Last year, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery in London, museums and galleries across the Tees Valley developed a free online resource to support schools to plan, research, create and publicise exhibitions. In this guest blog, Cultural and Heritage consultant Anna Husband, who created the toolkit with Tees Valley Museums and schools explains how this resource was used to deliver Arts Award Explore.
The Museum in your Classroom Toolkit is a free online resource and is a complete guide for teachers to create a school exhibition with their class. Planning, researching and creating a school exhibition is an ideal way for young people to complete both Arts Award Discover and Explore, and to enjoy a memorable and purposeful creative journey.
The toolkit takes teachers and students through five simple steps:
- Planning your exhibition
- Creating the displays
- Bringing your exhibition to life
- Publicising your exhibition
Each step is packed with ideas, activities, tips and resources.
Materials can be easily adapted to any theme, museum or gallery collection, artist or genre. It also utilises the National Portrait Gallery’s vast online collection of over 210,000 portraits, representing the diverse people and stories that shaped Britain.
Involving students as curators and designers of an exhibition develops new arts skills, engenders a sense of pride in their learning, and provides a ‘real-life’ platform to share and celebrate their Arts Award journey. As they uncover stories of artists, create artworks, and present their work for family and peers to enjoy, students are enthused and motivated. Taking ownership of the final exhibition brings a real sense of purpose and focus.
The toolkit in action
Year 3 and 4 children in Middlesbrough used the Museum in Your Classroom toolkit to create an exhibition on Victorian designer Christopher Dresser. Dresser was the world’s first industrial designer, and co-founder of the famous Linthorpe Pottery.
Young people made three visits to The Dorman Museum. During these visits they explored the vibrant and varied array of Dresser’s works on display, learning about his connections to their hometown. They learned new techniques in ceramics including ‘coiling’, ‘slabbing’ and the ‘thumb’ method, which they used to create original pots. They researched influences on Dresser’s work, including his love of nature and his time in Japan where he learned new techniques and was influenced by Japanese artists and culture.
Students also met two contemporary ceramicists, Gordon Broadhurst and Fiona Mazza. These artists talked about how they work, and taught ‘slip-casting’, a technique used at the Linthorpe Pottery. Further exploration of the museum’s collection revealed how a shape could be mass-produced through a mould and then individualised through hand-painting. Young people replicated these techniques, casting pots from plaster-of-Paris and hand-painting them to reflect their influences and inspirations.
The final exhibition was a colourful celebration of the students’ creative journey. It showcased their artworks alongside the artists and experiences that had inspired them – encompassing topics such as dancing, swimming, rainbows and magic! Students took great pride in their work being on show, and loved sharing their considerable achievements with exhibition visitors. The exhibition was named Made in the Tees Valley; a fitting reflection of the rich arts heritage of their hometown and to the legacy they are continuing as artists themselves.
Following the exhibition at the School, Made in the Tees Valley transferred to the Dorman Museum itself where it was on show between January and March 2018.
“They loved making their exhibition. Displaying their own work like this made them feel like real artists… writing their own labels really encouraged them to describe their influences and the materials and techniques they used.” Teacher, Sacred Heart Primary School