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SEND schools programme shortlisted for award

We are very excited that our SEND school programme has been shortlisted for a Museums & Heritage award this year. Here to tell us more about the programme is our Schools Learning Officer, Maria Magill. 

'The question I get asked most is, 'What do you do when you’re not teaching?' Among other things, I get to work on developing our offer for schools, particularly for special educational needs schools. This is one of the most fun aspects of my job.

Our programme of sensory sessions and resources has been shortlisted for a Museums & Heritage Award this year in the category of Education Initiative. The Schools Team couldn’t be more excited!

SEND Sensory Session: A Musical Adventure was developed as part of the legacy of a project with Peoplescape Theatre Company. It is a music session using instruments from Brazil and Nigeria. Pupils help a character ‘Rebecca’ and travel to each country to collect instruments to bring back to the Museum.

Encountering storms on the sea (making wave sounds with our ocean drum), visiting the Brazilian rainforest to be surrounded by butterflies and birds (fluttering tissue paper shapes), and helping to pack a suitcase, as well as learning a Yoruba song of welcome, all form part of this fun session.

SEND Sensory Session: Ancient Egyptian Mummification was developed due to teacher requests. Pupils engage with a sensory story exploring how Mr Horniman collected artefacts from Egypt.

They explore the process of mummification through a range of sensory experiences and objects. They have a go at bandaging, exploring the spices and tools used in mummification (salt, frankincense, cedar oil, beeswax) and handle real Ancient Egyptian objects including a mummy mask.

Alongside the sessions, we’ve worked to make the Museum visit more accessible and inclusive.

There is a social story on our website showing the rooms schools will visit, the things they will see and who they will meet.

We’ve had training to help us incorporate Makaton signing into our sessions and we’ve got software to enable us to create Widgit flashcards as another communication tool.

We’ve had a rethink about how we set up our workshop spaces, changed our tablecloths to make objects easier to see and made cushions available to sit on the floor.

  • SEND schools programme shortlisted for award, Widgit cards
    Widgit cards

Next steps involve creating a new science sensory session linked to our Aquarium and creating a day schedule using Widgit cards which we can share with schools before they visit.

To be shortlisted for a Museum & Heritage Award shows us that we are on the right track, and gives us a renewed burst of enthusiasm to keep improving our offer, making it more accessible for all participants, and to keep improving our professional practice. We’ve just started and we’re excited to keep going!

If you would like to find out more or book a session please contact us at 0208 291 8686 or email schools@horniman.ac.uk.

For more information visit this SEND group page on our website.'

Museum Club: Arts Award Project with Eliot Bank School

The Horniman offers a Museum Club for three different local primary schools. Eliot Bank School’s Museum Club spent last term working towards their Arts Award, Discover level. Learning Assistant, Lucy, writes about the group’s work over the term.

Arts Award encourages children and young people to explore and take part in different art forms, creating a log-book to document their work. The scheme was a perfect fit for our Museum Club format, so we decided to pilot Arts Award with them.

Inspired by both the Horniman’s Festival of Brazil summer season and the beautiful Gardens, we decided to create miniature gardens for the project. Over the course of ten weeks, the group grew their own flowers and herbs from seed with the help of our Gardener, Damien.

  • Museum Club: Arts Award Project with Eliot Bank School, Horniman Gardener, Damien, shows the students how to add plants to their miniature gardens.
    Horniman Gardener, Damien, shows the students how to add plants to their miniature gardens.

Sketching and taking inspiration from the different spaces in the Horniman Gardens, the group designed their own, scavenging for twigs and pebbles to incorporate into their designs.

  • Museum Club: Arts Award Project with Eliot Bank School, Students from Eliot School with their miniature gardens
    Students from Eliot School with their miniature gardens

The Festival of Brazil summer season presented a fantastic opportunity for the group to work with a visiting Brazilian artist to create bandeirinhas (bunting) and to find out about her work, and Brazil, first-hand. They also learnt about Rio’s Selaron Steps, designing patterns and creating colourful mosaics on their plant pots in response.

  • Museum Club: Arts Award Project with Eliot Bank School, Colourful mosaics were added to the plant pots
    Colourful mosaics were added to the plant pots

Finally, Helen our Librarian showed the group one of the Horniman’s rare books: a collection of cyanotypes created by the nineteenth century Botanist and Photographer Anna Atkins. The children were fascinated by her work and loved having the opportunity to see such a special object up-close.

  • Museum Club: Arts Award Project with Eliot Bank School, Students learnt about Brazilian bunting used in festivals, and made some of their own!
    Students learnt about Brazilian bunting used in festivals, and made some of their own!

Having learnt about Atkin’s work and the science behind her cyanotypes, the group created their own (despite the lack of sunshine!) using leaves from the plants they had grown. The following week, the children taught their families and friends how to make cyanotypes, making them together.

  • Museum Club: Arts Award Project with Eliot Bank School, Horniman Librarian, Helen, teaches the students about cyanotypes
    Horniman Librarian, Helen, teaches the students about cyanotypes

Their cyanotypes look fantastic and have contributed to a new book that is being added to the library’s collection!

The group loved taking part in the project, and we received lots of positive feedback from their teachers and families. 

