Collections Outreach 2019: Student Engagement meets Widening Participation

Published on: Author: Harriet Gaston Leave a comment

A staff post by Ruth Fletcher, Student Engagement Officer at The Hunterian.

Background to the project
This project has been running each year in various forms since its first pilot by Hunterian Head of Education Monica Callaghan in 2014, later taken over by me. It has involved teams of undergraduate students (15 – 25 students at a time) undertaking Junior honours work placements and 1 – 3 PG students to coordinate the team and liaise with participating schools. Since moving to Kelvin Hall we have been adapting the programme to maximise the facilities we have here, generally combining visits to the school with a return visit the museum, to the Collections Study Centre and occasionally to Glasgow Museums stores. The main activity that students work towards is an object carousel event (or object “speed dating”) using a set of objects carefully chosen to meet the needs of an Outreach project and cleared by Collections Management for use in and out of the building. In the last two years, curators have also become involved in events relating to this project, enhancing the range of objects that can be used during the visits and giving the visiting school groups a more expert insight into the world of museums and what the objects can tell us.

The main objectives of the project are to:
• give students work experience with collections and museum education, gaining skills such as basic level object handling training, event planning and coordination, risk assessment, delivering object-based learning activities.
• support Widening Participation by introducing museums, collections and the university to secondary or upper primary school pupils, particularly targeting those who might not typically experience any of these at home or in school.
• encourage learning through collections across a variety of disciplines.

The main focus for learning has been the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s Wider Achievement Qualification, which recognises the benefits of life and work skills that can be derived in a wide range of practical settings. This became less of a focus in response to the demands of teachers we were working with but has very much come back to the centre for 2019.

This year’s plan
Having included Drumchapel High School (DHS) in the programme last year, one of the schools identified to us by UofG’s Widening Participation Unit, I was keen to develop our relationship with the school and work with them to further improve the project outcomes. While in previous years we have sought to include multiple schools for one or possibly two visits, I have been working with the school’s representative and Glasgow Life colleagues to develop a longer programme of engagement that would allow real skills development in a format that meets with the requirements of the Wider Achievement Qualification. I am pleased with the format arrived at and although there are still a few wrinkles to iron out regarding scheduling practicalities, I am happy to announce the launch of Collections Outreach 2019 on Friday 18th January, continuing on Friday mornings throughout the term. Working exclusively with a Wider Achievement Qualification class (S1) at DHS, we have planned 4 engagement sessions, 1 at the Museum / Kelvin Hall and 3 follow-up sessions at the school. I hope that this more prolonged engagement will allow pupils and students to build a more fruitful relationship and lead to real learning opportunities for the young people from Drumchapel, some of whom will turn presenter in the final session.

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