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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Journeys across the sea and beyond: talking about current issues at Manchester Museum

You might notice on your next visit to the Museum that we have some new additions to our displays.

Our curators are thinking a lot about contemporary collecting and how we as an organisation respond to current issues such as climate change and migration.

Some of our new installations might raise some complex feelings in some of your pupils, so we wanted you to be aware in advance of some of the things you may encounter on your visit and suggest how you might want to utilise these objects to start conversations with your pupils about the issues they highlight.

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Life jacket from Lesvos on display at Manchester Museum

Refugee’s lifejacket from Lesvos in the entrance of Manchester Museum

For example, a refugee’s lifejacket, from the Greek island of Lesvos,  has recently gone on display in the main entrance. As Bryan Sitch, a curator here, has said:

“Our mission is to promote understanding between different cultures and to work towards a more sustainable world … We hope that this work will help us to reach out to Syrian members of the community as well as other diaspora communities.”

Visitors can watch a video about how the life jacket was collected and engage in discussion about it on Twitter via  .

We are aware that some of the stories and images linked to this object (though not displayed with it) could be upsetting for some children. However, Amnesty International have some excellent expert guidance on how to discuss these issues with older children, which you may want to introduce before a visit to the Museum.

Child migrant stories, a resource about the experiences of child migrants today and in the past, may also be useful.

We believe that the object on its own should not be upsetting unless a child has a particular related personal experience.

‘Nu Shabtis’ Journeys

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Examples of Zahed Taj-Eddin’s ‘Nu Shabtis’ outside Manchester Museum

From the end of March, our Graeco-Roman Egyptian Portraits and Egyptian Worlds galleries will be temporarily home instead to an installation by a Syrian-born artist,  Zahed Taj-Eddin.

Zahed’s ‘Nu Shabtis’ are inspired by the common Egyptian tomb item, the shabti (sometimes known as ushabtis). Classes who take part in our Egyptian Worlds workshop will encounter real shabtis close up: they are the servants of the afterlife, placed in tombs to work for the deceased.

But Zahed’s ‘Nu Shabtis’ are new works of art made of beautiful bright blue faience. Part of the installation sees the Nu Shabtis suspended from the Egyptian Worlds gallery ceiling. The work reflects on the experience of migrants travelling across the Mediterranean towards a new life, much as the ancient Egyptians believed their shabtis would have travelled over to the afterlife.

They present an accessible way to help children think about human stories of journeys. What makes us leave a place? What makes us stay? What do we believe about our future? What do we believe about life after death? Again, the resources from Amnesty International might help you explore this with your pupils.

Seeing the works as artefacts and as works of art, you could look at similarities and differences between the ancient shabtis and Nu Shabtis. How do we know which are ancient and which are modern? Why would an artist be inspired by the ancient? What was Zahed’s purpose in drawing parallels between old and new objects and stories? Are the pupils inspired by anything in the Museum to create their own works of art?

Please note that the Nu Shabti installation will mean that our Graeco-Roman Mummies and Portraits will not be on display until July.

We would love to hear your stories of how you have used either of these installations with your classes and how they responded to them. 

If you have any questions or concerns about these displays, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us:

Amy McDowall – Primary Learning Coordinator

Cat Lumb – Secondary and Post-16 Arts & Humanities Coordinator

 

 

Raising Aspirations: Exploring Ancient Egyptian Art

img_5110I was recently contacted by a teacher from Tameside College’s  Aspirations Department (I love that there is such a department exists!) who teaches  a group of young people with learning disabilities (aged 16-20) on an Entry level 2 study programme.  They have been studying a BTEC unit titled Exploring Art,  where they had to plan and produce a piece of art within 15 weeks.

“In order to get some ideas and inspiration we visited Manchester Museum and as a result of that the learners chose Ancient Egypt as their theme. After viewing what the Museum had on display the students came up with some marvellous ideas.  Each learner made a mood board displaying their idea and the tools and equipment they planned on using to create their piece of art work and finally creating their own piece: the results were fantastic.”

Their teacher was really pleased to be able to share these images of the process and final outcomes for the BTEC unit and some comments from the learners who took part.

This is a wonderful example of the achievements that can come from an inspirational Museum visit. The learners should be very proud of their work and we’d be happy to have them revisit the Museum at any time!

Learner Comments from Aspirations, Tameside College

“We chose to make Egyptian masks that showed the make up the ladies wore in Ancient Egypt.  We were inspired by visiting the museum and by taking photographs of the hieroglyphics and we copied the colours and designs.”

“The museum had lots of interesting artefacts which gave me the idea of making a special display.  I made a pyramid, tomb design, and an oasis mirage.   I also wrote my name in hieroglyphics.  My visit to the museum inspired me to design my mood board and create my display.  I love Art and History.”

“When we first arrived at the Manchester Museum, it looked so beautiful that I feel like we should go there again. I enjoyed looking at the dinosaurs, but my favourite was the largest one (The Tyrannosaurus-rex). The other animals looked nice as well. Another thing that inspired me is that the museum tells you exactly what happened all those years ago. I also finished my mood board by finding the correct category for me. The pictures were fantastic and I loved looking at them. The museum had a big giant snake which I was standing behind when I had a picture took. I liked all the Egyptian models as well. I would love to see them all again. It looked absolutely perfect for a full day trip. And that is how Manchester Museum inspired me to work on and complete my artwork.”

