Just been to the Staff Forum where members of the Education Team talked about the brilliant work they do with schools and other groups. Some 29,000 schoolchildren visit the Museum every year and 80% of the classes have a taught session. The evaluation feedback is invariably ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ and the vast majority say they would visit the Museum again.
Debbie Doran who is Primary Learning Coordinator talked about her work using the ideas developed in the Ancient Worlds displays. Debbie develops teaching sessions for Key Stage 2 children (7-11 year olds). She recently sent me some comments from some of the pupils who had attended pilot Ancient Worlds teaching sessions in the museums.
The sessions are designed to stimulate learning by allowing the children to handle the various objects. Katy from Vernon Park Primary School said, “I couldn’t believe we could touch the very old things!” Samir from Oswald Road Primary School said “It’s better to look at the broken pot because you can see inside it!” Amir from Birchfields Primary School commented “It was great fun to write our own museum labels, just like a museum curator.”
A new member of staff seeing the handling objects for the first time couldn’t believe that he was allowed to touch the objects. “Oh I thought you had to be special to touch the objects” he said. We assured him that he was special and that when children handled the objects it made them feel special too. This provides the best possible environment to support learning.
Only yesterday an undergraduate student at a seminar about stone tools from the archaeology and anthropology collections commented that being able to see and touch the objects had really helped her to engage what can be quite challenging concepts like social Darwinism, imperialism and race. She was surprised that more wasn’t made of the opportunity to use the collections in this way. As a university museum it’s really what we are here for and one of the challenges this year is to raise the profile of the collection so that more academics are aware of what we have and how it might be used to support their own teaching.