Friday, 27 February 2015

Supporting children with learning difficulties in museums – my course in Qatar

tileI felt immensely privileged and touched to be given this tile by a delegate on the UCL Qatar course I gave last week on working with children with learning difficulties in museums. It was made by a young Qatari man with very severe learning disabilities. His needs were not met by school, but working with an artist in a cultural organisation released his abilities, and enabled him to express himself. What a fantastic illustration of the positive impact arts and cultural engagement can have on SEN children.

I had an amazing time in Doha delivering the training. The delegates came from five different museums, one of them well-established, the others all in the planning stages. Because the course was five days long, we were able to explore issues in depth. There were so many fascinating and important debates about the needs of children with all sorts of learning problems and the implications for engagement with museums, and about effective methods for supporting their learning and enjoyment. It was great to have time to share a wide range of case studies. We talked a lot about autism-friendly approaches. I found the discussions on multi-sensory learning especially interesting, and the plans groups produced for inclusive activities and events were truly exciting. The lists of components of successful practice that each delegate came up with on the last day were extremely impressive.

3D printsWe were very lucky to have the use of some wonderful artefacts commissioned by UCL Qatar. These 3D prints of the lid of an Egyptian canopic jar are amazing. They are different weights, sizes and finishes to enable a variety of learning methods. A fabulous way for children to experience history.

And these puppets, based on two very special and precious exhibits in the Museum of Islamic Art, made by the Little Angel Puppet company, and ably demonstrated here by Annie Rowbotham from UCL are superb. They are used to help children learn about conservation. The children ask the monkey and falcon questions, and the answers come via a ventriloquist. Such a brilliant idea. They are also going to play a role in museum story-telling events. Approaches like these can be totally transformative for children who struggle with learning.monkeyfalconMany thanks to all the great delegates and to Qatar Museums and a big thank you to UCL for inviting me back to Doha. It’s a stunning city, so to end, a few photos: the souk, the royal camels against the inevitable background of cranes (they’re everywhere in Doha), two shots from the extraordinary falconry souk, some dhows, and the beautiful Museum of Islamic Art.souk at night 2camelsfalcon - souk 1falcon - souk 6dhowsMIA