At Face Value: Manchester Museum, Common Cause Foundation and TeachFirst

Guest blog by Eleanor Ridley, TeachFirst Ambassador and Teacher at The Willows Primary School. 

When I originally saw that there was an opportunity via TeachFirst Summer Projects to work with the Manchester Museum, I sent my application in roughly as fast as a lightning strike. The main purpose of my time here has been to work with Secondary and Post-16 Coordinator, Cat Lumb, and Common Cause Coordinator, Shanna Lennon to investigate what type of values are communicated on the Manchester Museum’s pages about learning as part of the Museum’s work with Common Cause Foundation.

What is Common Cause Foundation?

Common Cause Foundation is an organisation which studies cultural values and explores how we can understand these in order to help us respond to current social and environmental challenges. One of the main findings is that 74% of people place more importance on compassionate values than on selfish values. However, 77% of the people interviewed believe that other people hold selfish values to be more important. Essentially, we have a gap between what we actually value, and what we believe about what people value, and it makes the world a lonelier place, where people are less likely to feel connected to their local and global community. The questions for major social institutions are: How are we going to communicate our values to help reduce this gap? And what are our values in the first place?

The Values of the Learning Team

At the beginning of the project, Cat sent me to go and find out what the values of the Learning Team were to see whether everyone was on the same page or not. The result was that yes, the Learning Team really do have shared values and a shared vision, and a shared understanding of the value of learning at Manchester Museum. The team members separately proclaimed the following  unanimous beliefs, in roughly the same order, every time.

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Some word art displaying the core values of the Learning Team when interviewed

1. The value of curiosity and self-directed learning and getting the chance to explore for yourself.

2. The authentic experience of being in a museum and handling real objects from the museum collections.

3. The importance of access to this cultural capital for students from all backgrounds and all abilities to the collections.

4. The museum as somewhere which can inspire aspirations, enabling students to see personal possibilities and their potential for the future.

Through every meeting and discussion that I witnessed, these values have been transparent. It is very obvious, even in two weeks, that the people working in the Learning Team care deeply and consistently about reaching out to a wide demographic (literally taking the museum to the people if the people can’t make it to the museum). It is also clear that they have a profound belief in the value of the experiences that they can offer through Manchester Museum collections, educationally and emotionally. Communicating these values will be the icing on the cake.

Education and Museums

Those working in education know the huge challenges that are to be faced in fighting educational inequality, which can be hugely daunting. As the Common Cause Foundation research shows, the feeling that benevolence is not widespread can lead to a feeling of apathy and helplessness. Organisations such as TeachFirst and Manchester Museum have tremendous power in communicating common goals and helping spread the message that students should get access to rich educational experiences, regardless of their socio-economic background, and inspiring more people to join the conversation.

This project has been an inspiring and heartening insight into the hearts and minds behind the educational programmes at Manchester Museum, and I wish the team the best of luck in continuing to promote their message.

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Early Years & Childhood Studies Placement

In January we were pleased to welcome a placement from Manchester Metropolitan University to work with us over the course of three weeks. Eve got a chance to see a selection of the learning offer by observing a variety of workshops and work alongside those in the Learning Team. At the end of the placement Eve was kind enough to write a post for us, and here it is:

My name is Eve Bokor and I am an Early Years and Childhood Studies student at Manchester Metropolitan University. Working at Manchester Museum has been simply a pleasure. I have worked with the Early Years, Primary and Secondary school team on a variety of workshops that have been excellent to observe, engage and even learn myself. Any school that has experienced having a workshop at the museum is lucky. The school workshops include a large variety of topics, examples of the ones I saw were ancient Egypt, Stone Age, ancient History, Animal Explorers and Baby Explorers. These workshops aid children to explore the different topics in a create informal manner. A common theme I observed in the workshops were all children were well behaved, curious and eager to provide the knowledge they have or give suggestions to what they think. All the staff that worked with the children were friendly and enthusiastic, offering support and expert knowledge for the children. What I particularly admire is the level of involvement the children have in workshops which includes being about to handle the artefacts (which is there is quite a selection of them).

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Eve’s favourite gallery was the Vivarium

I worked there for three weeks,and  in that time I have seen a fair amount of the artefacts in the Museum, but I know there is so much more to see: Endless information about the vast number of topics. Another part of the Museum that I admire is the environmentally friendly example it sets for the citizens of Manchester. Offering information about current issues that are endangering the living species and the environment we live in. There is practical advice on how an individual can help which I think is vital in the current climate. Overall this Museum is a spectacular place for all ages and abilities, because it is a well of knowledge that feeds the population of Manchester.

