Working Scientifically at the Museum

You might have seen our post in May about ‘Inside Out’ – a project with primary schools last year that had children discovering for themselves how the real-life setting of the museum works in a scientific way. They checked pest traps, created an ethical experiment with tadpoles, curated some ancient Chinese objects….and much more!

The children worked really hard to develop their findings into five fantastic films that were premiered at the Great Science Share flagship event in June, as well as events in schools to share with family and friends. We’re delighted to say that these videos are now live and ready for children all over the world to learn from.

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The videos could be used as an introduction to a science-focused visit to the museum, as part of a discussion about scientific careers, or as an introduction to real-life working scientifically.

They touch on collections care, entomology (bugs!), herpetology (amphibians and reptiles), Egyptology, archaeology, palaeontology, and more. All five areas of working scientifically are featured: Identifying, classifying and grouping; observing over time; research using secondary sources; comparative and fair testing; and pattern-seeking.

We absolutely loved working with the 5 schools, 10 teachers and 150 children who took part in this project, and we hope they had fun too!

“[The project] has been massive for boosting my pupil’s confidence in science.” (project teacher)

“Nearly every child said their highlight for the year was visiting Manchester Museum.” (project teacher)

For future opportunities like this for your pupils, please sign up to the Primary & Early Years E-newsletter. With many thanks to the University of Manchester’s Faculty of Science and Engineering for the Widening Participation funding that made this project possible, and our fantastic partners in SEERIH. We hope you enjoy the films!

‘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!

Guest Post: An Interesting Week at Manchester Museum

A guest post, written by Candice Kossowska who spent a week working on gallery resources for the primary learning team. Many thanks to Candice for all of her hard work, and keep an eye out for her resources, which will be available on the website very soon…

New Picture (24)1I am just embarking on my final year of the Primary Education Degree course, at Edge Hill University. I have spent a lot of time in primary schools, but I really wanted to experience how different learning can be, in an alternative educational setting. Manchester Museum certainly was different to my previous experiences!

The teaching team at the museum offer so many opportunities for children to engage with, by actually being able to explore and even touch real artefacts. I was able to observe many sessions, which included the Egyptian Worlds session – where children find out about the museum’s mummified Egyptian Chantress, Asru. The Dinosaur Detectives session, in which children use their knowledge of carnivores and herbivores, to solve a dinosaur murder mystery. The Dig Stories archaeology session, in which pupils use tools to excavate real archaeological finds! I was also able to experience how younger children including babies, can learn from and engage with the museum, during the fantastic Magic Carpet sessions – during which the team work so hard to captivate young minds!

While at the museum I was given my very own task – something I felt privileged to be asked to do – to plan some self-guided tour sessions using my own ideas! Of course you would think this would be an easy task, as there are so many amazing exhibits. However, because there are so many it’s hard to decide which ones to include within a session, for primary aged children.New Picture (26)

Therefore I explored all the galleries in the museum and read the background stories for many exhibits. I selected a number of exhibits and was able to create three educational gallery tours, which tie in nicely with the new National Curriculum. After much thought, I planned a number of different resources.

One resource uses the Living Cultures and Living Worlds galleries to give children the opportunity to find out about different cultural symbols, and how different cultures attach particular meanings to different animals. Another of my gallery tours will enable children in Key Stage 1 and 2 to find out about the environmental challenges that face some of our most endangered species – and even write their own lonely hearts column for an endangered animal.

New Picture (23)In the Natures Library exhibition, children will be introduced to the unusual collecting habits of the Victorians. Children will conjure up their own background story for a number of strange exhibits, including a Narwhal’s tusk, also known as the Unicorn Horn of Manchester Museum!


I enjoyed my week at the museum immensely. I have learned a great deal from exploring the different galleries and exhibits. I was able to ask lots of questions of the museum guides, and discovered interesting and sometimes almost unbelievable stories behind many exhibits!

Be a climate researcher – Citizen Science – Make a rain gauge!

Here at the Manchester Museum we absolutely love projects that get pupils involved in real life science that matters – they are, after all, the researchers of tomorrow.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

How much rain falls in Manchester?

