Bug Lab: an educator’s role in creating a blockbuster exhibition

Bug Lab: an educator’s role in creating a blockbuster exhibition

Museum education specialist Donald James talks about the new Bug Lab exhibition coming to Te Papa on 10 Dec 2016 and introduces a brand new learning resource for teachers.

Bug Lab logo
Bug Lab, 2016. Te Papa

How do you make an exhibition relevant for up to 10 years on 4 different continents? It must activate curious minds, reward inquisitiveness, and inspire wonder.

These are enduring ideals that will still be relevant once Bug Lab has completed its world tour in the next 10 years.

In Bug Lab you get to meet some of the most incredible bugs known to science and the scientists who know them best. From them you will learn how bugs are inspiring human innovation.

Child with orchid mantis, 2016. Te Papa

My name is Donald and last May Te Papa hired me as a Museum Education Specialist to develop the plan for a hands-on, immersive space within the Bug Lab exhibition.

Opening on 10 Dec 2016, the newly-created exhibition gives human visitors a chance to learn from the genius of bugs.

Te Papa decided there would be a few, large, bug heroes who would share the story of their almost superpower-like abilities.

The exhibition will give visitors hands-on opportunities to make their own innovations and discoveries as well as a place to process their understanding of bugs. The result is an area central to the exhibition called The Lab.

Installing the giant bees, 2016. Courtesy of Weta Workshops
Installing the giant bees, 2016. Courtesy of Weta Workshops

Visitors will see real human technology inspired by bugs. They’ll have the opportunity to explore the genius of bugs through open play activities.

Bug Lab offers authentic interactions with scientists and experts through interactive videos about the inspiring world of bugs.

To accompany the exhibition Te Papa has produced a learning resource for teachers and educators. It’s full of information, activities, and discussion topics to get children excited to learn more about and be inspired by bugs.

Download the Bug Lab learning resource

As an educator, my role has been to advocate for the experience of learners of any age and make sure there are endless opportunities to play and discover.

At Te Papa I have been working with scientists, writers, experience designers, graphic designers, marketers, web researchers, and members of the digital media team.

Together we have created a fun, hands-on, playful exhibition that I am really excited to share – make sure you come and check it out this summer.

Find out more about Bug Lab

Bug Lab for teachers


  1. Bug Lab sounds most exciting, Donald. I might have to come up to Wellington especially to see it!

    1. Hey Alison, you absolutely should. It is going to be pretty magical.

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