During November last year myself and Anna Bunney (Curator of Public Programmes) began a short collaboration project between The Manchester Museum and a local ‘dads group’ based at Hulme Library. One of the core objectives of the project was to engage with a very specific target audience of dads including single dads, dads who may not live in the same house as their children or working dads who only spend time with their children at the weekends.
Running alongside The Museum’s Darwin Extravaganza, the ‘Darwin and Dads’ project began with an initial outreach visit to introduce ourselves and say hello to the group as well as to show off some of the objects from our collections (in this instance a wild rabbit and hedgehog). Although slightly reserved at first, the children did begin to engage with the objects and ask questions about where they came from and whether they were alive or not. The dads were also very enthusiastic and not only joined in themselves but through our support also encouraged the children to touch the objects and think about how they felt, the sounds they made and their habitats.
The group which meets on the first Saturday of the month, then arranged to attend the museum as part of our Big Saturday event in December – Polar Bear Day. Upon arrival the group was greeted by myself and Anna and taken on a brief tour of the museum before other members of the public arrived. We then went through all the activities that were available throughout the day and encouraged the group to go off and explore.
In order to support the individual dads/parents I provided them with ‘adult prompt cards’ which included key questions, key vocabulary and a few simple activities designed to encourage them to communicate and interact with their children and the collections. Once they had taken part in the organised activities and had spent some time exploring the galleries independently, the group came together in the discovery centre to do a quick story and ‘songs and rhyme time’ which was led by the groups normal session facilitator. It was lovely to see the group feeling relaxed and comfortable enough to sit down on the floor with their children whilst surrounded by other members of the public and sing songs and rhymes, using puppets and instruments and most importantly making a good old racket! This was obviously a lot of fun so it wasn’t long before other members of the public and their children joined in too.
Due to the success of the visit and the positive feedback that the group offered we have since approached them about the possibility of extending the project and working in consultation with them on developing some ‘family backpack resources’ which could be used to support family visits on the various galleries in the museum. We are now due to meet with the group again in February to conduct a short consultation meeting regarding the type of resources they would find useful when visiting the museum on their own, any difficulties that they experienced on the last visit and suggestions on how we can make the collections more accessible to them in general. So far the project has proved to be great a success and has allowed for a high level of learning and development for all those involved. The dads and children appear to be benefiting from working alongside us and are having fun whilst gaining confidence in a new setting. We are now very excited to see where the next phase of this project will take us – so watch this space as I will keep you updated!!!
For more information about the Darwin and Dads project, please contact Salmah on 0161 306 1603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.