In a ‘normal’ year, over 200,000 pupils in Wales and beyond would engage with Amgueddfa Cymru’s learning offer. In 2020, with our museums closed for periods of time, we had to think about how to ensure that every child in Wales had access to us and how best to support the Curriculum for Wales ‘remotely’.
We invested in equipment that would enable us to connect with schools through Teams and ensure access to our collections. We developed content that would encourage enquiry skills and inspire curiosity, focused on the Curriculum for Wales.
In just two months, over 4,000 pupils had taken part in one or more of our virtual sessions and the response to them was overwhelmingly positive. Here is teacher Laura Luxton’s response to a session on the Celts:
This year, after many years in Foundation Phase, I have moved to KS2. I was really excited by this prospect, until I realised that we would be teaching “The Celts”! I was undeniably petrified. Having never learned about them in school myself, I had no topic knowledge or experience in teaching it. I ordered several books online and read those, I ‘googled’ and researched all that I could. I was still very nervous. I was unsure of how to start the topic or where to go with it. I was keen to do it justice, especially as the emphasis on the new curriculum promotes children to become ‘ethically informed citizens of Wales’. “In contemporary and historical contexts, investigation and exploration of the human experience in their own localities and elsewhere in Wales, as well as in the wider world, can help learners discover their heritage and develop a sense of place and cynefin. It can also promote an understanding of how the people of Wales, its communities, history, culture, landscape, resources and industries, interrelate with the rest of the world.”
I mentioned to Leisa, from the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, that we were about to start teaching the Celts. Within minutes she had sent me links and posters to online workshops about…The Celts!!!! I read the information and it sounded amazing, I have visited St Fagans before and always had a great time so would welcome, and trust, anything from Amgueddfa Cymru! I mentioned it to the rest of the Key Stage Two staff and all of them were keen to be involved. As per the easy instructions on the links Leisa sent, I sent a quick email to Rachel. The same day we were offered dates for workshops, given more information, a bond was formed and the confidence was growing! I felt empowered to start the topic, knowing I had experts on my side.
We were then all sent individual emails, with our agreed booking times and links to the online meeting. We also had some beautiful resources and a plan of when to use them. Prior to the online meeting, we were instructed to watch a video. We used an image of a Celtic village to generate interest through the thinking skills of “I see, I think, I wonder”. We then watched the video whereby an actor talked us through his daily life as a Celt in a roundhouse. The children were engaged throughout. From this, we formed a list of questions. They generated far more questions than they could have without the video. They were motivated because they knew they would get to ask an expert their questions. On the day of the video call, the children sat in front of the Interactive WhiteBoard and I was disappointed that I hadn’t brought popcorn, that’s how intently they were looking at the screen. The lady came on and was welcoming and professional but also had us laughing throughout too. She answered our questions brilliantly – even the more challenging ones! We were then taken on a virtual dig where they saw many artefacts and a skeleton. They didn’t take their eyes off the screen. The lady engaged with us throughout and kept checking in to see what the children were thinking, she valued all of their efforts and thoughts.
Following the video, there are resources and suggestions on how to develop the topic further and we are enthused because of it. I feel the children learned far more than they would have on a ‘day visit’ due to the lack of distractions. Often when you go on a visit, they are just so excited to be ‘out and about’ they lose the intended focus. I am so hopeful that we will be able to visit St Fagans soon, as I truly believe they will be beyond excited to see all of the wonderful things they learned about – in real life! I think that learning with St Fagans prior to the visit will definitely help them to explore with more knowledge and enthusiasm, relating to the heritage and culture that we now know so much about! Huge thanks to Amgueddfa Cymru, what a team!’
And it’s not just Celts…there are sessions on the Romans in Wales, Dinosaurs, 19th century washdays, and Welsh Landscapes in Art. We’re currently working on further sessions and investing to make it possible to engage with each of our sites virtually.
Maintaining our flexibility, we’ve adapted again to ensure that we can connect with teachers and learners safely and effectively.
The situation in 2020 has meant that schools that would not normally be able to visit any of our museums due to distance, time or money constraints are now able to visit us virtually. Feedback shows that the sessions enrich pupils’ learning in class and support teachers implementing the new curriculum.
Although we do not know what the rest of 2021 will bring, the way in which we engage with pupils across Wales has changed forever – and that can only be a good thing.