Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category
On 14th September 2010, Byran Sitch – our Curator of Archaeology – and I delivered a workshop at the Archaeology in Education conference in Liverpool organised by the Council for British Archaeology. Our workshop was focused on the Secondary session called Lindow Man: The Verdict, which was a huge success in 2008-09 during the Lindow Man: a Bog Body Mystery exhibition. If you can’t remember it, or were unlucky enough to miss the exhibition, see the University Museums Group case study which provides a quick overview.
During the workshop for the conference, Bryan and I actually ran the Lindow Man: The Verdict workshop for attendees, and I’m glad to say that there is still a lot of enthusiasm for the topic and especially the distinct style of the court room drama workshop. It’s been a while since the workshop was delivered, and I’d forgotten how much fun it is and how involved you can get in the mystery of Lindow Man and his death.
The reason for all this reminiscing is to highlight the brand new Lindow Man: Teacher Resource which will provide any teacher with the necessary information to the run the very popular Lindow Man: The Verdict session within the classroom. For those who aren’t familiar with the session, the basic principle is that students have to argue three differing cases as to the cause of Lindow Man’s death and prove their case using evidence in a court-room: judged by their own peers. All three teams are provided with the same evidence – the evidence uncovered during the original excavation and examination of Lindow Man – but each team must interpret and question the evidence differently in order to make their case the most logical choice for the judges!
Everything required to run the session is provided in the Teacher Resource pack, but can equally be supplemented with additional materials. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get students to think independently, use evidence based research to draw conclusions and allow them to question the way evidence is interpreted and presented. In addition they also feel ownership over the case of Lindow Man and therefore feel that they are making an impact on the exploration of historical, and local, history.
To download the Lindow Man: Teacher Resource, just click here!
On Wednesday 28th April Karen Exell, Curator of Egypt and the Sudan, and I undertook a trial video conference with three Oldham schools. The trial was set up to help us look at whether video conferencing could be another way of working with schools in the future and increasing the reach of the Museum’s collection.
We took part in two conferences with the Oldham schools – a morning conference with Christchurch primary school and an afternoon conference with both Greenfield St Mary and Our Lady primary schools. Prior to the session, we asked the pupils if they had any questions about the ancient Egyptians that they would like Karen to answer. The questions submitted covered a wide range of topics from what the ancient Egyptians ate and what pets they had to what their death masks looked like.
In an effort to answer these questions as best we could, Karen searched the Egypt stores for objects to illustrate her answers during the video conference. The chosen objects included an ancient Egyptian death mask, baby feeding cup, vessel for holding beer, some games and tools . Both conferences were successfull and I certainly learnt lots (including that the River Nile is visible from space!). The trial also allowed me an opportunity to see video conferencing in action and generated lots of ideas within the Museum on how best it could be used with schools.
I’d be really interested to find out how many schools have access to video conferencing equipment and if you would be interested in using it with the Museum. Also, if you have an idea for an activity or session that might work well using video conferencing equipment, please let us know – we always welcome any suggestions and are looking forward to many more successful conferences in the future.
I am currently in the midst of preparing a paper for a conference that the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) is holding in Manchester in September called ‘Objects – What matters? Technology, value and social change’.
A number of colleagues and I have been accepted to present a panel presentation on “Telling Objects: Lindow Man at the Manchester Museum”. Bryan Sitch, Head of Human Cultures, will be discussing our recent Lindow Man: A Bog Body Mystery exhibition in reference to postmodernism, while Pete Brown, our Head of Learning and Interpretation, will be exploring how the display provoked a debate among staff and public alike.
However, Neil and I will be representing The Learning Team during the presentation – looking at how the programming of events across Primary, Secondary and Post-16 learning allowed pupils to engage with the collection, gain knowledge about Lindow Man and even form an understanding of what constitutes a’ museum’.
Unfortunately, Neil got so excited about this opportunity for us to advocate our learning programmes he did not realise that the CRESC conference clashed with his own wedding (!) so Helena has kindly agreed to step in and talk about the `Museum of Me’ project on his behalf.
