By Alice M Salmon, on 19 April 2013
Firstly, I need to apologise for the lack of immediacy in writing a blog about the year 8 “spring school” that I ran on behalf of UCL’s Museums and Collections last week. With my teenage years a distant memory, a bit of R and R was required to recover from the energy of 38 constantly excited 13 year olds.
That aside, it was certainly a week to remember! Participants witnessed a barber surgeon in action, analysed animal poo, and created their own alien dissection, all in the name of education. They discussed the ethics of human display, philosophised over what makes us human, and took great pleasure in analysing the “worth” of a dismembered foot that had been consumed with dry gangrene.
In case you haven’t yet guessed (but I’m sure you have), the school was themed on “The Body”. Participants took part in a weeklong programme that gave them the opportunity to, not only learn in museums and with objects in an interactive way, but also to find out more about university and the range of subjects that are available at university level. Importantly, the workshops were structured in a way in which to instigate debate, often through handling objects or discussing museum displays.
This gave participants the opportunity to have a greater input in the direction of workshops then they would normally have at school and encouraged students to actively engage in their own learning.In addition to the benefits of the educational workshops in museums and with objects, the fact that our museums and collections exist as part of UCL offered the students additional experiences. Out of the students who attended, none had visited UCL or UCL’s museums before and only 9 of the 38 students had previously visited a university. The majority are first in their family to consider higher education. The school proved to be a fun and interesting way of informing these students of their possible future pathways, as well as give them an open forum to ask any questions that they may have about higher education.
The evaluations proved that we have definitely done something right: 100% of the participants would like to visit us again, some students asked if we could run the week every school holiday, and many confirmed that it provided them with the information they needed to make better informed choices about their future. To end, I thought I would leave you with an email that I got from one of the participants the Sunday after The Body School finished: “It has only been two days, but I miss UCL already”.
Alice Salmon is a Senior Access Officer for UCL Museums and Collections