Every year, thousands of Victorian school students swap their uniforms for period costume and step back in time to a goldfields-era classroom at Sovereign Hill.
Back in the days where "children should be seen and not heard" (it's written on the classroom blackboard) the reality of life and education in the goldfields during the 1850s was harsh and very different.
But the two days spent role playing as part of the Sovereign Hill Costumed School program often create life-long memories for the young participants.
The #SovereignHill Costumed School claimed a National Award at #AMaGA2019 for excellence in Interpretation, Learning and Audience engagement. The Costumed Schools have become an iconic feature of Sovereign Hill, with the program in operation for 40 years. Well done team! pic.twitter.com/ukCeQ79C7x— Sovereign Hill (@sovereignhill) May 16, 2019
This month, the Sovereign Hill Costumed School program received the prestigious Museum and Galleries National Award for excellence in Interpretation, Learning and Audience engagement.
Judged against cultural institutions from across Australia, the Costumed School program was recognised as an outstanding example of museum learning.
"The Costumed School program draws together skills and services from across the museum to provide an exceptional opportunity for children to engage in immersive, participatory learning," said Sovereign Hill chief executive Sara Quon, who accepted the award at a ceremony in Alice Springs.
"We are thankful to receive recognition for this memorable program that is still as important and relevant as it was when it began 40 years ago."
The five schools scattered around Sovereign Hill, which represent real schools that existed on the goldfields, host around 150 students a day.
More than 250,000 children have taken part in the program since it began in 1979, having the opportunity to personally connect with history and become part of the Sovereign Hill experience.
While the children are in class, visitors can watch lessons and the costumed students also take part in activities around the park.
Like a "regular" school, the Sovereign Hill School is part of the department of education, operating as a special purpose DET school, with a school council formed from representatives of the museum and the broader Ballarat educational community.
School council president Ann Campbell, a former principal of Black Hill Primary, said the award was acknowledgement for the impact the school had on participants.
"Anecdotally we know the costumed school experience enriches and excites the students, leaving them with lasting, lifelong memories. To also be recognised nationally, as an outstanding example of museum learning, shows we have forged an important place in both schools and museums. We are immensely proud that we offer this world class program here in Ballarat."
This year the Sovereign Hill Costumed Schools celebrate their 40th anniversary, events planned later in the year. The school is looking to hear from past pupils who might have stories and photos to share. Email: Sovereignhillschool40@sovereignhill.com.au
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