Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Mineral Bling: Health and Wellbeing through learning and doing at museums - Corie Edwards

I recently had the opportunity to work with the Community Outreach Officer and a group of adults with learning difficulties at the Museum of Natural History learning all about minerals. The group consisted of adults with a varying range of learning difficulties and their support staff. Some support staff looked after more than one adult when others had one to one support depending on their level of need. Having this wide range meant tailoring the delivery so everyone had a level of understanding. Therefore the session was made up of several learning styles allowing participating adults to achieve different aims, including learning, enjoyment, inclusivity and social.

The group was together in a semi-circle facing not only the education officer but also one another. Having this set-up made it more sociable and put everyone on an equal level. It made it easy to talk and discuss, both with the museum staff and everybody in the group. The semi-circle was facing a PowerPoint presentation of minerals which had many vibrant pictures. Whilst each slide was up we also had a plethora of minerals for the group to handle and contextualised the minerals by asking questions and relating them to similar things they use in their lives, i.e. salt on chips. That way they could see and touch the minerals we were talking about in the pictures. 

Small selection of the minerals that were handled

Towards the end of the first half of the session we passed out chunks of Crunchie bars and Mars bars. The Crunchie bar gave a great visualisation of what the inside of an igneous rock looks like, full of air to make it light. The Mars bar was both sedimentary and metamorphic as when you first look at the chunk of candy bar you can see its layers – chocolate, nugget and caramel, but then when you apply pressure and squeeze it together it changes, it doesn’t look the same anymore, therefore it is now a metamorphic rock. It also made a great transition into a snack break.

The second half of the session was making bling! The Museum of Natural History donated a bunch of minerals to the outreach team specifically for this session. Most of the minerals started out as large chunks about the size of an adult fist, but after being prepared by the education officer before the session with a special rock splitter, we were able to use them for necklaces and key rings. Each member of the group got to choose one or two pieces of mineral, cord, and wire. 

The selection for making bling

 With the help of their support staff, the museum staff and volunteers everyone left with at least one piece of beautiful museum mineral bling!

I really enjoyed this session and it was because of the excitement and enthusiasm of the group. It was easy to see that they got a lot out of the session. It was not just about learning the different kinds of rocks and minerals the museum has in its collection. It was also a social gathering to talk to people you already know or just met that day. It was an opportunity to handle real minerals like rubies and emeralds and talk about which one was your favourite and why. It was a unique session that allowed you to work with your hands and leave with a piece of bling that was not only symbolic of the museum but also what you were able to create. And through all of that and all the fun we had we were promoting health and well being without it being apparent. 

Completed pieces of jewellery by the group

Museums are unique places that can offer unrivalled opportunities for everyone in their community. We are not just institutions of formal learning. We can offer that and so much more with just a bit of teamwork between departments and creativity with groups. We really can change people’s lives and this session is just one example. I have to say, just to end this post, one of the group members at this session made an amazing stunning necklace with pink quartz and plans to give it to his girlfriend when he proposes. There are few events in life that are as life changing as getting married.

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