Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Teaching Ancient Egypt for Key Stage 2 at the Ashmolean – Aisling Serrant

One of the main things I wanted to get out of my traineeship was to become comfortable with independently delivering schools sessions in a museum setting. Having the confidence to deliver a session to a group of whatever age or size, out in the gallery spaces is one of the most important attributes needed to be an Education Officer – it’s the backbone of the job. 

On my first placement, at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, I gained a reasonable amount of primary school delivery experience through the project Making Museums. This was great practice in everything from remembering session content to class management. However, as most of the taught sections take place in designated education areas, it was still quite different from teaching right in the middle of the galleries with lots of things going on around me. Also, during Making Museums I was always team teaching whereas for the Ashmolean schools sessions I was teaching independently and was also responsible for the smooth running of my group’s day – greeting them and making sure they were clear on the structure of the day and had everything they would need.

The session I taught was Life and Death in Ancient Egypt. This choice was made mainly because it is by far the most popular primary session booked at the Ashmolean Museum which would allow me plenty of time to observe it and also plenty of time to repeat deliver it. Practice makes perfect which is why, before I had even taught my first session, I was glad to be booked in to teach seven more! Beyond the practicalities of the session I was pleased to get the chance to teach about Ancient Egypt. Growing up I always wanted to be an archaeologist and this was largely fueled by a passion for Ancient Egypt. My interest continued as I grew up and learnt more, both during my Archaeology of Ancient Civilisations degree and when I was lucky enough to visit Egypt and see some of the amazing sites for myself. I feel so lucky to be working in a job where I get to be surrounded by the very things which inspired me to choose the path I have taken – and to be able to pass on this enthusiasm to a class of excited children is an amazing feeling. 

In preparation for the session I observed 3 session leaders and the Project Co-ordinator teaching it. This was great as watching such experienced deliverers meant I could pick up tricks from them, but also seeing a range of styles meant I could pick up the bits of content and the techniques that best suited me. 

Aisling preparing for her session
There are lots of things to think about when teaching out in the gallery - where to sit the children so they’re not in the way of anyone, where to stand so that you can be seen and heard by all and trying to project you voice above the general chat of the public. I was glad I got to see some experts tackle these issues before I had a go myself.

When it came to my first session I felt a little bit nervous but ready to give it a go. The group was great and I soon got into the swing of the session leading them through the different parts including whole class teaching, group activities and object handling. An hour and a half flew by and before I knew it we were done. I got good feedback from the teacher and Neil my Project Coordinator. Though they gave me some clear pointers I could improve on. The main things were my timing as I took too long on some earlier parts and ended up having to rush through the last section. Also my voice projection as the teacher commented it was sometimes a little difficult to hear when there were other visitors talking nearby. Neil gave me a good tip for improving this which is to try to talk straight at the whole group instead of aiming my voice one way, for example, if answering a question from a child who is sat at one side of the group. I was more conscious of this in the following sessions I taught and, after Jo, Head of Education came to watch parts of my third session, she told me that volume wasn’t an issue in the bits she saw so hopefully this is something I have improved on. 

Aisling in front of Taharqa's shrine

I really enjoyed teaching the primary sessions and am looking forward to the ones I have coming up. It feels satisfying to be able to confidently lead an hour and a half session on my own and I look forward to using the skills and confidence it has given me in my next placement and hopefully in a job after that.

1 comment:

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