3.0 Setting up the Project - PR and planning, the key to success!

Key points
Meetings with teachers have been more successful and generally better attended when they have been held on school premises rather than in the Museum.
We have learnt not to depend on information 'trickle down' as a means of communication.
Time invested in collecting information from schools, researching the curriculum and investigating the needs of teachers and schools is well spent and should enable a project to have maximum impact upon the target audience.
The provision of an Education or Teacher Pack sets a framework within which all project participants can work. In addition it serves as a means of communicating core information about the Project.

3.1 Early processes

The Reticulum Project was launched with an informal meeting in the Museum of Antiquities to which the Headteachers and those responsible for putting together the original proposal were invited to meet with the Project's Education and Computing Officers. This was poorly attended and so it was arranged that the Project Officers would give a presentation to the First School Headteachers at their monthly meeting in Blyth. At this stage the direction of the Project was very nebulous. Although we had our own ideas we really needed to find out how much time-tabled teaching time the schools were prepared to commit and what the teachers perceived as their own needs.

Following on from this meeting, arrangements were made to visit each school. During these visits we hoped to gather information which would help us to create a framework for the Project. Whilst this process was time-consuming it has been, and continues to be, a key to our success with schools. These visits enabled us to collate essential information with regard to the ICT capacity of the school, the ways in which computers were already in use within the curriculum and the demography of the classroom. It meant that we were able to plan for a Project that was tailored to meet the real needs of the schools involved rather than perceived needs based on what we felt the Museum had to offer.

However, it was at this point that it became obvious that although previous conversations had taken place between the permanent Education Officer for the Museum and Headteachers, the information about the proposed project had not filtered down to those who would be delivering it, i.e. the teachers themselves. It was of primary importance to get teaching staff fully on board if a real partnership was to be achieved. Consequently we held an after-school meeting with the teachers to assess their requirements and explore their hopes for the Project. During this meeting we were successful in convincing nine of the eleven First Schools in Blyth to join us. Read some of this feedback from teachers.

3.2 Preparation and outcomes

3.2.1 The teacher pack

We knew from the Education Officer's previous experience of working in schools, as well as our meetings with teachers, that a major burden on teaching staff is the planning required by the National Curriculum, and the constraints of the QCA History document (The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and - select Unit 6a for the scheme relevant to the Reticulum Project). We found that in some instances teachers were reluctant to abandon their existing planned lessons to take part in the Project.

To help overcome this we created a Teacher Pack, which contained practical teaching suggestions linked to the relevant National Curriculum objectives for both History and the Literacy Hour. This was distributed to each First School within the Project area. The pack includes:

By including ideas for the Literacy Hour we hoped to be able to broaden the scope of the Project and suggest ways in which schools who were not studying the Romans during the time Reticulum was running could still make use of the resources offered by the Museum of Antiquities. Read a case study of how one school adopted such an approach.

3.2.2 Create a character competition

As a preliminary to our involvement with schools, and as a way of stimulating interest amongst the children, we launched a competition at this meeting to create two characters who would act as virtual guides around the Website (Figures 2 and 3).

Drawing: Bryona   Drawing: Marcus
Figures 2 and 3: Our 'Create a Character' winning entries - 'Bryona' and 'Marcus'

As many as possible of these entries were eventually incorporated into the image that forms the gateway into the Reticulum Website (Fig. 4).

Gateway to website
Figure 4: Gateway to the Reticulum site

The use of a competition stimulated interest amongst the pupils and spread awareness of the Project to their parents. The presentation ceremony provided useful publicity both for the Museum and the Reticulum Website.

Photograph of winners
Figure 5: Competition winners, Taryn Burn and Mark George, are presented with certificates and framed copies of their drawings by Lindsay Allason-Jones, Director of the Museum of Antiquities, and Roger Oram, archaeological cartoonist

On a recent visit to one of the Blyth schools a teacher related how an ex-pupil, who had now moved on to Middle School (9-13 year olds), had come to visit her specially to show her a printout of her character which we had used on the Website. Two years on this child still remembered and valued this early involvement with the Project.


Last updated: Tue Aug 20 2002

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