Whether you are a class teacher or a home-school/stay-at-home mom, outings are an important part of your child’s development and education. For years, children piled into school buses to visit a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history and science museums, as well as theatres, zoos, and historical sites. Schools gladly endured the expense and disruption of providing excursions because they saw these experiences as central to their educational mission: schools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce educated young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture.
However, fewer schools and parents are taking their children to museums and other cultural institutions. Either the challenge of supervising hyperactive, easily bored children is too great, the cost is too high or there is little understanding into the benefits that children experience from visiting such institutions.
Research shows that visiting museums has the following benefits for children:
This Eastern Cape museum was established in 1855 and is the second oldest museum in South Africa. The Natural Sciences Museum houses permanent collections of terrestrial insects, freshwater invertebrates, freshwater fishes, a plant herbarium, birds, palaeontological fossils, rocks and minerals, ethnographic and archaeological material. The History Museum houses an important collection of historical artefacts as well as a genealogical archive relating to the 1820 British Settlers. The Fine Art collection is also housed in the History Museum. The Education Department provides loan resources and education programmes for teachers, students and learners through curriculum-based as well as broader interest museum lessons and outreach visits to farm schools.
The Port Elizabeth Museum, which blends cultural with natural history, is the third oldest in South Africa. The museum consists of a Dinosaur, Marine, Bird, Maritime History, Costume and Local History Halls, as well as a Curiosity Corner, Xhosa Beadwork Gallery and the First People of the Bay exhibit. Other diverse temporary exhibits in the fields of natural science, archaeology and geology are also regularly on display in the Museum. Particularly noteworthy exhibits are the 15m skeleton of the last Southern right whale harpooned in Nelson Mandela Bay; a life-sized reconstruction of the giant local prehistoric dinosaur known as Algoasaurus; a replica of the Dias Cross; and a 5m bronze cannon dated 1640, recovered from a Portuguese galleon wrecked near Port Elizabeth.
The DITSONG Museums of South Africa is an amalgamation of eight national museums, seven in Tshwane and one in Johannesburg. The target audience for these museums are children, youth, adults, students, tourists (foreign and local), researchers and the public in general. DITSONG MUSEUMS have diverse collections covering the fields of fauna and flora, palaeontology, military history, cultural history, geology, anthropology and archaeology.
Another worthwhile stop and great for children is Durban’s Natural Science Museum, located in the majestic City Hall building. This museum will provide you with a clear idea about Africa’s wild life (you will have the chance to closely analyse taxidermies like an elephant, wild dogs, a leopard, birds and insects). Don’t miss the popular galleries with stuffed birds (flamingos, penguins, ostriches) and giant insect replicas and kids will love the interactive displays.
The National Museum dates back to 1877, when its collections comprised mainly of rare treasures from around the world. Since then the Museum has developed into an institution of international stature, focusing on natural and cultural history and art. Intensive research is carried out in these varied disciplines, and valuable and important collections have been established. Through its displays and education programmes, the Museum renders a public service to its audiences, engaging them in enjoyable and enlightening experiences and enriching the learning opportunities of all individuals.
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