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.

Pictures

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Come to the Museum to be Rainforest Investigators!

Today we officially launch our exciting new ‘Rainforest Investigators’ session here at the Manchester Museum. This a brand new environmental education session based on the differing rainforest habitats and developed for Key Stage 2 pupils, which is for upper primary/age 7-11 year olds. It links strongly to National Curriculum Year 4 Science ‘Living things and […]

via Rainforest Investigators — FROG BLOG MANCHESTER

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.

‘Extinction or Survival?’ – new video resource for schools

We have a new and exciting resource to share with you today, created by 60 Year 3 children from Crab Lane Community Primary School in Crumpsall.

This short video is designed to be used inside the  fabulous ‘Extinction or Survival?’ exhibition, at Manchester Museum until 20 April 2017.

The exhibition contains some difficult stories about the many species that are no longer with us, from the dodo to the Tasmanian tiger. But it also tells a story of hope: what can we do to help endangered species?

It will be of special interest to KS2 teachers who are working on ‘Living Things and their Habitats’.

To use the video, we recommend bringing tablets to the Museum and sharing them between small groups of children with an adult. You can load the video via this page, and pause it each time you see the name of a species to allow you time to find it in the exhibition. You can also pause at the ‘Over to you’ questions, as a chance to get the children thinking more deeply about the exhibition’s themes. The video can also be used outside the Museum if needed.

The children of Crab Lane would love to know what you think of their video! Let us know  by adding a comment below.

If you would like to visit ‘Extinction or Survival?’ you can do so for free, but please let us know you are coming by completing the booking enquiry form on our website. This helps ensure a great experience for you and for the other schools visiting our (very busy!) museum that day. You might also want to consider our popular KS2 session ‘Habitats and You’.

The story behind the video …

Every year, Kids in Museums ‘Takeover Day’ invites children into meaningful roles in museums and galleries. As our ‘Extinction or Survival?’ exhibition was due to open in September 2016, we thought it would be great if some children could create a really useful resource for other schools visiting the exhibition.

Using  contacts through the wonderful Schools Network Choir, we found two Year 3 teachers from Crab Lane who were really excited to do something a bit different with their classes that term.

We met up and planned an amazing series of activities for the kids: first, both classes came separately to visit the museum, to research the exhibition and to learn what makes a great tour. We all practised saying in big loud voices, “WELCOME TO MANCHESTER MUSEUM!!!”

Then, back in school, the children worked in small groups with their teachers to devise their own tours. This means that the tours are all the children’s own words – amazing.

In the meantime, staff at the Museum were busy arranging loads of great activities for Takeover Day itself. Almost every department was involved, from conservation and collections to marketing, volunteers and even the Vivarium team!

368c259d-4466-4d5e-ad31-f54c4674b335On 18 November – a cold and snowy day – all 60 kids descended on the Museum for a pretty full-on day! All the children gave their tours LIVE for members of the  public. This was incredibly brave but they had lovely clear voices and even took questions from the audience! They were also total pros being filmed by Steve from the Museum.

As well as their tours, the kids made a giant rainforest collage, helped clean objects in the conservation studios, went behind the scenes in the Entomology stores, and welcomed visitors.

At the very end of the day, all the children said they would love to work in a museum when they grow up. We can’t wait!

Manchester Museum would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all the children, teachers and other staff involved in making the project such a success. We hope you enjoy their video!

Using Collections to Write Poems: a Museum Staff Workshop by Helen Clare

Our Poet-in-Residence, Helen Clare, invited Museum staff to engage in a workshop to help them to create their own poem.  She shared with us the techniques she has used in creating her own poetry, which included the creation of ‘poemlets’ that we blogged about earlier this year. The activity also demonstrates that these techniques can be shared with visitors to facilitate using the collection as inspiration for creative writing.

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Helen on Manchester Gallery sharing her poem writing techniques with staff

Using this poemlet technique as a starting point staff were asked to find 3 or 4 objects that inspired them on from our Manchester Gallery and then use a line from their resulting poemlets to develop a longer rhyming poem. In the spirit of sharing, here’s three of my poemlets and the resulting poem I developed using various lines from each.

