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‘Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe what children do, and then, if you have understood it well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.’ Malaguzzi (1)


Journal of Education in Museums (JEM) Call for Papers



September 2019- May 2020

Funded by Cambridge Humanities Research Grant Scheme 

This collaborative action research project builds on the 2017 UCM Nursery in Residency to work with Playlanders, a local community playgroup. The project explores how young children develop meaningful connections with the museum through respeated visits over the course of a term. Educators from the museum and the playgroup will work together to plan, deliver, and document what happens during these visits and beyond. As part of this process they will consider how best to support young children visiting the museum to pursue their own interests and respond in a variety of ways. The research will support the development and testing of innovative methodologies for practitioner research with young children in museums, as well as supporting the development of professional learning and community engagement.


Lines of Enquiry

September 2018- February 2019

Funded by University of Cambridge ESRC Impact Acceleration Account


‘Practitioner researchers... are in a unque position to make an important contribution to the evolution of knowledge in the field of their professional practice. Their particular value lies in their positionality close to the site of professional action.’

Pascal & Betram, 2012  


Project Team

Dr Kate Noble and Nicola Wallis, The Fitzwilliam Museum


Overview of the Project

This University of Cambridge ESRC Impact Acceleration Account project brought together practitioners, researchers and stakeholders with an interest in work with young children in museums, galleries and gardens with the aim of establishing a new community of practice around practitioner led research. At Seminar One: Setting the Scene (October 2018) case studies of innovative work from around the UK (including UCM Nursery in Residence) were shared and discussed in light of participant's own experiences. Seminar Two: Next Steps (January 2019) speakers from a range of academic fields (Early Childhood, Art Education and Ethnography) presented a variety of possible methodologies for investigating this area of work in a manner that is both academically trustworthy and of the highest ethical integrity. Analysis of the discussions has generated key themes which will shape future research and practice. 



University of Cambridge Museums Nursery in Residence Project 

September 2017- June 2018

Funded by University of Cambridge Museums


Project Team

Dr Kate Noble and Nicola Wallis, The Fitzwilliam Museum

Felicity Plent and Bronwen Richards, Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Gemma Pollard, Virginie Ghanime and Diana Church, ACE Nursery


Overview of the Project

In October 2017, 9 children from a Cambridge City Nursery spent 5 consecutive mornings ‘In Residence’ at The Fitzwilliam Museum and Cambridge University Botanic Garden. The residency formed the basis of a multi-disciplinary, practitioner-led research project by a team of museum, garden and nursery practitioners. We hoped that the residency would give us the opportunity to, ‘stand aside for a while and leave room for learning’ as Malaguzzi describes above. We were able to take time to observe and reflect on the encounters between people, spaces and objects in the collections, and to develop a better understanding of what the museum and garden offer to young learners. Working in close collaboration was a key aspect of our research methodology and pedagogical practice. We are now planning to share and develop good practice within each of our settings and beyond.



You can download the executive summary and full report.

Bradbury, L, Noble, K & Wallis (eds) (2020) Museum and Gallery Learning in the Early Years, Special Issue, Journal for Education in Museums (2020)

Noble, K & Wallis N (2020) 'Leaving Room for Learning: University of Cambridge Museums Nursery in Residence' chapter in Working with young children in museums; weaving theory and practice, Hackett, Abigail, Holmes, Rachael & MacRae, Christina, (Routledge)  

Noble, K, Wallis, N et al (forthcoming) Nursery in Residence chapter in Hackett, A, Holmes, R & MacRae, C, Working with young children in museums; weaving theory and practice, Routledge  

Noble, K (2019) Spaces and Places for Everyone: Findings from a nursery residency in a museum and garder, research report UKLA conference, Sheffield, 12-14 July 2019

Wallis, N (2019) Seminar Presentation, Kids in Museums Families and Wellbeing Workshop, Manchester, 11th June 2019

Noble, K (2019) Freedom and Control: The challenges of exploring museums and gardens with young children, symposium presentation BECERA conference, Birmingham, 19 February 2019

Noble, K (2018) UCM Nursery in Residence, Engage Conference: A Social Prescription, Manchester, 13 November 2018

Wallis, N (2018) My Nursery School is at the Museum and Garden – Making Space for Children, symposium presentation at The European Early Childhood Education Research Association Annual Conference in Budapest (  

Plent, F & Richards, B (2018) Botany and Art: Linking two Museums to Reach a New Audience, The 10th International Congress on Education in Botanic Gardens in Warsaw

Plent, F & Richards, B (2018) A Nursery in Residence, Natsca conference, Leeds: The museum ecosystem: exploring how different subject specialisms can work closer together, April 2018

Wallis, N (2018) The University of Cambridge Museums Nursery in Residence Project: a participatory case study with early years children Participatory Museology Seminar, Leeds School of Art, 25 June 2018

Wallis, N (2018) Educators Growing Together, symposium presentation BECERA conference, Birmingham, 20 February 2018


If you are interested in finding out more or getting involved with the next stage of the project please contact Kate Noble.

(1) Loris Malaguzzi History, ideas and basic philosophy: An interview with Lella Gandini  in Edwards, C., L. and Forman, G. (Eds.) The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach - Advanced Reflections (Ablex: Greenwich, CT)
Thursday, 30 January, 2020