“I found the visit to the museum fascinating and interesting because I learnt a lot about Ancient Egypt and Tutankhamun tomb. I was surprised to find out he was only 19 years old when he died in 1324, two years older than me. When I saw the pottery artefacts that  were found and displayed in the museum it inspired me to make my own display”

“When I visited the museum I had a really good time. I enjoyed looking at all the artefacts and I was inspired to design Egyptian clothes. The ancient Egypt exhibition was fun and enjoyable. I would really like to do it again.”

After the Bees: Post-apocolyptic Games Design

We were really proud to work with Preston College again this year, with further development on the brief for the BTEC Level 3 Games Development module. Their tutor, Chris, worked up this fantastic scenario for them (see below) and all the students visited the Museum in November to gather research and preliminary sketches.

Project Brief
A games developer has an idea for a post-apocalyptic game, set 100 years in the future – taking cues from games such as ‘The Last of Us’. The developer is working from a story based around the global extinction of bees and the hugely negative impact this could have on humanity.

Students are required to come up with three designs, which explore different story possibilities:

1) Design for an autonomous machine that pollinates flowers, taking over the job that the bees previously had
Image to be produced as a digital Photoshop painting.

2) Costume/character design – another direction the story may take is that the extinct bee population will be replaced with a much more aggressive species that can withstand mites and changes in climate. Unfortunately, they also kill indiscriminately to claim more territory and multiply at an alarming rate. As the governments are reeling from the financial meltdown caused by the collapse of the farming industry, only the very rich and privileged can afford protection from these killers. You must produce a costume/suit that keeps the bees from doing harm to the wearer, but also acts as a desirable status symbol.
Image to be produced in pen and ink.

3) Design for shady black-market area – As plants and crops cannot be pollinated, many ‘luxuries’ are now a rarity. The developer would like to see an illegal market, with store people selling coffee and fruit, amongst the poor surroundings.
Image to be produced in Pencil/charcoal, with emphasis on atmosphere.

The students had two months to develop their Project pieces and then, on 23rd January they returned to the Museum to present their final work. Listening to their presentations were Megan Powell – Artist behind Manchester Museum’s After the Bees exhibition; Cat Lumb – Secondary and Post-16 Humanities & Arts Co-ordinator; Leila Nicholson – bee expert from Manchester Metropolitan Univeristy; and Eve Bokor – a placement student with the Learning Team from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Here’s what Megan had to say about the students’ work:

“The students from Preston College presented an impressive project about bees, each created a world that was both imaginative and practically considered. It was evident that each student had extensively researched the bees and I was particularly inspired by the highly creative ‘pollinating machine’ designs.”

We were all really impressed by the thought that went into the game elements and how confidently the students presented their ideas on the day. It was fantastic to see the brief come to life in their work and every student demonstrated a creative angle of their own.

Take a look at the work they produced below:

Pollination Machines

 

Costume/Character Design

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Black Market Area

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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Great Science Share for European City of Science

Posted on behalf of The Great Science Share Team:

ECS16_1200x627_10Great Science Share Takeover

Wednesday 6th July, 18.00 – 20.00 at the Museum of Science and Industry

Young people from secondary schools and colleges are invited to take over the Museum of Science & Industry for a unique evening as part of the Great Science Share. Students will host a science stall and share their STEM activities and experiments to the whole city in an inspirational environment. If you would like your school to be a part of this, please register here to express your interest in hosting a stall and see full details of how to apply.

Your students can be as imaginative and creative as they like with their activities for the Great Science Share. They may want to showcase exciting experiments, a project or competition entry they’ve been working on in school or some new technology they have created.

Closing date for applications is extended to the 30th June.

If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to get in touch info@manchestersciencecity.com.

With best wishes

The Great Science Share Team

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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.

 

 

 

Museum-inspired computer game characters

Before the festive break, we were delighted to support a Games Development project called ‘Chimera’, undertaken by first year Level 3 BTEC students at Preston’s College. Their brief called for a creature to be designed for use in a video game. The creature needed to have some biological basis in reality to create the illusion of something both familiar and at the same time, completely unique.

To help their design process the students visited Manchester Museum and spent the day sketching, collecting reference photography and taking part in an artist-led session using Museum specimens.

After a lot of development work back at college, the students came back to the Museum and presented their final designs to Museum staff to gain feedback. It was fascinating hearing how the designs had been created and how the visit to the Museum had inspired the students.

The project in conjunction with Manchester Museum was extremely valuable for our students. We were given access to the wide array of exhibitions on offer, had help from experts in their respective fields and we finalised our project by having our students present their work in front of a panel at the Museum. The experience has helped contextualise our students’ learning and we received constructive and supportive feedback from museum staff. The students enjoyed the challenge of the project and our staff were very grateful for such professionalism and enthusiasm from the museum staff.” – Graphics Tutor

Here are their design results:

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Science-related residential summer school opportunity for AS students

Green_Vs_Polluted_CityInterested in how we can create a more sustainable future? Brilliant chance for AS level students to be part of our first ever residential Sustainability Summer School here at Manchester Museum. Bringing objects, technology and innovation together. Supported by the NWBLT, as part of our Lever Prize 2015 year. Find more info and how to apply here.

Conceptio: Tameside College Photography Exhibition

Each year we are lucky enough to work with a fantastic set of photography students from Tameside College. We set them a brief – to use the Museum collection as inspiration for an image to be produced in the darkroom – and every year the cohort deliver us some brilliantly thought-provoking photography that we display in the Museum.

The work from this year has just gone on display on our First Floor Bridge and is looking particularly professional. It will remain on display until the 20th April, so if you can I would recommend popping by to take a look: there’s nothing like viewing the images up close to see the details.

However, if you can’t make it here are some pictures (click to enlarge); Enjoy!