Once upon a time in Manchester,
Sharp and clean but only now;
A giant cat sauntered here.  – Lion’s Tooth

Illegal, bad and guilty,
A thing of beauty: look at me!
Some things were not made for blood. – Dagger

Spices, smells, so many options built over time.
Fill me, use me, breathe in my tangy scent.
Cultures clashing: a pinch of spice for everyone. – Spice Rack

Poem: Culture Clash
Some things are not made for blood,
Sharp and clean, now used for good.
The owner, once a feared man, lost in history, all but gone.
Cultures clashing: a pinch of spice for everyone.

A thing of beauty: look at me.
Come slowly closer, what might you see?
A forgotten daughter, parents and abandoned son,
Cultures clashing: a pinch of spice for everyone.

I have to say, for a Monday morning activity I am surprisingly pleased with my effort given that we only had around 40 minutes to spend on our poems. The techniques are easy enough to suggest to visitors as an activity, and we got to hear some of Helen’s Museum-inspired poetry, which is always a treat.

It can be daunting [to write poetry] but actually it was quite inspiring. It was a safe environment and Helen was very encouraging. To start out the week creating something was lovely.” – feedback from staff member.

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Staff share some of their poemlets on Living Cultures

The instructions for the staff workshop can be found on Helen’s blog, but you don’t have to be a member of staff to have a go yourself. And if you can’t make it to the Museum, check out our Flickr account to see pictures of many of our objects and galleries for inspiration.

Feel free to share your work in our comments section below.


Helen will be showcasing her new schools workshop developed from this Arts Council funded project during the October Half Term.

Juice from Oranges, Rocks from Space
Wed 26 Oct
11.30am – 12.15pm & 1.30-2.15pm
A new poetry performance from Helen Clare, about exhibits from around the museum; where they came from and the journey they’ve made. There will be happy poems, sad poems, gory poems and fun poems – and opportunities for children to join in and create too.

Find out about the giant carved tusk, a moth, bloodworms, a man who was murdered and left to rot in a bog, a Greek God, Stan the T. Rex, and an ancient rock from out of space.

For children aged 8-12 and their parents/carers
Free, book on mcrmuseum.eventbrite.com or 0161 275 2648

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Creating a School-Museum Comic

During the end of the Summer Term we were delighted to work with Cedar Mount Academy on a HEFCE National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) Funded project. This funding allowed us to engage with a new, external partner to work with. We decided to embed the project within the Literacy framework by teaching pupils about story structure so we approached The Society of Authors Children and Illustrators Group who were able to recommend one of their amazing Writers and Illustrators: Shoo Rayner.

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Shoo Rayner sharing a story with Cedar Mount pupils

Shoo has written and illustrated hundreds of children’s books and when we told him that we wanted to create a collaborative pupil-led comic  strip he was more than up for the challenge. With Shoo on board we then organised a planning day with Cedar Mount Academy’s tutors to decide on how best to prepare the chosen pupils for their task.

It was important for us to try and find a technique of sharing the basics of story structure across multiple levels, as we wanted to involve a cross section of pupils from the whole of Year 7. This is because one of our legacy aims is to create a teacher resource to demonstrate how this approach could be utilised in the classroom, using museum collections as a prompt.

With 20 pupils identified we spent a day planning an action-packed visit to the Museum that would see them learn about story structure (using Romeo & Juliet and Harry Potter as examples), explore the collection, choose potential characters for their stories and, finally, work closely with Shoo to produce two short comic strip stories that he could then illustrate over the summer.

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Cedar Mount Academy pupils with Stan the T-Rex

The pupils visited the Museum on Friday 8th July and had a lot of fun coming up with a whole series of fantastic ideas for what our Museum specimens could get up to! To say they only spent four hours with us they were brilliantly creative and having Shoo facilitate their ideas in preparation to illustrate them was a great motivator. As a thank you for all their hard work each pupil was gifted a book to read over the summer to encourage them to read outside of school.

The final illustrated stories will be printed up and create a pocket-sized comic that we hope to share with other school children that visit the Museum in 2016. In September we’ll also be asking the pupils about the stories in the books they were gifted in the hopes that learning about story structure has given them a means to summarise stories and potentially given them a scaffold to create their own stories too.

