Category archives: museums

Monday, 1 February 2016

Reflections on twenty years of training

YLG SE discussions 6#Hard to believe I’ve been a trainer for twenty years. It’s been a fabulous ride. Impossible to sum up succinctly, but pictures give at least a flavour.IMG_2219My path into training was accidental. I’d recently finished a master’s degree, and was doing a variety of reading-related work, when a head of libraries asked me for a course on how libraries can help children’s reading. It taught me a huge amount and was enormously rewarding. IMG_3483Gradually training took me over.Mayflower 1I still love giving courses and inset on ways to engage children in books and reading, whether for very young children or much older ones, whether very able, or with reading problems, or anywhere in between, and whether as training for librarians or teachers or early years practitioners or parents and carers. YLG SE author panel 2Running courses on effective provision for children and young people in school and public libraries and museums gives me enormous pleasure too.IMG_1277I have been immensely lucky to have been asked for courses on all sorts of issues that matter to me, special needs, for example, and looked after children.AHtraining1 It’s been great to work with practitioners in a whole variety of sectors: education, libraries, museums and more. I’ve learnt such a lot from that. baby at CyMAL courseAlong the way I have met so many fabulous and inspiring people.Picture 009#There have been some great training venues over the years – lots of lovely schools and libraries, and some awe-inspiring museums. Giving courses in castles has been fun, and the race course was pretty spectacular. But nowhere before or since has beaten the circus tent I once gave a workshop in.Letterbox courseAny sadnesses? One in particular: the tragedy of library and school library services cut-backs and closures. The impact on children will be dreadful.Picture 009#That aside, training continues to enthral me. No two courses are ever the same. I never know what to expect, and that’s really exciting. I never stop learning.    IMG_3483

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

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Working with babies and under 5s in museums, galleries, libraries and archives – useful guidelines and case studies

GruffaloI am so impressed by the Forestry Commission’s Gruffalo activities. I watched loads of little children totally enthralled as they followed the trail in Westonbirt Arboretum. Such a captivating and inspiring idea.

I’ve been giving lots of training on effective provision for babies and under 5s in museums, galleries, libraries and archives. It’s great to have the opportunity to explore good practice in depth, identifying ways to support very young children’s learning and development, and discussing how to engage them, and their parents, carers and families. I love this picture of a Dinky Dragons session at Cardiff Story, where I gave some courses recently.DSC00355I thought it might be helpful to share some of the publications, guidelines and case studies I have found useful and informative.

Library Services from Birth to Five: Delivering the Best Start will be also very helpful I’m sure, though I’m very biased, having contributed a chapter.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Autism-friendly approaches for museums and libraries

WAADToday is World Autism Awareness Day, so an appropriate time to put down some thoughts about making libraries and museums autism-friendly for children and families, and give some links.

Museums and libraries can be great places for autistic children. They love learning more about topics they are fascinated in. Some love books and reading. It is vital to respect their needs.

Many autistic children are extremely anxious about new experiences, and value information prior to a visit about what to expect, including photographs or video. There’s an example below. Autistic children often find change very difficult and need routine, for example they may feel unsafe if they cannot use the same computer on every visit. Respect autistic children’s need for personal space and their difficulties with distractions. Some museums have a quiet room for children who are feeling overwhelmed.

As crowds are very difficult for autistic children, several museums and other organisations offer early bird sessions, quiet days or special events specifically for them, examples below. It’s important in such actitivites to minimise visual clutter, bright lights and loud noises which can all be distracting or frightening.

I have found these websites, articles and blogs etc very useful:

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Courses on working with children in museums – my training in Qatar

MIAI finally have time to reflect on the training I gave in Doha for UCL Qatar earlier this month. What a privilege to work there. The training venue was the stunning Museum of Islamic Art.

The museum scene in Qatar is very exciting, with lots of new institutions in the planning stages, including an amazing Children’s Museum. Although it has no building yet, staff are already doing ground-breaking work. My training was primarily for museum practitioners, from there and other museums, but I was delighted to have some library delegates too.

The first course was on provision for babies and under 5s. We talked about early child development and the role of cultural organisations in supporting it. There were great discussions on effective activities for families with young children, and lovely ideas for making them enjoyable and fully participative.

Day two was on working with primary age children. I loved the debates about how children learn, and ways to engage them and break down barriers to use – not least that there is not yet a culture of museum visits in Qatar. Some brilliant plans were made for supporting formal education and family learning.

The last day’s course was on working with children with special educational needs. The discussions on learning difficulties and strategies for nurturing SEN children’s learning and enjoyment were excellent. I was tremendously impressed with the initiatives delegates devised and are going now to put in place – wonderful inclusive, multi-sensory, interactive approaches.

Working in Qatar was an extraordinary opportunity. I learnt so much and met fascinating people. Many thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome.