Family Audiences: cultivation and maintenance of family audiences in an age of unlimited free-choice learning
Definition of family A family is a multi generational social group of up to 5-6 people with children that comes as a unit to the museum. Families are dynamic and changing. Members grow and develop and members are added and subtracted. Families constitute an important visitor group for museums, comprising at least 50% of all museum visitors.
Importance of family visitors Museums looking at how to cultivate and “enfold” the community throughout the lifespan of its visitors. Families offer perfect opportunity to cultivate those visitors.
Families through the lifespan: how do we cultivate them at each age? Young children with young parents School aged children Teenagers Young adults: childbearing years Older adults: grandparents Enfolding them into the museum
Moms: cornerstone of families 80% of children have parents born between 1965 and 1979 – latch key kids Where’s Dad? Moms in 30s and 40s comprise the largest segment of museum visitors. 9 out of 10 are Caucasian Vast majority college educated Higher household incomes than average (over 50,000)
Moms 2 Ages of children correlate with the type of museum Children’s Museum moms have younger children between ages of 2-4 Other type of museums – elementary aged children Primary reason for visiting: learning opportunities for their children When moms visit they want kids to be actively engaged with hands-on activities
Moms 3 Active role playing with their children playing a part Participate in the activities – eat period food and wear clothes First person interpretation in order to engage children in story Are moms engaged? “motivation and focus are resolutely on her children” Unlikely to define themselves as curious
What do moms want? Restrooms, stools for kids, diaper changing stations, spare children’s clothing Designated snack areas, high chairs and booster seats Child friendly menu options Labels that use language parents can use when talking to their children Outdoor trails and exhibits
What does family learning look like? Playful and highly social experience Influenced by the ages of the children and adults in the group Members learn in different ways Find value in their own personal observations and experiences by working, talking, and solving problems together
What learning theories apply to families? Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories apply to how families learn sociocultural mediation zone of proximal development scaffolding learning through conversation with an adult or sibling learning by doing
Inquiry behaviors in family units Asking and answering questions Commenting on the exhibition Reading labels aloud Watching one another resulting in modeling -- observational and social learning Styles of family learning range from the highly collaborative group which stays together to the more independent unit which often splits up and interacts more independently but come together at certain points for information sharing.
Observing families in museums Conversation a key characteristic Families interact in predictable ways, influenced by the age of the children, familiarity with the setting, and their family learning style. Behaviors include a wide range of verbal and non- verbal interactions: looking at exhibitions, participating in programs, visiting the gift shop, engaging in conversation, gesturing, modeling, and emoting. These behaviors are carried out collaboratively within the museum, but also extend beyond the museum.
Typical visit Most family visits to museums last about 1-2 hours and have four distinct phases: 1. Orientation (3-10 minutes) 2. Intense exhibition viewing (25-30) 3. Exhibition cruising (30-40 minutes) 4. Leave taking (5-10 minutes)
Museum visits are seen as educational opportunities with some anticipation of entertainment. Meaning making is complex and hard to study: Some families will take time to talk and explore a topic while in the gallery, while others will wait until the ride home or two weeks later to discuss it over dinner.
Families visit museums with different expectations, cultural backgrounds, interest levels, belief system, life experiences and leisure habits. All of these factors influence the visitors’ interaction with the exhibition and program material and in turn, impact how they respond to the accompanying members of their family.
Families in art museums Families come for entertainment and social reasons, but also to learn They transform the formal agenda into personal activities based on their family background, mode of interaction, or the adult’s parenting and teaching style Put more emphasis on social interaction, active participation and entertainment than they do on opportunities to learn or do something worthwhile with their leisure time. Shared, participatory experiences, and having fun together, have the most memorable effects on families in art museums. Engaging all family members, providing individual choices and introducing new concepts that include achievable clear tasks have a positive effect on family visits Parents associate spending time in an art museum with their children with good parenting This indicates the very positive effect and continued relevance of family orientated exhibitions and workshops. Interactive, hands-on exhibits are
Family research from art museums regular visitors are more likely to have a learning agenda, and that learning takes place in a variety of ways, and not always as intended Families prefer activities not to look like what they might do at school; they want to learn without realizing it, and adults enjoy doing activities with their children Adults enjoy learning from their children
Exhibit design for families Is the exhibit designed with families in mind? Text, readability, accessibility, learning by doing, opportunities for conversation and engagement, modeling Focus should be on collaborative learning when designing exhibits in order to increase the engagement of their family visitorship Challenges