Watch this space for our reveal of the final comic book!
In the meantime, have a look at this video from Shoo’s YouTube page to hear more about the project and see one of the stories he’s been working on…

 

Poet-in-Residence Guest Blog: Poemlets

Over 2016 we’ve been incredibly lucky to have Helen Clare as a Poet-in-Residence as part of the Learning and Engagement Team. Helen wanted to develop some learning experiences using poetry and was fortunate enough to receive funding from the Arts Council to work with us on developing this.

Helen has been recording her progress on her personal blog – so if you want to know more about the project do take a look.

In the meantime, here’s a short post Helen has written for us on how to create your own ‘poemlets’.

“Over the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time at the museum, writing children’s poems and learning materials as part of an Arts Council England funded project. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at things, visiting galleries and seeing those things I first missed and then looking again and again.

That opportunity to look again and again is both inspiring and dizzying, and it’s the basis of the the little writing exercise that I’m offering to the blog.

It involved ‘zooming in’ on just one object at once and asking it three questions.

  1. What do we say about the object?
  2. What does the object say about itself?
  3. What does it really mean?

Look at it really carefully and try and think about other senses as well – does it make a noise? What would it feel like if you could touch it?  Does it smell? If it moved how would it move? You might want to think about its history – and all the lives it’s been in contact with. You might also find that it has opinions quite similar to your own and that’s ok. But equally it might surprise you with what it has to say!

And that’s it. There’s no need to fancy it up. When the wind blows right it forms a perfect little poemlet all of it’s own – although you may also wish to use it as the basis of something more substantial.

Here’s an example:

I am alien. I am earth.
We are all spacedust.

Meteorite

Iron Core of Meteorite: Campo del Cielo (Field of Heaven) Argentina, 16th Century

You can see that I’ve used the first question as the title – and that the title is bigger than the poem! You could use that first question in the poem – or you could take it off altogether and make a riddle.

Look at my huge feet, how easily they carry my weight.
It was a long way. It has been a long time.

Can you guess what this is in the Museum?* I’ll put the answer at the bottom of the blog.

It’s fun to take pictures to accompany your poemlets as well.

This is my tree. I have not moved all week.
I am more threatened than threatening. Let me sleep.

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Green Tree Python

There are more of these poemlets on my personal blog at http://bucklesandbutterflies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/week-2.html

 You can tweet your poems and your photos and tag the museum @mcrmuseum, the learning team @learningMM or me @haclare.

Have fun!

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*Did you guess right? It’s Maharajah, the elephant skeleton from Manchester Gallery

 

Interpretation from Re-Creation: Clarendon Sixth Form Photography Display

We are proud to present our annual photography display from one of our partners – Clarendon Sixth Form – called “Interpretation from Re-Creation”.

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As usual, all of the students were given a tour of various sections of the Museum stores by our fabulous curators and had chance to explore the Museum’s galleries and find elements that sparked their interest. From there, they took their inspiration to develop a shot that would be developed in the dark room to produce a striking black and white image for display in the Museum.

Every year the students’ work never fails to impress; especially when they take one aspect of the Museum’s vast collection and communicate a statement about it in just one image. We certainly set them a challenging brief, but the students often react to it with considered thought and verve. What’s great about doing this project annually is that despite certain students identifying similar areas of the collection year after year their images are always unique and take a slightly different approach: demonstrating how imaginative and individual they all are as photographers.

Not only that, but the display also allows us to share with the public the work that we do with schools and colleges in the Learning Team. It’s a great example of a collaborative partnership that benefits the students’ skill development and provides a productive outcome for us to demonstrate how powerful the Museum’s collection can be.

You can view their pictures below, but it would be much better to see the exhibition for real. Why not come to the Museum over the next couple of weeks? The students’ work will be up in our Alhambra space (off the Link bridge on Floor 1) over the Easter holidays.

 

 

 

Placement Highlight: Georgia Sivri at Manchester Museum

Georgia with Maharajah

Georgia with Maharajah

In June we were delighted to welcome Georgia Sivri on a placement in our Learning team. Here’s her background and an overview of what she learned while she was here and the contributions she made to our programme.

I am currently completing my MA in Museum and Gallery Practice  in UCL Qatar. As part of my studies, in order to gain an insight into the developing and practical experience in the museum sector, I had to accomplish a one-moth placement in a cultural heritage institution, gallery or a museum.