South Asia TeachMeet – what we learnt

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On 7 December, we hosted our first South Asia-themed TeachMeet event, launching our future work on the South Asia gallery as part of the HLF Courtyard Project.

It was a fabulous evening with some amazing speakers, experts and creative practitioners sharing ideas and inspiration for teachers from across Greater Manchester. The teachers attending had some really great insights into what they would find valuable in a future learning programme linked to the new gallery, quote of the night being “It’s about time Manchester had a South Asia gallery!”

Below is a flavour of what we all learnt about … in alphabetical order by school/organisation (where applicable) for ease!

If you are a primary or early years teacher, and have not already completed our survey about our future programme, we’d be very grateful if you could do so here.

Anjum Anwar MBE

Anjum is an educator who has worked for many years in the fields of interfaith understanding for both the Lancashire Council of Mosques and Blackburn Cathedral. She presented a passionate argument for schools to not shy away from these difficult conversations. Website coming soon.

Bhangracise

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Our night finished with Bhangracise! Bhangracise have been teaching, performing and advancing the art form of Bhangra dancing for over 12 years. They provide performances, fitness classes and school workshops across the UK. Find them on Twitter @Bhangracise.

Blackburn Museum

Stephen Irwin from Blackburn Museum spoke about his fantastic film project  about the contribution of Indian soldiers in WW2. “We Also Served” records the journey of a group of young people from Blackburn in trying to uncover the forgotten story of the Indian Army. More information about Blackburn Museum, and contact details for Steve, can be found here.

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British Council

The British Council attended to share information with teachers about their ‘Connecting Classrooms’ programme: “Connecting Classrooms is a fully funded learning journey that includes face-to-face and online courses, international professional partnerships and visit funding opportunities based around the core skills.” See their poster, flyer and website for more information.

Chorlton High School

Chorlton High School is a Heritage School. Natalie Sanderson, Assistant Curriculum Leader at CHS, has spearheaded a fantastic project – ‘My Mancunium’ with their Year 7s, examining the many diffrent communities who have migrated to Manchester from Roman times onwards. The project is cross-curricular and enables pupils from this multicultural school to understand the push/pull factors in migration and feel pride in their city. Contact Natalie on twitter @historicalsando.

Computeam

Computeam create incredible virtual and augmented reality resources for schools and were speaking to teachers about how the Indus Valley might be incorporated into their amazing Active Worksheets series. See them on Twitter @computeam.

Equilibrium Dance Arts

Equilibrium Dance and Arts is a social enterprise whose objective is to integrate dance, arts, mental health & well-being and research. Gaya from EDA joined us from Dubai via Skype to share her PHD research on dance in education, and teach us a few moves! You can contact Gaya via Facebook  and Twitter.

Kingsway Community Trust

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Rumana Asif and the Kingsway Community Trust were presented at the TeachMeet with a first-of-its-kind award from the British Council for ‘outstanding development of the international dimension in the curriculum’. Amazing! They incorporate the British Council’s connecting classrooms in all areas of school life at every age.

Manchester Road Primary Academy

Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Year 1 teacher Anthony Parker is piloting a new cross-curricular topic with his class on India. They will cover geography and history, a ‘significant individual’ and even cricket in PE! In the future he will be able to bring his class to the Museum to see real artefacts from Indian history. Contact him on twitter @Anthillel.

Rubbia Ullah

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Rubbia is an experienced art practitioner in museum, gallery, heritage and other settings. Her art is often inspired by South Asian techniques and practices. At the TeachMeet she shared with us techniques of basket weaving, printing and making clay pots.

Southern Voices

Southern Voices is a network of people committed to bringing the knowledge and understanding of Southern* and Black* people to the global issues that are central to education and to living in the world today. Kirit presented information about their fascinating HLF project about the impact of WW1 on colonised peoples. Southern Voices can offer ‘free’ sessions on this for schools by experienced practitioners. Email Kirit for more details.

St Marys RC Primary

The Indus Valley Civilisation – a bronze age civilisation in what is now Pakistan – is an often-overlooked alternative to ancient Egypt in the KS2 curriculum. Mark Chadwick teaches this as a fascinating (and messy!) contrast to both Egypt and prehistoric Britain to his Year 3 class.

