4.2 Visiting the Museum

Central to the Project was a visit to the Museum by each class. Part of the original bid for funding had been for an amount of money to fund the cost of transport to the Museum for schools involved in the Project. For many schools, particularly those situated in areas with a high proportion of low income families, the cost of transport is a major problem, and in many instances prevents them from taking pupils out of school on educational visits. By providing funding we were able to ensure that every child was able to make a visit.

"the Museum moved from the periphery of the learning experience to the central point of reference for teacher, pupils and Museum staff"

Although the framework of a class visit to the Museum as part of the Reticulum Project varied, the partnership between the Education Officer and the class teacher enabled pupils to experience the Museum in a way that 'dovetailed' into their classroom teaching, becoming an integral part of their learning. Children were already familiar with the Education Officer, who in turn knew the extent of the pupils' existing knowledge. This removed the need to establish common ground before the visit got under way and made it possible to link the objects on display directly with the learning that was going on in the class. This has been a very important feature of the Project, moving the Museum from the periphery of the learning experience to the central point of reference for teacher, pupils and Museum staff. Visits to the Museum generally followed three broad patterns.

4.2.1 The 'whistle stop' tour

Typically a Museum visit features a 'whistle stop' tour around the Galleries, taken by the Museum's permanent Education Officer, Andrew Parkin, and the Project's Education Officer, with additional help from any available students. Because the Museum is small, each visit starts with an opportunity for the pupils to explore the galleries freely. As well as giving them a chance to familiarise themselves with the Museum, it helps to ensure their attention later when they are being addressed and to reassure any who may be nervous in an unknown environment. During a visit, pupils learn about Hadrian's Wall and the Roman Army; Roman religion, specifically the cult of Mithras; life in a Roman fort. They also have a free option to explore either a theme chosen by the class teacher or complete an activity sheet designed to focus their attention on some of the smaller or less dramatic exhibits. A whistle is blown after 15-20 minutes and the groups rotate. In this way we hope to minimise the chance of aimless wandering and ensure that as many of the different aspects of the Museums collection are touched on as possible.

"Thank you for letting me look around your lovely Museum of Antiquities. I had been looking forward all day to coming."
Melissa aged 8, Malvin's Close First School

4.2.2 Making a second visit

Where at all possible, schools were encouraged to make a second visit to the Museum towards the end of the Project. The aim of these sessions was for pupils to use the Museum as a resource for their own independent research in the same way that they use a book, library or the Internet. Before the visit pupils drew up their own questions, often during Literacy Hour, relating to a topic which interested them. These they sought to answer during their visit from the artefacts on display. Museum staff were on hand to answer questions if needed and to point children in the right direction but the prime object of these sessions was for the children to be self-directed. The pupils then went back to school to create a poster or leaflet or about their topic using the information they gathered or, in some instances, to create a class museum featuring models and drawings of things they had seen (Fig. 9).

Classroom display
Figure 9: Class 4 at Widdrington Grange View First School created their own museum.

These second visits proved very rewarding. The children were confident and knew what they were looking for. They were able to use the exhibits, the books and the expertise of the staff for their own research. Their ability to use the Museum in this way is an indication of the success of the Project and evidence of the lifelong skills that we hope the children will have acquired.

4.2.3 'Tailor-made to fit'

In some instances visits have been 'tailor-made' to suit the requirements of a particular school. One school used the Museum as a focus for Literacy work. (see Website - select Forum then St. Andrew's Roman Catholic First School). Another small rural school came en masse for a Winter Celebration, with feasting and carols, which involved children from the age of 4 to 8; (see Website - select Forum then Acklington Church of England First School). Others have come for the whole day, focusing on the Romans in the morning and researching designs for Art in the afternoon.

"Excellent. Staff welcoming. Ideas stimulating and well planned. Children aged 4-8 years fully focused and child with Special Educational Needs (autistic) equally enjoyed the visit."
Acklington Church of England First School


Last updated: Tue Aug 20 2002

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