Delightfully I received the news that for this task I was accepted in the Manchester Museum. I arrived in Manchester at the beginning of May and I spent the whole month working with Learning and Engagement Department. My mentor was Cat Lumb, Secondary and Post-16 Coordinator for Humanities. I received the warmest welcome and hospitality for the whole month. Cat with her knowledge, support, professionalism and guidance became an excellent example to adopt for my future professional career in the cultural heritage. Since my dissertation had the Manchester Museum as case study, from my personal research I had an idea about its historical importance, its significant and stunning collection and the pioneering learning practices they employ to empower public engagement.  However I was happily surprised that my already high expectations were only a part of the real value of this institution.

Droylsden Academy

On a session with Droylsden Academy as part of our Art of Identity Project

The Manchester Museum aims for dialogic engagement and audience participation, creating two-way communication to support a constructive learning experience. This is its primary learning principle. The learning practices that are used are personalized, enabling learners to make sense of the collection in the context of their own lives, providing the freedom to explore and make choices. Their educational workshops and activities are collaborative, letting the participants share a social experience. Furthermore, to support learning, they offer multisensory experiences involving history, philosophy, science and imagination transforming the learning process into a playful and meaningful experience for the visitors. To maximize inclusion, the Museum provides special adapted programmes for disabled people and autistic children. Overall, one notices that the Manchester Museum, by carrying out a variety of activities and workshops inspired by different learning practices, manages to be a museum accessible to everyone whatever their age, interests and diversity.

My tasks were to observe, learn and participate in extending the educational programmes that were already running to engage the public with the Museum’s collections. All the learning coordinators and facilitators warmly shared their knowledge and experience with me and I would love to thank each and everyone for their patience and generosity.

With Jack and our Outreach  Designer

With Jack and our Outreach Designer

Moreover, I had to research and assist in the design of a future outreach educational programme scenario for students from 7 to 11 years old on “Ancient Egypt”. The main goal of the project was to engage students with the museum’s collection of Egyptian artifacts by using theatrical practices and Applied Drama techniques, which were outside of the museum’s usual practices. The project will be used by schools at the beginning of September and will run on an annual basis.

I also developed timelines of the careers and lives of Margaret Murray, Jesse Howorth and Sir William Flinders, who are important historical personalities involved in the history of the Manchester Museum and Egyptology. Furthermore, I have made a comparative research for educators on the English and Scottish curriculum and developed a fact file for curators and educators to accompany the “Animal Mummies: Gifts for the Gods” forthcoming temporary exhibition. I designed a self-guided resource linked with Archaeology in relation to organic and inorganic chemistry for KS3  students following the Science curriculum. Lastly, I had the chance to reform a variety of museum’s online learning resources using WordPress.

Georgia and one of our outreach boxes

Georgia and one of our outreach boxes

My placement was a valuable opportunity to put the theory gained from the Master’s in Museum and Gallery Practice into practice. It was an experience that gave me the opportunity to be introduced to the structure and way of working of a cultural institution, such as the Museum. Moreover, a deeper understanding of the different roles and responsibilities of museum professionals helped me to orient my future career given my interests and qualifications. It was a great opportunity to develop a network with cultural heritage professionals, artists and scientists. The placement serves, as a soft passage from academia to the real professional world given the fact that it is carried out after all coursework is complete. I feel emotionally and practically prepared to confidently begin a career in the cultural field after exposure to a real working environment and having to develop human relationships.

Working along with museum professionals gave me the chance to experience teamwork and an example to develop a professional attitude. I expand knowledge, skills and interests and learned new subjects while developing my tasks. It was also a great chance to confront my weak points and try to correct them following the advice and guidance of my personal mentor in advance in order to be more efficient in their professional career in the future.

Notably, the placement allowed me to act as a helping hand and as a bridge between Qatar and Manchester. I was able to link knowledge gained during the MA in Ucl Qatar to activities in Manchester and act as a representative of Qatar whilst explaining and introducing colleagues to the nature of Qatar’s cultural heritage. Hopefully this placement laid the groundwork for potential future cooperation between cultural and education institutions across countries.

Georgia and some of our ancient Egypt outreach objects

Georgia and some of our ancient Egypt outreach objects

We’d like to thank Georgia for all her fantastic work during her time here: we really loved having you as part of the team! We wish her all the best in the future and are sure she’ll be a valuable addition to any cultural venue.