Saturday, 2 May 2015

Great environments, inspirational adults and confirmation of who we are : an inspiring day with the Museums Association- Corie Edwards

Earlier this week all of the HLF Skills for the Future Education and Outreach Officer trainees from the Oxford University Museums attended the event Top of the class: creating a successful schools programmes held by the Museums Association and GEM. It was an opportunity to listen to presentations and discuss topics around schools programmes with various education facilitators from around the country. It also allowed for those in attendance to network with one another and to discuss their work. This blog post is not intended to give you a step-by-step break down of the day, but rather to build upon two statements that stuck with me from the day.

“Great environments and inspirational adults”
This is how we can engage children and young people no matter what the setting. Museums, heritage sites and collections have a great leg-up in this situation as this country is full of amazing places of wonder and excitement. Once you have grabbed your audience through this awe it then comes down to the education facilitator to keep the session lively and engaging. As a museum professional I always strive to make a session fun, at an appropriate level, whilst allowing my time with a group to be an open discussion where we build upon ideas shared to achieve the learning targets. By being approachable and making a site come to life I have done my absolute best to engage a group and have them leave with a positive experience of education.

“Confirmation of who they are”
This quote came from a discussion about any children who visit museums in an education session. As a museum educator I have the opportunity to engage with a diverse range of students on various different levels of learning. By allowing differentiation in a session and open ended questions where all ideas are valued, children leave feeling confident about themselves and therefore have confirmation of who they are.

In the audience at the Top of the Class conference
In a recent primary session with year 5 students I had one child in a group of about thirty who really stood out as an exemplary student in all regards. He was engaged, answering and asking questions, and worked well during group activities. About half way through the session I had the opportunity to talk with the teacher who expressed to me her surprise about the student. This student was not from her class, but had joined in for this visit because when his class was coming to the museum he was not able to go. From all reports this child was challenging, disruptive and not engaged in class. I was shocked, though I should not have been. At the museum I observed a bright student, who appeared to love sharing his knowledge (but not in a know-it-all fashion), and one who was happy to engage with peers in group work. It was the perfect example of how learning environments have a real impact on learning. Furthermore, it ties in with the two quotes I focused on. By giving this child the opportunity to learn in a great environment with an inspirational adult he was able to engage in a way he perhaps doesn’t do in a school setting. I could not ask for a better reward for my career.

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