This year the Summer Family Activities held at and around the Accountant’s House were slightly different than past offerings. Port Arthur Historic Site Education Officer, Sarah Stockwin, says that a more structured and educational menu of activities was offered, resulting in families being more engaged with the heritage of the Site.
The aim was to engage young visitors with a site which has little or no relevance to most of them, without simply becoming babysitters to them. By providing engaging, stimulating and relevant activities, children began to relate to the site in a way which, for an educator, was very exciting. Children would, after having done an activity, continue to roam the site with their parents or carers, more engaged and happy to continue what had been, a boring day of looking at “falling down old buildings”. They became connected with and began to understand Port Arthur.
Visitor feedback from the Accountant’s House and through the Visitor Centre, was extremely positive and reveals a need for these types of activities not only during holiday times but throughout the year.
The activities we added this year included Convict Brick Making, in which participants made their own miniature convict brick in the traditional manner and were able to take it home. They also made fantascopes, which were the forerunner to animation of sorts and were a form of parlour entertainment of the period. Peg Doll Making was popular, helping participants become aware of the types of toys available to children and the costume worn by people a long time ago. Again, the peg dolls were made by the participants and taken home.
The really great thing about these activities, was the level of engagement they engendered in the children. I heard numerous reports of children walking around the site with their brick or doll and pointing things out to their parents while displaying their new-found understanding and connection with the site. Parents told me after having done the activity with their children how much more engaged and interested their child had become with the site and that it was no longer a static experience for them.