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

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