Back to school…

Last year at the National Museum of Scotland we welcomed 45,107 school visitors who took part in over 70 different sessions on topics as varied as engineering, Romans, and fashion photography.

School visit to the National Museum of Scotland. Photo by Ruth Armstrong.
School visit to the National Museum of Scotland. Photo © Ruth Armstrong.

Bookings for this year’s diverse programme are now open. For the first time, we’ll be hosting an author-led session as part of Book Week Scotland at the National Museum of Scotland. Mike Nicholson has written a series of novels on the Museum Mystery Squad and will lead a session to help pupils write their own mystery stories. Pupils will then enter a short story competition, inspired by their visit.

Museum Mystery Squad
Mike Newcomen’s Museum Mystery Squad series.

We also run sessions for teachers to help them prepare for a visit, and as part of their own professional development. Private Views for teachers are held for exhibitions which are relevant to schools. The first of these this year, is on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites on 29 August. It’s an opportunity for teachers to meet the curator involved, try our school sessions and resources, and see the exhibition after hours. Future training sessions include renewable energy and First World War.

A new addition to our programme last year was a range of Art, Design, Science and Technology sessions to coincide with the opening of our new galleries. Our Superhero Science Show is a fun, interactive session, delivered by our fantastic Enabler team, exploring the superpowers that inventions give us. Through experiments, pupils find out that Percy Pilcher’s Hawk Glider gives us the power of flight and the Boulton and Watt engine provides super strength! Through feedback from teachers and pupils we found that the museum added a real life element to their science learning in class.

Super Hero Science
Super Hero Science.

It was fantastic! I liked that we were using real science stuff.”

DNA Extraction workshop, P5 pupil

“It has influenced me in my career choice through meeting different people and learning about their jobs”

Get Energised workshop, S3 pupil

Pupils taking part in a Get Energised workshop.
Pupils taking part in a Get Energised workshop.

Reading the feedback we receive from schools is one of the highlights of my job. We encourage this through online surveys for pupils and teachers and our ‘What did you think’ worksheet. I also make sure I regularly talk to teachers and pupils so they can help shape and improve our programmes. We’re currently working with teachers on a range of resources, including a Superhero Maths resource, an Art and Design practice exam paper using museum objects, and our Materials Handling Box. We’re also holding an Ideas Exchange with teachers from special schools in November.

Schools can visit our other sites too. From butter-making at the National Museum of Rural Life, to Rebels and Redcoats at the National War Museum, there’s something for every topic! Alongside the newly redeveloped hangars at National Museum of Flight, there’s also a range of related sessions including Flying Toys and Sky Lab for secondary pupils.

Pupils visiting the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle
Pupils visiting the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite comments from pupils last year.

Here’s what pupils said when we asked them about the most interesting thing they’d learnt on their visit:

“That I weigh the same as an emperor penguin, almost.”

“That Scottish heritage is so wide and played such an important part to the world today.”

“That dna is tiny and you can’t see that but that all living things have it.”

“Vikings made ice skates out of bone.”

And finally, what would you change about your visit to make it better?

“I want to do even more of that. I would like to go there every day.”

Pupil's comment card
Pupil’s comment card: “I liked the story – it was fantastic!”

You can find out more about our schools programme and book a visit here.

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