Sparking Curiosity with Our Children and Family Programming Strategy

This year the Alberta Aviation Museum’s programming has looked a lot different. Of course, there have been far fewer programs running in the museum to ensure the safety of our community, but there have been some big changes going on behind the scenes to get ready for when we are able to run our all of our programs in person and to offer virtual and self-guided programs in the meantime.

The museum is excited to introduce our new approach for children’s and family programming. Over recent years we’ve seen an increasing number of families, schools, and community groups all looking for different museum experiences. Since November 2019, with the support of the Alberta Museum’s Association grant we have developed our Children and Family Programming Strategy.

Our goals with this new strategy are to offer programming that focus on four key elements:

  1. Child-led: programs that focus on play and inquiry-based activities that help children guide their museum visit.
  2. Sparking curiosity: provide enjoyable museum experiences that make young visitors want to learn more about aviation and our community’s aviation history.
  3. Collaborative: programs that are informed by audience feedback on new and existing programs.
  4. Flexible: Are accessible for and meet the needs of diverse families and accommodate different learning styles.

 The strategy was built to offer a wider variety of programs using feedback from two new program.

We introduced our Discovery Backpacks in October 2020, with a variety of open-ended activities to enhance self-guided visits to the museum, encouraging children to look more closely around the museum. Discovery Backpacks include options for recording and responding to their experiences with writing prompts and drawing and building materials. There are activity options for children aged 4-11, with links to the Alberta Curriculum and in the future will be available for group bookings as well.

2020 also saw the launch of PD Day Camps that combine Alberta’s aviation history and STEM activities. Day camps encourage inquiry-based learning through activities that build and test children’s own designs and include more stories from Alberta’s aviation history that have not been explored in-depth in our children’s programming before. Camps are scheduled for Edmonton Public Schools’ PD days and are designed for small groups of children aged 6-12.

In addition to brand new programs the Children and Family Programming Strategy supported an online shift of our longest running and most beloved program, the Theory of Flight program based on the grade 6 curriculum. This school year, the program has gone completely virtual as a two-part program that includes an in-class virtual activity kit and a digital Q&A session with the museum’s instructors. These activities are designed to take place over the course of one or two weeks. Although we are missing seeing students at the museum, the virtual option provides an opportunity for students across Alberta and beyond to interact virtually with an aviation expert and to see some historic aircraft up close. Through the support of the Alberta Museum’s Association grant, the groundwork for our new programming strategy, and the help of our dedicated volunteers in place, we were able to film high quality video content and establish a studio for filming the live sessions. The new virtual option, although not originally part of the plan for this year, has helped to bring Theory of Flight more in line with our strategy for children’s programming, setting the foundation for exciting new program updates for 2021!

Although we haven’t been able to offer as many in-person museum programs as we planned this year, it’s been exciting to see families engaging with the new programs and we’re looking forward to seeing more young visitors at the museum (or virtually) soon!

Special Thanks to The Alberta Museums Association Institutional Grant for Making this Strategy Possible