1st Edition

Object Lessons and Early Learning

By Sharon Shaffer Copyright 2018
    172 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    172 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The twenty-first century is a time of change for early learning in museums, due in part to society's evolving view of childhood, from an age of innocence to understanding the robust learning that defines the first years of life. This perspective is a catalyst for international conversation and continues to raise attention and interest across society. Object Lessons and Early Learning leverages what is known about the cognitive development of young children to examine the power of learning through objects in museum and heritage settings.

    Exploring the history and modern day practice of object-based learning, Shaffer outlines the rationale for endorsing this approach in both formal and informal learning spaces. She argues that museums, as collecting institutions, are learning spaces uniquely positioned to allow children to make meaning about their world through personal connections to cultural artifacts, natural specimens, and works of art. A range of descriptive object lessons, inspired by objects in museums as well as from the everyday world, are presented throughout the text as examples of ways in which children can be encouraged to engage with museum collections.

    Object Lessons and Early Learning offers insights into strategies for engaging young children as learners in museum settings and in their everyday world, and, as such, will be essential reading for museum professionals, classroom educators, and students. It should also be of great interest to academics and researchers engaged in the study of museums and education.


    Part I: Object Lessons in Theory: A Key to Interpretation

    1. Setting the Stage for Early Learning in Museums

    2. The Museum Object: A Story of Change

    3. The Object Lesson: A Closer Look at Its History and Development

    4. Object-Based Learning: Making Meaning from Objects

    Part II: Theory to Practice: Young Children and Objects

    5. Learning to Look at Objects: A Process of Discovery

    6. Curiosity and Collections: A Child’s Perspective

    Part III: Object Lessons: Engaging Young Museum Visitors

    7. Object Lessons Inspired by History Museums and Historic Homes

    8. Object Lessons Inspired by Art Museums, Sculpture Gardens, and Public Art

    9. Object Lessons Inspired by Cultural Exhibitions and Institutions

    Part IV: Object Lessons Beyond the Gallery

    10. Object Lessons for Young Learners in School Settings

    Part V: A Look Forward

    11. The Future of Early Learning in a Digital Society: Finding Balance Between Object-Based Experiences and Technology


    Sharon E. Shaffer is a museum consultant specializing in providing programming to younger children and works with museum professionals around the world. She is a former Executive Director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, USA, and is the only educator ever to receive the Smithsonian Institution Secretary’s Gold Medal for Exceptional Service. She has a PhD in Social Foundations of Education and is an adjunct faculty member with the  University of Virginia.