This image is courtesy of the SEARCH Museum at Basingstoke. Pictured is one of the children attending a workshop, dressed up in a fly costume.
SEARCH Museum in Gosport has successfully sourced a fun way to introduce young children to the museum environment with Animal Antics. Not only are the children comfortable, entertained and interested, but parents and teachers are learning something too!
Feely bags, mini-beast finger puppets and rhyme time are just some of the new buzzwords that SEARCH is bringing to the early years science curriculum with the fun programme.
Museums can often seem intimidating to adults, let alone children. They are usually awesome, imposing buildings, and staffed by bearded old fogies in tweed, or at the very least more corduroy than is easy on anyone's eye. Well, that's the stereotype anyway.
One of the many stuffed animals on display was this very life-like fox. Courtesy SEARCH Museum.
In response to this perception, rather than proffering a change of wardrobe that would no doubt be classed as an incitement to riot, the wise old owls of SEARCH in Gosport have developed a new educational session for early years groups called Animal Antics.
SEARCH demonstrator Wendy Redman devised and implements the scheme. She takes the two-hour sessions that begin with a 15-minute introduction and quick tour of the museum. The children are then split into small groups of four and left to get on with the activities while Wendy overlooks proceedings. "It's a very busy two hours but very enjoyable." she comments.
A colleague notes: "The session is a good starting point to make children aware of the wider world."
Schools from all over Hampshire are clambering to get on board this educational tool train that has had a flying start since its official launch in January 2005. Enthusiasm from teachers is such that they have made requests for other areas of the curriculum, such as history, to be covered and Wendy is currently looking into setting one up for early next year.
Fun and fancy dress as part of learning experience? This young girl in feathers is certainly happy! Courtesy of SEARCH.
Some of the 11 activities the children can get involved in and are finding engaging include examining animal specimens with microscopes, dressing up as an animal and taking on their characteristics (very RADA darling!), making a mini-beast finger puppet, bug sorting, visiting a badger's tunnel and thinking about animals in stories and rhymes. Phew!
The sessions are designed with specific objectives to cover elements of the early years curriculum such as personal, social and emotional development, communication, language and literacy as well as creative and physical development. All of this is being achieved through five different elements of play; pretend play, physical, constructive and explorative as well as games.
Wendy says of the children's response: "It's amazing, they've been so positive, one three-year-old girl came in once saying she didn't want to come to a museum because it was boring." In the end she was the last to leave and didn't want to go home, very keen!"
It's not just children that have a misconception about what the mysterious world of museums has to offer. As Wendy points out: "Parents and teachers who come along can see new ways to use the museum and make it more interesting and fun for their children when they visit.!
One of the many activities children can get stuck into is making models of the animals. Courtesy of the SEARCH Museum at Basingstoke.
The project seems to have sparked the imaginations of children and made them think outside their usual remit of ice cream and children’s television. One teacher commented: "It is a very valuable experience that children will remember."
Year R, local pre-schools, schools and basic skills agencies have all been monitoring the success of the project and taken part in the sessions, keen to adopt some or all of its ideas.
Having only trialled this project in November 2004, Wendy Redman has done a fantastic job of taking feedback, fine-tuning the programme and delivering an inspiring educational tool that can transcend subject areas. The only problem now is she'll have to do it all over again with history!
Zoe Adjonyoh is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the South East region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.