Podcast: How volunteering for museums opens doors & deepens knowledge

How volunteering for museums opens doors & deepens knowledge

How volunteering for museums opens doors & deepens knowledge


Getting a gig at a major science museum can be highly competitive. We chat with Karen Player, Manager for Museum Outreach at the Australian Museum, who began her museum career in 1998 when she began volunteering on the museum floor. Plus we look at what it was like as an early career science presenter and discuss her current work with the Museum in a Box program, delivering science outreach events as well as the highs & lows of teaching classes via video conferencing.

About Karen Player

Karen Player from Australian Museum


Karen Player from the Australian Museum

Karen Player first became a front of house volunteer at the Australian Museum in 1998, working ‘front of house’ running touch tables on the museum floor and taking tours. From these beginnings Karen worked in the Biodiversity exhibition, looking after the live animals in the exhibition, developed and implemented many environmental education programs and continued taking tours throughout the museum.

Roll forward to 2005 she joined the Surviving Australia project team which was involved in developing the design and content for this new exhibition which was opened in July 2008, during which she also began working closely with the science communication team to run the Science in the City, Science in the Suburbs and Science in the Bush events. In 2008 Karen began coordinating Museum in a Box outreach program and in 2009 commenced the school Video Conferencing programs at the Museum. By 2012 this video conferencing program was presenting video conferencing events to 6500 students from 200 schools across the NSW per year and the Museum in a Box program had 620 boxes of museum specimens and educational resources go to over 250 schools across NSW reaching over 70000 students. It was also in 2012 she co-founded Virtual Excursions Australia together with many cultural organisations across Australia.

Through the NSW Environmental Trust grant she also developed Museum 2 You with community consultation, a community environmental education program on sustainability, climate change and biodiversity. She has also been coordinating the Streamwatch volunteers from January 2013 since Australian Museum took over the ownership of the Streamwatch program from Sydney Water.

Top 3 learnings

  1. Volunteer! 
    If you want to break into working with museums you might have to give a little first. Get in touch with a museum and see if they need a hand on any upcoming festivals or on the museum floor. You just don’t know here it could take you.
  2. Don’t rush through museums!
    Sometimes the seemingly most innocuous object could be part of a larger narrative that’s we’ll worth your time discovering. Teach students to take their time through exhibitions and read all the interpretative signage, rather than rush through the galleries looking for the next headliner.
  3. With educational technology things can do wrong… and that’s ok!
    Don’t let a bad experience put you off trying a particular piece of edtech again, instead collaborate with your students to solve the problems you’ve had and you’ll often find that together you’ll create a workable solution to the issue.

Further contact details for Karen Player

About the FizzicsEd Podcast
With interviews with leading science educators and STEM thought leaders, this science education podcast is about highlighting different ways of teaching kids within and beyond the classroom. It’s not just about educational practice & pedagogy, it’s about inspiring new ideas & challenging conventions of how students can learn about their world!

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