Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Training day on teaching the Stone Age to the Iron Age

On 22 January 2016 The Pitt Rivers Museum hosted a training day on how museums and primary school teachers can help to deliver the KS2 History topic 'Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age'.  The event was run by Kim Biddulph, Director of Schools Prehistory, and supported by The Pitt Rivers Museum and The Ashmolean.

Kim gives an overview to British Prehistory © Pitt Rivers Museum

Over 20 teachers and museum professionals gathered to share approaches for engaging primary school pupils with the new curriculum topic.  Kim gave an introduction that took us through a million years of human history in Britain, looking at the major changes during this period, and breaking down the huge time scales involved into teachable blocks.  Delegates were delighted to receive giant printed timelines to take away with them; representatives from an outdoor learning centre talked about recreating this timeline on the entire side of a building in their grounds.

Object handling in the Stone Age to Iron Age training day at Pitt Rivers © Pitt Rivers Museum

All delegates then experienced the Pitt Rivers Museum's Stone Age to Iron Age KS2 workshop, developed in conjunction with Kim Biddulph.  Using a giant printed timeline, participants were challenged to identify which time period four sets of handling objects came from. Were they Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), Neolithic (New Stone Age), Bronze Age or Iron Age?  Objects ranged from stone age arrowheads to bronze axeheads and participants discovered key changes in technology and beliefs during British prehistory.  To find out more about this session and how to book click here.

Kim makes paint using suet and red ochre © Pitt Rivers Museum

Kim demonstrated many practical ideas that can be used to help people understand what life was like in British Prehistory.  Participants made paint from suet and red ochre pigment and made marks on leather swatches. They also tried using a fire-bow, making bramble cord, imitating flint-knapping using potatoes, casting chocolate axe-heads, shaping soap into spear heads (Pears soap is the best!) and making wool using a spindle cord.

Demonstrating how to use a fire-bow © Pitt Rivers Museum

In the afternoon delegates moved to The Ashmolean to find out about the KS2 British Prehistory workshop offered there and the fabulous digital resources they have developed to support the topic.  The session is based in the Prehistory Gallery, showcasing artefacts in chronological order from the Stone Age to the Iron Age.  The workshop for schools involves a mixture of handling genuine artefacts and spotting objects in the Gallery.  You can find out more about 'Living in the Stone Age' by watching a set of films specially commissioned by The Ashmolean on subjects from fish trapping to flint-knapping to fire-making.

British Prehistory Workshop at The Ashmolean © Pitt Rivers Museum

Participants said that the day had been 'inspiring' with a great combination of 'practical creative ideas' and 'clear information from an expert'.  As heritage venues and primary school teachers explore how to support the new curriculum area of British Prehistory, there is no doubt that there are many great resources and workshops already out there!

Becca McVean
Education Officer (Primary)