As for me – I’ll be inciting awe and wonder by showing how the two Lindow Man inspired programmes in the Secondary offer achieved their aims and allowed students to practically apply their skills and knowledge whilst having lots of fun! I think some of their own comments demonstrate this more than anything:
*The support and the teaching was just brilliant. I hope to come again
*By the end it was fun and quite hard but it gave us more historical knowledge
*At the beginning I had a basic understanding and at the end I had an in-depth understanding
*By the end I felt really good, I had never heard of Lindow Man and I felt I left with loads of knowledge
*By the end I was very happy and my head is filled with facts. I hope I remember them as I may need them again. I was surprised that I actually enjoyed myself!
The teachers were just as enthusiastic and complimentary in their feedback also:
*It brought the bog body debate alive and developed communication
*I was amazed to see such an organised session with obviously lots of thought put into it. No half measures at all! It was excellent – seamless, inspiring – spot on!
*I was amazed to see the resources and artefacts that the museum has and surprised that a session on a hot Friday afternoon was so successful
*Lots of information which was pitched at a simple level so the students understood. The pace of activities was well managed and there were lots of practical activities to be involved with.
*At the beginning it seemed perhaps a little above the pupils level but in fact the students grasped it well and enjoyed it
Preparing the presentation has reminded me just how overwhelmingly successful the programming for Lindow Man was, and how much we can achieve when we collaborate with colleagues and teachers well. The fact that over 1200 students participated in the Secondary and Post-16 programming for Lindow Man workshops I think demonstrates that it was a popular and worthwhile not only for students and teachers but also for us at the museum.
While Lindow Man himself has left us, I hope that the learning legacy his influence left behind can continue and that the inspiration and innovation that was so evident as a result of these programmes will find its way into everything we do in the future.
As I write this (Friday July 3rd) Cat and I are in Barcelona, a beautiful city even in the extreme heat, for the Learning Conference. We gave our presentation yesterday to a group of learning professionals and it appears to have been well received. Our careful palnning and extensive mind mapping came to fruition as we were able to cover everything we wanted, as well as having time for questions and a diversion to talk about The Manchester Hermit.
There is a lot going on in this conference, with 9am Plenaries from invited speakers and 30 min talks or 60 min workshops, like ours, going on until about 8pm every night, its probably just as well nothing opens for dinner here until 9pm. Its been great to meet and converse with learning professionals from schools, colleges, Universities, science centres and from anywhere else learning takes place. Its also good to be out of the extreme power of the Barcelona sun in the middle of the day, on Monday night it was 32 degrees at 830pm, goodness knows how hot it was at midday.
I’d just like to thank those who attended our presentation, their input and enthusiasm made our job a lot easier and great fun to be part of. Here are some images of some of the activities we did with the group and in the next week or so, I’ll blog about all the Museums and Galleries we have been fortunate to visit whilst on this trip.
Well, maybe not the rooftops, but don’t you sometimes think it’s good to be able to tell other people about the good stuff?
The Manchester Museum is, as you may know, a part of the University of Manchester. What you might not know (and I certainly didn’t until recently) is that there are a surprising number of museums and galleries connected to universities around the country.
And, being birds of a feather, so to speak, they tend to enjoy the chance to flock together. In fact, there is a Universities Museum Group (UMG)… This is not a case of trying to be snooty, stand-offish or otherwise separate ourselves from other museums and galleries around the country. It’s quite simply the case that university museums and galleries are (in part) differently funded because of their university collections and generally also have a particular responsibility to be involved in and support research of all kinds.
Why am I telling you all this?
Well, recently, representatives from the UMG met in Manchester to share news of their projects and developments. Amongst the grand building redesigns and virtual learning environments was yours truly flying the flag for our very own learning programmes. In particular, the wonderful TSI: Time Scene Investigation project which I co-ordinated earlier in the year.
My presentation, whilst giving background information, focused mainly on photos, scans of drawings and writing from notebooks and even sounds snippets from the children involved. I think it was this last aspect that really spoke to the audience – giving the children a voice in that room really brought the project back to life and brought back for me just how much fun and how amazing our work with St James’ school really was.
