This paper summarizes the results of research conducted in museum settings or in other locations using learning resources and materials designed by museums and that focuses on learning by young children.
"Abstract: This paper summarizes the results of research conducted in museum settings or in other locations using learning resources and materials designed by museums and that focuses on learning by young children. Only reports published in peer-reviewed publications between 2000 and the present are considered. This review indicates that:
1) museums, with their real artifacts, dioramas, and immersive exhibitions provide a uniquely positive environment to foster learning by young children; 2) young children are interested in artifacts and exhibitions in traditional museums and can learn disciplinary-specific information, such as history or biology, long before they encounter those disciplines in formal school settings; 3) young children approach artifacts and exhibits idiosyncratically based on their individual motives and interests; they learn by encountering real artifacts which they talk about with others, and about which they sometimes express their reactions in various verbal and artistic ways; 4) appropriate adult encouragement can enhance children’s learning and exploratory behaviors in museums; 5) while researchers and museum professionals alike are convinced that young children are learning in traditional museums, research that details that learning is lacking. It is suggested that a new area of childhood research that examines the impact of museum-based learning on the development of young children has the reciprocal benefits of understanding children’s development, and promoting their learning in new settings by adding museums to the traditional research settings of home and school. Such research can also advance understanding of the singular and collective contributions these three settings make to the holistic development of young children."
Munley, Mary Ellen. Early Learning in Museums: A Review of Literature MEM & Associates, and Smithsonian Institution’s Early Learning Collaborative Network, April 2012.