The new secondary curriculum: it's what museums have been doing all along

By Rachel Hayward | 10 February 2009
An image of a girl holding a jaw bone with teeth in it

Object handling. © Horniman Museum

Museums are ideally placed to support the new secondary curriculum and its greater subject study flexibility and emphasis on skills and cross-curricular dimensions. With such rich and diverse collections, they have always approached learning in a cross-curricular, multi-dimensional way. Perhaps the new curriculum is playing catch-up?

From activities, events and workshops on-site to amazing outreach opportunities and online resources, the collections form the basis for engaging learning that connects learners to the world around them and their place in it.

Creativity is at the heart of museum learning and collections are being used imaginatively and in ways that remind us of their relevance. At the Wallace Collection, for example,Year 9 and 10 students used digital photography, collage and sculpture as part of an Art project exploring the concept of the house as a container of narratives. You can see examples of their work online.

The new curriculum is all about real experiences. Learners can explore science and technology first-hand at the Science Museum with shows and interactive exhibits in the Energy – fuelling the future gallery and Launchpad as well as access content for Energy – fuelling the future and Launchpad online. The Science Museum’s science in action links to other subject areas including: Art & Design, Citizenship, English, Design & Technology and Geography.

There are other excellent online museum resources to support the more flexible approach to the secondary curriculum. For example, the British Museum’s Discover the Arab World, covers new cross-curriculum dimensions such as identity and cultural diversity and the global dimension and key concepts, processes and range and content in Art & Design, Citizenship, History and RE. Comprehensive notes and activity suggestions develop their functional skills including analysis, effective communication and making choices and decisions.

Non-statutory areas are covered too. The Bank of England Museum has some great resources for economic wellbeing and financial capability. Their Pounds & Pence video, aimed at Key Stage 2, is a good introduction to money matters. There are lots of downloadable worksheets to guide your class through the basics of money and also help pupils develop their personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) not least creative thinking and reflective learning.

Our Places to Go section will help you locate a museum near you and you can check out venue websites for activities and online learning too.

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