Our current obsession with mind-mapping is continuing as Louise and I plan our 60 minute workshop for the International Learning Conference in July 2009.
We decided to visually represent the time we have to engage our audience with the topic in order to get a better idea of our approach. The result was spectacularly colourful (coded according to our specialised key) and makes perfect sense – to us at least!
The activities for participants that we finally decided upon (and there were numerous options!) include designing a gallery space to incorporate human remains and classifying direct examples of visitor responses to the way we display human remains at The Manchester Museum. We also plan to encourage discussion about how other topics can be explored using similar methods, and how teachers can utilise the material museums have readily available in the public domain to enhance their student’s discussion on controversial themes.
Louise and I are really excited about engaging teachers in the possibilities surrounding the use of museums as learning resources, and the Learning Conference seems like an excellent opportunity to gather and discuss experiences from classrooms across the globe.
4 weeks to go…
In anticipation of our conference paper in July on ‘how to teach controversial issues using museums’, I have been doing some research online. It seems like this is a hot topic at the moment, with a lot of resources recently highlighting potential topics and guidance for teachers on how to approach discussion and debate in the classroom. A simple search for ‘teaching controversial topics’ can bring up a multitude of potential resources. Mostly, this links directly with the secondary Citizenship curriculum but, of course, the subject matter can refer to topics which span the whole of the curriculum – science, economics, art, technology, religious studies etc.
The important thing for me, as a museum educator, is how this all relates to the collection we house at The Manchester Museum. I used to think that museums were fairly impartial places, where debates had already taken place and the most objective viewpoint was on display. Since I started working in museums, however, my own viewpoint has altered somewhat. Collections can engage people in controversial discussions simply by being on display. The rich history behind objects and their origin can bring to life potential stories that highlight the topic under debate, making a direct link between the past and the present moment.
Objects from Africa collected during the colonisation period, for example, can create an understanding of the complexities of the history and religion of a people who were struggling to maintain tradition when faced with conversion to Christianity. A display of taxidermy animal specimens reminds us of environmental issues and the possibilities of losing species to extinction as we accelerate through the 21st Century. The Manchester Museum’s vivarium, with its camouflaged reptiles and amphibians, highlights this further, but can also pose questions about the benefits and/or drawbacks of keeping animals in captivity. Archaeology displays may bring to life histories passed, but latent information is sometimes destroyed in excavation – should we be preserving historical sites, or investigating them?
This is just a snapshot of what a museum collection can add to a controversial topic and I anticipate I will find even more. But the thing I’m looking forward to the most is discovering interesting ways of drawing students into these types of discussions whilst on a visit.
On Monday April 30th, Irit Narkiss (The Museum’s Conservator, Objects and Access) and I joined a group of 50 participants to deliver a paper discussing why objects in museums should be made more accessible to primary children.
Held at University College London’s Institute of Archaeology, conservators from around the country listened to our case study that argued for the better sharing of the ‘real’ conservation work done in museums. Working in partnership (Learning and Conservation teams) we showed how primary children can gain valuable insights into the working processes of a museum, which can then be used to effectively develop historical skills.
Using material collected in journals from the children involved in ‘The Museum of Me’ project we argued the case for more conservators to take on board their critical role in making objects more accessible. The work at the seminars will be used to develop further research by the Science and Heritage Programme.
Amanda and I attended the national conference on Play at at Eureka on Jan 14th.There were some interesting keynote speakers from Leeds Met including Pat Broadhead who has the fabulous position of Professor of Playful Learning!
The very strong message was that play is important for children of all ages and that it should underpin all areas of learning. At Leeds Met Pat is involved with early years settings in developing play opportunities and mapping learning outcomes to help build the case for more play based learning activities.
The afternoon workshop sessions included one delivered by Mike Wragg, senior Lecturer in Play at Leeds Met where we were (safely) given the opportunity to literally play with fire! In groups we used chicken wire and a variety of materials to create a ‘picture’ which we then squirted with paraffin and set on fire! Not something you do every day and certainly not something young children would encounter.
A really worthwhile day which has inspired me to look more into the research about play / national play strategy and use it in my own practice. We definitely all need mor e play time!