The University of Manchester School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Dr John Zavos and Dr Jacqueline Suthren Hirst are experts in South Asian history and religions, especially Hinduism. The TAROSA website is an excellent resource for challenging popular notions of Hinduism with older students, and the Museum of the South Asian Diaspora could support a topic on migration.

The University of Manchester School of Sociology

Professor Claire Alexander has received a University of Manchester award for ‘Outstanding benefit to society through research’. She spoke about the fantastic projects that won her this award: Banglastories, Making Histories and Our Migration Story. These are great resources and also give guidelines for teachers wanting their pupils to become oral historians.

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Babies explore the Coral exhibition at Manchester museum

Our first Baby Explorer sessions of   2014 (Tuesday 7 Jan) took place in our beautiful temporary exhibition Coral  – something rich and strange designed by Ben Kelly ( Hacienda) and featuring a diverse range of exhibits, including,  18th c sea anemones , a Rossetti painting and new works by artists Mark Dion and Karen Kasper.

The space wasn’t designed for under 5’s but our baby Explorer ‘Under the Sea’ story was perfectly themed for the space and we took advantage of the nooks and crannies around the central exhibition space to build islands of sensory play for babies and parents to explore.

We shared the gallery space with our general visitors, informing them of what was taking place  as they entered the space (16 babies and ‘strange’ looking resources on the floor!) and assuring them that the space was still open and that they were welcome to join us. We have found that on the whole our general visitors are delighted to see young children in the museum.

We have used our Nature Discovery gallery as a base to develop our Baby Explorer programme, but as we have grown in confidence as practitioners our aim is to support parents into the main spaces of the museum and to encourage them to visit at other times outside of the sessions, especially if our babies have siblings.

During the summer we held some of our sessions in our temporary exhibition, ‘Trees’ and we have developed a set of Baby Explorer sacks linked to our Ancient Worlds themed session which we use  to support parents  to explore the gallery spaces. Being out and about in different museum spaces is also a great way to raise the profile of the early years work within the museum itself.

We asked parents and carers for feedback from the session in the Coral exhibition, which was really positive and here are some of their comments;

‘Had a brilliant time at first session today. Really enjoyed being in the gallery – something for adults to see as well’.

‘The raised exhibition provided an interesting space to explore. Lots of interesting corners.’

Babies  will be exploring  the Coral exhibition again on Tuesday 21 January.

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Early years Frog Explorer sessions – Free!

We are offering 4 interactive Frog Explorer sessions to nursery and reception classes ( Max 15 children )to celebrate the reopening of our Vivarium.
They will include story telling, a visit to our new vivarium and an opportunity to meet some of our live frogs!
Have a look at our Frog blog for all the latest news as we count down to the Vivarium opening.

Dates and times are:

Fri 15 Nov, Fri 22 Nov, Fri 29 Nov, Fri 6 Dec 2013
10.30-11.45

We look forward to welcoming you to the museum.

Please contact Elaine Bates (Early Years Coordinator) to book your session
E Mail: elaine.bates @manchester.ac.uk
Tel: 0161 306 1777

New school year – thinking about a trip?

Somewhat unbelievably (at least we think so – the year is flying by!), it’s September and the start of another school year. We’ve been gearing up to the 2013-14 academic year with a refurbishment and refreshment of our school programme from Early Years to Post 16 and a new look to the Learning Pages on Manchester Museuslothm website: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/museum/learning . You’ll still find many of the ever popular sessions like Egyptian Worlds (KS2), Dinosaur Detectives (KS2), Forensic Science: A Bog Body Mystery (KS3/4 Science) and Citizen of the City (KS3 Citizenship) but also a few new ones and some like Dinosaur Challenge for KS1 pupils that are coming soon.

Do take a look and let us know what you think. If you are starting your planning for the year ahead then take a look at the website and see what takes your fancy for you and your class. If you need more information on anything then either email us at school.bookings@manchester.ac.uk or give us a call on 0161 275 2630 – we start taking bookings on 5th September.

We’re really looking forward to a jam packed year of school visits (there’s nothing we like more) and to seeing many of you and your classes in the Museum. That’s the programme spruced up – now just the office to go!

