Setting up a handling collection at your museum is important because there is evidence that:
- more schools visit if museums offer a handling facility
- attainment is raised and the learning of under-achievers is stimulated
- children who have had an enjoyable experience at a museum will return in holidays and weekends with their parents or carers.
Handling original objects:
- gives users an enhanced experience of museum collections, using the senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch and therefore caters for a range of learning styles
- removes physical and sensory barriers for everyone. The benefits for people with visual impairments, for example, are self-evident, but reach much beyond this
- is an inclusive activity, breaking down barriers and encouraging group interaction (McManus: 1987)
- can play a powerful role in both stimulating and supporting learning.
Furthermore the National Curriculum emphasises the importance of using a variety of different sources and of introducing children to primary and secondary source material.
Hands-on activities could include:
- a loans service using boxes of objects compiled upon set themes loaned out to schools and other groups, either for handling sessions or for exhibition displays. Handling sessions are led by the teacher.
- direct teaching sessions with original objects in the museum or elsewhere, led by an education officer or other museum staff member
- original objects used as hands-on exhibits in exhibition galleries at the museum, which are available to the public to handle without direct supervision and the use of replica objects where appropriate to supplement the real
Who will run the session?
- A museum employee?
- A freelance museum educator?
- A volunteer?
- The teacher?
Where will the session take place?
- In a teaching/education room?
- In one gallery in the museum?
- In several galleries?
- If in the museum, is there sufficient space for pupils to sit comfortably and for other visitors to walk around?
How long will the session last?
- The length of the session will depend on the structure. For instance you might want a 10-minute introduction, 20 minutes of group work and 10 minutes plenary.
- The age of the children will also dictate a different timetable (Younger children will need a more frequent change of pace and activity.)
- Can the school combine the session with another or with a general museum visit, to make a full day trip?
- Getting the timing and balance of activity in the session is essential.
- Session can vary from a 10 minute introduction to a mainly teacher led visit to a menu of activities which can take up several hours.
Which Key Stage(s) will you target?
- How will you differentiate the different levels? E.g., through the story itself, through the activities.
- Talk to the teacher about how you will pitch it.
- Do you want to make the session cross-curricular? E.g., links to history/local history, geography, science.