealand – and worldwide!

But could the same setup work for very young children? Mel Dash, one of Te Papa’s audience engagement team, had the inspired idea of inviting the 3 and 4 year olds from Tai Tamariki Kindergarten, to watch the sunfish science being live streamed near The Void. As the sunfish science included a dissection we made sure the kindergarten staff and tamariki (children) knew exactly what was involved.

The tamariki excitedly made their way up to The Void where the live stream was playing. Any worries that they might not understand what was happening, or might get bored, were quickly and thoroughly dismissed. All the tamariki were entranced by what was happening. More importantly, they were learning.

Here’s a picture from Max, 4 years old:

Max's sunfish drawing. Photographer: Becs Thomas ©  Tai Tamariki

Max’s sunfish drawing. Photographer: Becs Thomas © Tai Tamariki

Max says: “This is my Sunfish, it going to get black inside because that is what the Sunfish in the movie was. It eats jelly fish and Te Papa doctors found a bit in its teeth, the teeth are really sharp.

We looked at its lungs, this one was dead because it wasn’t in the ocean anymore. They cut it to look inside and there was the jellyfish prey!”

Max is spot on – the scientists looked inside the sunfish’s mouth and stomach to find that it had been eating jellyfish.

Here’s a picture from April, 4 years old:

April's sunfish. Photographer: Becs Thomas © Tai Tamariki

April’s sunfish. Photographer: Becs Thomas © Tai Tamariki

April says: “This is a big black Sunfish with a beak, like the squid but still different.”

“It was really big and it was dead.

You could name it, they found out it was a boy, I wanted to name him Rose.

They found jellyfish and a tongue. We looked at a video of a sunfish swimming in the water, they look lots different alive!”

What fantastic comparisons to make! The experience clearly gave tamariki the opportunity to apply, and build upon their prior knowledge.

Perhaps Sunny Bill wouldn’t mind Rose as a middle name?!

Feedback from Tai Tamariki teachers has been equally enthusiastic:

“The tamariki came back with so much info. I was told about the jellyfish found in the stomach and teeth; that sunfish have a beak just like the giant squid and that it was sooooo big (as big as ‘three kids holding hands long” apparently).

Being able to ‘pop up’ and make new discoveries that can lead to many more learning opportunities reminds us of just how lucky we are to be in Te Papa!”

Let’s bring on the next live science event!!

 

 

By Ruth Hendry and Rebecca Browne

 

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