Friday, 29 January 2016

Teacher Training at the University Museums

The University Museums hosted a training day on 21st January for over 80 trainee teachers as part of The Cherwell OTSA SCITT scheme. The Primary and Secondary School teachers were welcomed by Tom Hilton, the Salaried School Direct Programme Leader and Cherwell History teacher, who introduced the focus of the day - how we can learn from objects.  As Jo Rice, Head of Education at The Ashmolean explained, some people might refer to it as 'material culture', 'artefacts', or 'objects', but at the end of the day Museums have 'stuff' and it is how we use that stuff to stimulate and enrich learning that is so exciting.

Practical activity started in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History as teachers took part in an object icebreaker which was like a speed dating event!  Museum Education Officers wowed and wooed teachers with objects from their collections, showcasing how objects can be used to stimulate questioning and analytical skills.  As teachers moved round handling stations they handled a diverse range of objects from Chinese tea bricks used as currency to fossilised dinosaur poo.

Teachers visited three different venues, experiencing sessions that might be delivered to their chosen age groups at the Natural History Museum, the Pitt Rivers and The Ashmolean. They also visited the Museum of the History of Science.

Secondary School teachers investigate objects at the Pitt Rivers © Pitt Rivers Museum

Primary School teachers ask questions at the Pitt Rivers © Pitt Rivers Museum
There was much practical discussion about how activities could be transferred to the classroom.  As the Primary School Education Officer at the Pitt Rivers Museum, I ran a 'History Detective' session which encourages participants to read objects as they piece together the identity of a mystery person from looking at their objects.  We talked about how in a classroom setting a container of objects could be used to dramatise topic work and encourage enquiry skills. At The Ashmolean primary and secondary teachers were shown creative ways to engage with paintings.

Exploring Objects in the History Detective Session © Pitt Rivers Museum

It was an exciting and positive experience, and as one teacher wrote in an e-mail to Tom that evening:

"Completely pooped with loads still to do this evening - including prepping for another lesson observation tomorrow and feeding my hungry children!  Just had to take a moment however to say what a totally fantastic day I've had today. Hugely valuable experience.

Museum team were just brilliant with heaps of practical tips not just for visits but lovely creative learning opportunities that could be transferred to the classroom.  Brain is buzzing and (physical exhaustion aside) feeling quite re-energised".

If you are interested in organising a teacher training event at the Pitt Rivers Museum, please contact:

Becca McVean
Primary School Education Officer

Saturday, 16 January 2016

'Mythology by Moonlight' - update about March 2016 Takeover event by Matthew Arnold School students

A big focus for the Pitt Rivers Education team is the forthcoming Mythology by Moonlight evening Takeover event on Saturday 5 March 2016 (6-9pm).

The event is being organised and run by a group of students from Matthew Arnold School in Oxford, who came up with the Mythology theme. We have invited college and university students to run public events at Pitt Rivers Museum before, but this is the first time we have invited a group of students aged 14 – 18 to programme and run an event - so we are excited!

The event will be a celebration of myths from various cultures that are represented by objects in the museum. Haida mythology, in particular stories about Raven, are going to be a key focus of the evening. The myths link with several Haida museum objects that depict Raven. You can find out more about Haida Raven myths here

Here are some objects from the Pitt Rivers collection that depict Raven:

Ivory carving of a raven's head with a human figure
in the beak 1884.58.5 © Pitt Rivers Museum

Horn spoon depicting a whale, thunderbird, frog, Raven
transforming and a human 1917.53.283 © Pitt Rivers Museum

Raven Transformation mask closed (top) and open (bottom)
 1891.49.8 © Pitt Rivers Museum

House pole ('Totem pole') carved with raven, bear,
human, bird and frog 1901.39.1© Pitt Rivers Museum

Find out more about Haida collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum here.

Now that the event is less than two months away we are focusing on working together on the details of planning to make sure that everything is in place. Our planning meetings range from discussions about the production of the films that the students will make especially for screening at the event, to the event poster and ticket sales.

Last week we had a project meeting at the museum attended by the four Sixth Form students who have been working closely on the project. Once mock exams are over for Year 11 and Year 13 next week the whole group will meet again at school.

Students and Pitt Rivers staff discussing the poster design for Mythology by Moonlight event on 5 March 2016
© Pitt Rivers Museum
This project is the beginning of what will become the Pitt Rivers Youth Action Team. We hope to run more events like this in the future, as well as other special Pitt Rivers-related activities created by young people, so if you are interested in joining the team get in touch with Katherine: or call 01865 270927.

All are welcome to come on the night (Saturday 5 March 2016 6-9pm)! The event is ticketed. Tickets will go on sale soon – watch this space!
Katherine Rose
Education Officer (Secondary and FE)