Museum sector: director of play and learning

What does your role involve?
In this role I am responsible for developing and leading on the implementation of initiatives and programmes that support learning through play, both internally and externally. This includes identifying and working with the organisations and partners that contribute to our understanding of the importance of play and which support our long-term objectives within informal learning settings.

I provide specialist advice that includes, for example, observing how adults interact with children during play sessions where I encourage adults to look for play cues and follow the child’s lead. 

Over the last 18 months, we have been developing the creative area of the nursery to reflect the principles of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, an innovative approach to the education of children under five years of age.

What were you doing before you became director of play and learning?
I initially qualified as a nursery nurse, my personal commitment to ongoing professional development lead me to gain a BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies in 1999. The Early Years Professional Status was the obvious next step for me, which I gained in Feb 2007.  I have worked predominately in children’s day care, including managing early years settings in Northern Italy and Hong Kong. I joined Eureka! in September 2005 as their early years manager

What are the best bits of the job?
Working in a unique environment where play-based learning and childhood is valued, being involved in staff development and seeing practitioners “bloom”.  Also, getting to travel to exciting places such as Iceland and the USA to speak at conferences

What are the worst bits?
The M62! I live in Warrington and work in Halifax which is 90 mile round trip each day over Britain’s highest motorway.

What are the difficulties and how do you overcome them?
I prefer the word challenges! I think the biggest challenge, and probably an international as well as internal one, is to get everyone to see the importance of the early years. As an organisation, we have made huge progress over the past few years to show our commitment to young children, having key people who share this passion is one way to overcome this

Describe the skills needed for the job
The ability to lead, delegate, be patient, enthusiastic and approachable. In addition to this I believe that in order to demonstrate you value play you have to be playful!

How can teachers get into museum work?
I would recommend that they look on council websites and museum websites. Many museums now are looking to have early years learning staff as well as the more traditional learning staff.

Rebecca Johnson is the director of play and learning at the Eureka! National Children’s Museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire.


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