The museum has been running sleepover visits for many decades, according to education manager Kate Timms-Dean.
“This is a way of engaging students with our collection through an amazing experience that they will remember for the rest of our lives,” she explains.
Much of the program is carried out in the Museum’s Tūhura area, which is an interactive science centre.
Students sleep in Tūhura on mattresses and engage in various activities overnight.
Garth Powell, Middle Team Dean at East Taieri, says it’s a busy night.
“...The kids go and the museum staff run certain programs, and we also go and visit the planetarium. Then we do some science activities and play in the science world.
“The museum provides dinner and then the children get to sleep in that [science] area in amongst the exhibits and activities.
“During the night ... we go on a really cool walk into the animal attic in the dark and they tell a bit of a story and the kids get excited and a bit scared at the same time!” he says.
The following day, students explore more of the museum and also engage in some outdoor activities, including a swim at the local pool.
“It’s a good introduction for the Year 4s, so they are eight and nine-year-olds, into overnight camps – it’s our introduction camp,” Powell explains.
The school uses the experience to build on what students have learned in the classroom and on the students’ own interests.
The camp also serves as a celebration of the year so far.
The planetarium is a particular highlight, Powell says.
“The kids loved that, because some of them haven’t been in to those places before, so it’s a pretty cool experience for them.
“Swimming’s always a highlight. They have Subway for lunch which is another highlight – there’s lots of highlights!”
While some parents also come on the trip, Powell says part of the fun for students is that it’s their first “big, proper school camp”.
“I think it’s their first overnight camp away from their parents ... and also the museum runs a really good program.
“It’s just really exciting, there’s lots of fun things to do.
“It’s amazing that Otago Museum can do this, they run this and allow people to come into the museum and stay the night, [and] that creates that curiosity in children and enjoyment of science.
“Because we are there at night time, there’s no one else there, so the kids can explore without worrying about what other people are going to tell them to do.
“Obviously some bits are quite priceless and protected, but when we’re in Tūhura and the science area, everything’s hands on.”