children get their hands dirty at simulated archaeological dig

UOW's Early Start designs improvised learning experience for local Illawarra children. 

Hundreds of Illawarra children channelled their inner Indiana Jones this week as they participated in a simulated archaeological dig at the annual Kidsfest Shellharbour event.

The ‘Kids Dig’, which is presented by UOW's Early Start Discovery Space and its In2Uni Program, saw children aged 3-12 donning high visibility vests to excavate buried items, identify and document their finds and participate in discussion around artefacts as evidence for the historical human occupation of a site. 

The dig site in Killalea State Park featured an on-site, interactive museum, which will house genuine artefacts that can be handled by visitors. Working archaeologists were alo on hand to talk about their work and what inspired them to take up the shovel.

Project Coordinator at UOW’s Early Start Discovery Centre, Mr Adam Selinger, designed the improvised learning experience. “Everyone loves to dig; and the experience of undergoing a safe and authentic archaeological excavation means everyone from young children to adults can have fun while sneakily learning about history, culture, science and art.”

Mr Selinger, who is currently designing interactive experiences for UOW’s Early Start Discovery Space, which when it opens in January 2015 will be Australia’s only example of a USA-styled ‘children’s museum’, said evidence suggests that learning through play has the greatest impact on young minds.

“Imaginative play is a crucial component of a child's healthy development. It might look simple and uncomplicated but children’s play is actually a complex process that affects all aspects of a child's life.  Play shapes how children make sense of their world, how they learn thinking skills, and how they acquire language,” Mr Selinger said.

When the Early Start Discovery Space opens it will have more than a dozen interactive experiences. Visitors will be able to take a tour of a tummy (complete with full anatomical sound effects), crawl through a cave, create a masterpiece in the Artists Precinct, barter in the Marketplace, and discover the genius of Galileo from his study.

Kidsfest Shellharbour, on from 18-24 May, is now in its seventh year. The free community event brings 5,000 children aged 0-12 their families and carers together for a week-long celebration of learning and fun, with 60 festival events held around Shellharbour City.


  • Project Coordinator at UOW’s Early Start Discovery Centre, Mr Adam Selinger, with local Illawarra children (from left) Sophie Alards, Molly Parr and Sienna Bourke.