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Learning with Lucy

In our latest blog post, Lucy Maycock, Schools Learning Officer, at the Horniman reflects on her first few months in the post.

Having now spent two months as Schools Learning Officer here at the Horniman, I thought it might be time to share my early experiences of the role. I was truly delighted when my application for Learning Officer was successful. When I was offered the position, I’d already worked at the Horniman as a Learning Assistant for two-and-a-half years and really couldn’t see myself working anywhere else.

My first half term as a Learning Officer was a little overwhelming. The Schools Team here offer nearly 40 different school sessions on a wide range of topics, from ancient history to biology. With a background in music and humanities, I’ve really loved teaching ‘Ancient Egypt’ and ‘Musical Instruments around the World’. I’ve also been really surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed teaching ‘Prehistoric Britain’. I never learned about the Stone, Bronze, or Iron Age in school, but am now completely fascinated by the skill and ingenuity of people who lived during that time.

The really special thing about teaching at The Horniman is our department’s incredible, 3,000 object-strong Handling Collection. Each object is available for visitors to touch, investigate, and even smell. In our ‘Ancient Egypt’ and ‘Prehistoric Britain’ sessions, children handle real museum objects that are thousands of years old, not to mention the hundred-million-year-old fossils in our 'Evolution' workshop. There’s something incredibly special about empowering children to investigate and discover things for themselves - showing that we trust them to carefully handle such precious objects.

Although the amount of learning that I still have to do is a bit daunting, I’ve been surprised by how much I’m enjoying revisiting and revising topics that I haven’t thought about since school, including animal classification and evolution. I’ve learned so much from watching and talking to my experienced and incredibly patient colleagues and also from the school pupils in my sessions.

Terrifyingly, children and adult helpers really can ask you anything but constantly amaze me with their enthusiasm, ideas, and knowledge.

How big is a crocodile's brain? A Year in Review

As another busy year kicks off the schools team, we look back at the sessions, questions, objects, and activities we have experienced over the last academic year.

Last year, over 30,000 pupils visited for school sessions with an additional 15000 pupils exploring the Museum galleries. We had giant robots, ‘plantastic’ plants, and a huge redevelopment project. But in addition to all of that, school session visitors got to handle real museum objects, to explore them for themselves, and answer and discover questions about these objects.

So how big is a crocodile’s brain? What’s a turtle shell made of? When did people discover fire? Why did the Ancient Egyptians mummify a bird? Which animal in the world has the most teeth? How do butterflies taste with their feet? These are just some of the questions we are asked. We don’t always know the answers, but luckily we have a team of curators to ask for any particularly tricky questions.

In the past year, we introduced new sensory SEND sessions, said goodbye to a fox, won an award, dressed up as jellyfish, and much more. Now after a nice break we're looking forward to next term when we will be meeting some butterflies, visiting new galleries, teaching new sessions, and of course trying to answer more questions.

Book now for a school session next term.

Museum Club wildlife photography

Children from Horniman Primary School come to our Museum once a week for an after-school Museum Club.

Last term they created their own photography inspired by our European Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

The children wrote their own labels which explain why they chose the animal and how they decided to photograph it.

Their photographs show a talent for composition. A lot of time was taken to think about the characteristics of the animals they were photographing and how the animals act in their natural habitats. 

Here are a few examples of these artistic photographs. 

'Midsummer Night breeze!' by Maisie 

  • Midsummer Night breeze!, A baby rabbit is called a kit, a female rabbit is called a doe and a male is called a buck. I chose this animal because I want people see what would have happened when the sun goes down. It makes a beautiful contrast with the mouse and the bird. The background makes the animals stand out
, Maisie
    A baby rabbit is called a kit, a female rabbit is called a doe and a male is called a buck. I chose this animal because I want people see what would have happened when the sun goes down. It makes a beautiful contrast with the mouse and the bird. The background makes the animals stand out , Maisie

'ΜΑΎΡΟ ΚΑΙ Ξ†ΣΠΡΟ ΖΩΞ‰Σ' (black and white life) by Sophia

  • Black and White Life, I took this photo of a badger because of its large size and secretive way of living. The background shows the pattern of the badger's fur. Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the family mustelidae, which includes otters, polecats, weasels and wolverines, Sophia
    I took this photo of a badger because of its large size and secretive way of living. The background shows the pattern of the badger's fur. Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the family mustelidae, which includes otters, polecats, weasels and wolverines, Sophia

'Criaturas que Cazan' (hunting creatures) by Rosa and Angel

  • Criaturas que Cazan – hunting creatures, These animals circle in a fight for survival. The stoat, a wonderfully deft animal, edges away from the looming buzzard. We angled it so the elegant bird seems to look disdainfully down upon the lonely stoat, Rosa and Angel
    These animals circle in a fight for survival. The stoat, a wonderfully deft animal, edges away from the looming buzzard. We angled it so the elegant bird seems to look disdainfully down upon the lonely stoat, Rosa and Angel

'Awesome Elster' (awesome magpie) by Lucian

  • Awesome Elster – awesome magpie, I love the Magpie because he has a cute face.  I think he has a serious expression.  The feathers of a magpie are very soft.  Its feet are very small.  I angled it so it's looking you in the eye
, Lucian
    I love the Magpie because he has a cute face. I think he has a serious expression. The feathers of a magpie are very soft. Its feet are very small. I angled it so it's looking you in the eye , Lucian

'The Bird with Blue' by Livvy 

  • The Bird With Blue,  I was looking for an animal, then this one stood out like a shining star. I thought that it would look nice on a blue background. Blue jays are sometimes known to eat eggs or nestlings, and it is this practice that has tarnished their reputation
, Livvy
    I was looking for an animal, then this one stood out like a shining star. I thought that it would look nice on a blue background. Blue jays are sometimes known to eat eggs or nestlings, and it is this practice that has tarnished their reputation , Livvy

'The Semi-Darkness' by Caity

  • The Semi-Darkness , I chose to photograph the mongoose because it is interesting how it looks like a meerkat.  I like how pretty the fur is. I think the animal goes well with the background. I hope you like it too, Caity
    I chose to photograph the mongoose because it is interesting how it looks like a meerkat. I like how pretty the fur is. I think the animal goes well with the background. I hope you like it too, Caity

We had the Museum Club's photographs specially printed and they are now on display in our Education Centre.

Find out more about school sessions at the Horniman

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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