Museum sector: teach science at the Natural History Museum

What were you doing before you became a science educator?
I was teaching GCSE maths and AS/A2 at a sixth form college, following a PGCE in secondary mathematics.  I had one day off per week which I used to do voluntary work at the Natural History Museum. 

What does your current role involve?
As a science educator I work with a wide spectrum of people; families looking for a fun day out, school groups looking to reinforce specific parts of the curriculum and world class scientists and they all make up part of an average day.

I am part of a team that delivers a wide variety of workshops and activities both to school groups and to the general public. There is also opportunity to develop new activities but mostly we are involved in delivery. Some of the members of the team also spend a few hours a week working as curators in the science departments such as zoology, botany.

Describe the skills needed for the job
You need to be good at communicating with a wide variety of people. I have had days where I’ve been working with a primary school in the morning and then mature University students in the afternoon. Being able to empathise with people and understanding the reason they are at the museum is important when interacting with them. The activities really cover a wide variety of subjects and styles, from workshops on taxonomy, for a small group of sixth form students, to shows about geology for 150 screaming year 8 pupils.

What are the best bits?
It’s really varied and I’ve learnt loads about natural history. We often facilitate discussion between visitors and scientists at some of our workshops.  I think people are surprised by how much current science goes on at the museum and having the opportunity to spend time with scientists at the top of their field is always fascinating.

It’s a lovely building to work in and I really enjoy being part of a diverse team.  I have found working at the museum just as interesting as, but much less stressful than, teaching.

What are the worst bits?
We don’t get to see the progression in pupils, something that makes teaching very rewarding. Although I only taught for a short time I really enjoyed getting to know a class whereas here, we normally only see pupils once.

What are the difficulties and how do you overcome them?
I miss the autonomy of teaching; planning ahead and being responsible for a programme of work. I try to get involved in as much as possible and I’m always learning more about natural history. But I must say, I have been really happy since starting at the museum

Why else consider being an educator in museums?
There’s lots to learn, it’s great fun and very varied. Also, without the pressures of having to get people through exams we can really focus on helping our visitors have an enjoyable, educational experience where the process is as important as the end result.

How do I find out more?
The  Natural History Museum  website will have any job vacancies. Also the museum has an excellent  Learning Volunteer Programme  details of which are also on the website. This is a really good way to experience what it’s like to be a science educator and it is great fun, too.


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