Whilst requiring a lot more staff time than our usual Museum Club programme, the structure of Arts Award worked well for the group, giving them focus, motivation and a log-book to be very proud of. 

Finally, by presenting the group’s certificates in a school assembly, the project has inspired more children to join the club this year!’

Makings Masks

Pupils from Erith Secondary school have been taking part in a project with the Horniman to design and make a mask.

  • African masks that provided inspiration for the students, Photo by Jessica Light
    , Photo by Jessica Light

African masks that provided inspiration for the students

Mrs R King, Head of Art at Erith School said:

"Each year the whole of Year 8 take part in an extended cross-curricular project which seeks to enhance and develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of African art and artefacts, in particular the masks collection."


The students' display

This is an exciting trip for the students who spend the whole day at the museum not only viewing the extensive collection, but the students get the chance to handle them as well. Students make sketches in the galleries and handling session and then return to the classroom to develop ideas for designing and making their own masks.

The museum gives the students a unique learning experience which is both thought provoking and informative.

Some fantastic new masks

Back at school one of their tasks is to design and create a mask using inspiration form their visit to the Horniman. Some of these are now on display in the museum’s education centre and also online as part of our schools flickr page.

The school are already planning a repeat visit for next term.

Design and Technology Week at the Horniman

Last week was Design and Technology Week, so, in partnership with STEM London East, Key Stage 3 pupils from schools across London East visited the Horniman to take part in an Olympics-inspired activity.

We asked the pupils to design their own Olympics logo, mascot and products using our Natural History collection and Aquarium as inspiration.

Our Natural History keeper Paolo and Aquarium keepers Jamie and James entertained and amazed students with stories of extraordinary athletes in the natural world. Did you know that a cheetah is as fast as a car on the motorway? If a flea were the size of a human, it could jump straight from the Museum to Forest Hill station?

All the students did a fantastic job, showing a real eye for design and drawing. With the help of a few staff members as judges, the students' work was presented on a mood board, with the following winners selected from each school:

Monday, 25 June - Haberdashers’ Askes’ Hatcham College

First place: Proud

Second place: Team Roo


Monday, 25 June - Little Ilford School, Ilford

First place: Sabrina Rocks

Second place: The Incredibles


Tuesday, 26 June - Our Lady’s Convent High School, Hackney

First place (tied): Courage the Fox

First place (tied): Synchro


Tuesday, 26 June - St. Paul’s Way Trust, Mile End

First place: Gorilla and Frog

Second place: Diverse


Friday, 29 June - Eltham Foundation School

First Place: Going 4 Gold

Second Place: Dizzy Doughnuts (Big Cats)


Friday, 29 June - The Chafford School, Rainham, Essex

First Place: Peregrine Falcon

Second Place: Ostrich


Science Week at the Horniman

As part of our STEM London East activity, we celebrated Science Week here with secondary schools across London East. Key Stage 3 pupils went behind the scenes of the Natural History Gallery and the Aquarium to see science in action.

Our keepers, Paolo, James and Jamie, entertained and amazed students with stories of their travels in exotic places, and fascinating insights into their research. 

  • Science Week at the Horniman, Keeper Paolo talking to pupils
    Keeper Paolo talking to pupils

During the visit to the Aquarium with James, students were in awe of the aquarium creatures, especially the mysterious poisonous cuddle fish that lurks behind the tanks.

  • Science Week at the Horniman, Pupils looking into aquarium tanks
    Pupils looking into aquarium tanks

The highlight for many was meeting a real-life palaeontologist and handling some of our impressive fossil collection.

  • Science Week at the Horniman, Keeper Paolo showing a fossil
    Keeper Paolo showing a fossil

Students also participated in a practical activity - dissecting owl puke! Every day, Barn Owls produce pellets filled with fur and bone - leftovers from last night’s dinner. After much poking and prodding, skulls and skeletons of rodents and shrews were found. One student discovered over 70 bones!

  • Science Week at the Horniman, Pupils dissecting owl vomit
    Pupils dissecting owl vomit

  • Science Week at the Horniman, Pupils looking at taxidermy owl
    Pupils looking at taxidermy owl

Students and teachers alike had a fantastic time and the week was a great success! A big thank you to Paolo, James, Jamie and Emily for volunteering their time to help create such an exciting week!

STEM Ambassador Networking Event at Eastlea Community School

Our STEM Ambassador networking event at Eastlea Community School was a great success with nine teachers from five different schools in attendance. Teachers had a chance to meet seven ambassadors with backgrounds ranging from the film industry to civil engineering, share ideas, and work together to design activities. One teacher mentioned: “It was such a great evening, really informative! It was great being able to meeting ambassadors from such a variety of backgrounds and understand the range of expertise STEM ambassadors have to offer. I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it.”

Some the great activity ideas that came out of the evening include:

  • Inviting students on trips to the ambassador’s workplace
  • Facilitating STEM insets for students
  • Assisting classroom investigations, and providing work-based examples of how the activity is used in the workforce
  • Bringing maths to life with games and puzzles

If you weren't able to make it, we will be hosting another networking evening on 27 March at Loxford School of Science and Technology in Redbridge. Hope to see you there!

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