A hard days work at the museum

Last week, we set about the task of interviewing candidates for the new Learning Programme Delivery posts at the Museum with the help of 15 Year 5 pupils from Birchfields Primary (I expect you will hear from Jack and Gareth in person when they start at the beginning of the new school year).

Object task sheet

 

Prior to the interview, candidates were informed that in addition to the formal interview, they would be given 5 minutes to introduce and use an object to engage a group of key stage 2 pupils. Each candidate was provided with an image of a different ancient Egyptian artefact, along with a very basic description and dimensions. The rest was left up to them!

 

Under the supervision of their teacher and Elaine (from the Learning Team), the class spent the day being entertained, informed, engaged and intrigued by the candidates. After each presentation, pupils examined each object in more detail, and wrote a museum label for it.

Small Bes amulet with some labels written by the group.

Small Bes amulet with some labels written by the group.

By the end of the day, not only had the class done a fantastic job of evaluating the presentations, but they had also worked really hard to create their own mini-museum display. A huge thank you to Birchfields Year 5 group for all of their input and enthusiasm!

Year 5 pupils standing in front of their mini-display of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Year 5 pupils standing in front of their mini-display of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

A visit to Baby Lab

What a great post on culturebabies.org about the Partnership on A visit to Baby Lab, where babies are the ideal visitor.

“Even though babies cannot tell us how they see things or what they are thinking, infant researchers have come up with ways of finding this out. If babies look at one thing more than another (‘preferential looking’) then we know that they must be able to tell the difference between these two things. If babies look at something new longer than something they have seen before (‘novelty preference’), then we know that they can tell the difference between the familiar and the new thing.”

To view the full article go here: http://culturebabies.org.uk/2013/06/21/a-visit-to-baby-lab/

Can Babies enjoy museums?

In the development of our sessions for babies in museums and galleries in Manchester, we were (quite rightly!) challenged by colleagues about the level of participation there would really be for babies. We were asked,
Aren’t the sessions really just for the benefit of parents?’
‘Can babies really enjoy museums?

I posed the question ‘Can babies really enjoy museums?’ to parents attending a Baby Explorer session at Manchester Museum and added, ‘How do you know? ‘
The question did take our parents by surprise! They couldn’t understand why anybody would doubt that their babies were enjoying and participating in the sessions, which for them as parents, was clearly evident.

The many fabulous images we have taken and the short films we have produced, do capture the engagement levels of babies in our sessions, but like anything else, this is far more powerful (and evident) if you experience it directly.
One of our members of staff, who was initially sceptical about the opportunities for babies to truly participate in the sessions, attended one of our baby explorer session and commented afterwards,

‘I think babies can enjoy museums because it’s a totally different environment from other surroundings and they interact with different things than they would usually….they focus on what is being shown them and seem enraptured by what is going on including the storytelling and singing.’

Here is a selection of the feedback we had from parents ……

· It’s helped her to notice things more in other places too. These sessions really help to develop her concentration. I notice when she misses a session.

· Fabulous sensory learning aimed at the age group appropriately. My baby LOVES this. He is active, wide eyed, bouncy and afterwards he sleeps! Thank you.

· Development of motor skills by holding and touching objects. Babies’ eyes lit up concentrating for lengths of time. Staying quiet during singing (attention and listening).

· So many things to see and feel- nothing like home environment. I know how much he enjoys it because he cries when we leave!

Lets keep developing the practice and collecting the evidence of impact, to make the case for more babies in and museums and galleries nationally.

Elaine Bates, Early years coordinator, Manchester Museum
www.culturebabies.org.uk

Freelance work opportunity – Magic Carpet

Hi Everyone,

An exciting freelance opportunity has arisen at Manchester Museum to develop and facilitMagic Carpet 7ate part of the Museum’s ‘Magic Carpet’ programme for under 5’s and their parents and carers. A total of six themed and resourced sessions will be developed and delivered twice throughout the year. We are looking to recruit a group of practitioners who will be asked to develop up to a minimum of two sessions each and deliver each session twice in the first year (July 2013 – June 2014).

We are looking for creative practitioners who have experience of delivering engagement programmes for children aged 0-5 years and their families in a museum, gallery or cultural venue and who have specialist practice in drama/storytelling, art practice, music, singing or dance and movement.

Please see this document Freelance Opportunity Magic Carpet for further details and how to make expressions of interest by 20th May, 5pm. Looking forward to hearing from you!