So we were really pleased to get information on the ‘Crowdsourcing4Climate: Community Rainfalls Collections’ pilot project, which hopes to get the public and schools collecting rainfall data to add to the data we can use in all sorts of scientific research. It’s simple but could be a brilliant and effective school project and will support research at Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester Universities.

We’ve attached some information on how you can get involved and would love to see local schools contributing – so do take a look and let us know if you need any further information C4C_TeacherGuide-1.

Ancient Worlds Teacher Preview

With the opening of our new Ancient World Galleries the Museum’s Learning Team are pleased to announce that we will be hosting a Teacher Preview event to introduce teacher’s to our brand new galleries and associated learning programmes across the Key Stages.

This event will take place on Wednesday 14th November between 4.30 and 6.30pm. There will be a short introduction by our Learning Manager, followed by optional tours of the gallery spaces with our Curators. In addition our entire team will be present, allowing teachers to ask questions, learn about our new sessions and even register their interest in booking workshops on offer.


Our temporary exhibition, Breed:The British and their Dogs, will also be open and our Resources and Secondary workshop for this gallery will also be on show.

To book your space on the Preview Event email our bookings co-ordinator on or call 0161 3052630.

GCSE and A-Level Geology workshops

During the past few months, we have seen a surge of interest in our GCSE and A-Level Geology offer.  It is great to see students fascinated by our specimens and engaging with museum experts, such as our Curator of Earth Sciences David Gelsthorpe. We have a selection of different geology workshops that can be tailored to meet the needs of specific groups, from Understanding and Interpreting Fossils, Trilobites and Exceptional Preservation.  For the full menu of session available, please see our website.  Workshops can also be supplemented with wow-factor fossil session and gallery tours as required. 

We have welcomed Altrincham Boys Grammar School, Aquinas College and Balshaw High School to the museum over the past few months.  Below are a few pictures of the workshops in action.  If you would like to book any of our Geology workshops, please do get in touch.

Matthew Moss: What is Archaeology?

Recently, Bryan Sitch, our wonderful Curator of Archaeology visited Matthew Moss High School as part of an ‘Archaeology Day’ they had planned. He provided some of their Year 8 students with a talk on ‘What is Archaeology’ in order to inspire and inform them on this fascinating subject. He took along some basic finds from our collection and engaged the students in exploring what they thing archaeology is and how it is a destructive, but potentially very informative, process. According to the teachers, this really helped in increasing students’ understanding of the subject.

We;re really lucky that we have great curators who work with us in the Learning Team to make our programme successful and although we  don’t currently offer Outreach Curator talks on a regular basis, sometimes we can organise the occasional visit here and there on special request. If this is something you might be interested in, please contact me:

New term excitement

Image, heads down - planning how to display things in the museum

Pens, paper and lesson plans at the ready: the new school year is upon us! And how quickly the summer seems to have whizzed by. We’ve been busy here at The Museum reviewing our entire learning programme and working on new ideas to revamp some of the old favourites whilst also racking our brains for brand new workshop topics and activties. In addition we’re also immensely excited about the upcoming opening of the new Unearthed: Ancient Egypt temporary exhibition, which is going to be a fantastic interactive space encouraging visitors to explore Egyptology and Archaeology with our very own Dr. Digby (Terry Deary): What more could you ask for?

Our new programming is now up on the website, and we will be updating this throughout September with lots more information and resources for teachers as we build up to the opening of Unearthed at the end of the month. In the meantime why not see if you can bring our collection into your classroom via the Museum of Mystery?


Souvenirs for School groups…

Our commerical team have recently launched a combined Museum and Whitworth Gallery Shop Blog known as Culture Shop Manchester. The aim is to to provide a means for customers and visitors to find out what we have available in the forms of products and offers whilst giving the shops a living internet presence.

One of their first posts is about School Groups & Goodie Bags: so take a look if you want to know more and order some fantastic souvenirs for your students to remember their educational trip to the Museum!

Lindow Man: Archaeology in Education

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.

Image, Lindow Man: The Verdict, Teacher resource cover

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 Teacher’s 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!