Yesterday we went to The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent to take part in 4 science workshops with our local Home Education Group. This was a wonderful, FREE opportunity for the children to become little scientists for the day, with a range of varied activities imaginatively presented by engaging staff.
I took my older 2 boys (aged 8 and 9) and we travelled up by train and bus, which turned out to be reasonable and straightforward. We were welcomed and given a brief orientation of the Museum before being ushered into our first session, all about beetles. The main activity involved the children using a key to identify a selection of beetles, and then drawing their favourite using careful observation skills.
We were then moved down to the archaeology lab to learn about microfossils. The task the children were given was to look at rock samples from the Kent coast and to search for microfossils from a particular time period to determine whether it would be worth mining the area for oil reserves. Our little scientists loved dressing in their lab coats and using the precision microscopes to conduct their survey. It was amazing to see the shapes and detail which emerged beneath the lenses, and many microfossils were spotted and aged using an identification chart. It is so important for young people to be exposed to people working in varied professions and to have the opportunity to try their hand at different tasks. One of my sons was much more taken with this line of work than the other. Asked whether they would like to pore over hundreds of samples like this for weeks and weeks in order to provide sufficient evidence to an oil company, the children were divided in their enthusiasm!
After lunch, our third workshop involved the children pretending to be curators at the museum. They were issued with digital cameras and told to go round the galleries photographing their favourite exhibits - items they liked or which grabbed their attention. They had then to narrow their choice down to three, then to their very favourite exhibit and to think about why it appealed to them, whether it would appeal to a wider audience and, ultimately, whether it would be worth the museum's investment. It was interesting to see what varied selections the children came up with, and encouraging to hear them discussing and arguing their item's appeal.
Finally, it was back downstairs for our last session on our Active Planet, learning about volcanoes and earthquakes with a geologist. The children enjoyed working together to construct a huge puzzle of the continental plates, and likening the Earth to a creme egg!
It was interesting for the staff involved to work with home educated children, and they commented on their ability to work under their own initiative, to ask good questions and to figure things out for themselves. We have several days of science activities booked with Stoke's museums over the next few months, and I wholeheartedly recommend them!