Small voices, big ideas: consulting with young people

Liz Peniston

By: Liz Peniston | Date: 13/09/2011

Recent events involving young people such as the London and UK riots have shown that it is more important than ever for children to have a voice in society. We need to create a culture where children don’t feel isolated and ignored, but can share their hopes and aspirations as well as their frustrations. We have come a long way from the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ perception and we should be embracing and encouraging the huge contribution that children can make to education, business and society.

At Eureka! The National Children’s Museum we specialise in consultation with children to help shape our exhibitions and programmes and we also help others design their products and services around the needs and wants of young people. At this week’s first annual national conference of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres (15 September), I will be running a session with children from Warley Town Primary School to demonstrate how to capture the vision of young stakeholders. The children will be presenting on how they have been involved in the development of Eureka!’s new Me and My Body gallery.

I will also be discussing why adults in general should start listening to children if we want to progress, innovate and succeed as a society. Here’s my outline thoughts:

  • Children are our future consumers and workforce – what they think and want will shape society
  • Children have a right to be heard and we have a duty to support them in having a voice
  • The power of a child’s imagination is immense and they are not cluttered by the constraints that we often feel as adults which means they can give us honest and insightful feedback
  • Children love to test out ideas, think creatively, try and try again, investigate, apply logic, hypothesize and think in a free and open-ended way
  • Children are a lot more like adults than we think – they have different learning styles and team roles that can be experimented with to inform how we do things

At the conference we will be talking specifically about engaging children in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) but the principles apply across the board.

We look forward to seeing those of you that are attending the conference – please share your thoughts here for us to discuss on the day and afterwards.

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Eureka! The National Children’s Museum
Discovery Road, Halifax HX1 2NE. Map