A warm welcome down on the farm

2nd January 2004 at 00:00
Callum Price has lived close to African game, now he is mixing with domestic livestock. He tells Deedee Cuddihy about his hopes to get more teachers interested in the country life

he new education officer for the Museum of Scottish Country Life in East Kilbride was, appropriately, brought up in rural Perthshire. However, Callum Price points out, he doesn't come from farming stock and probably knows as much about a hippopotamus as he does about the museum's herd of Ayrshire cows.

After completing an honours degree in English and history, Mr Price taught in secondary schools, then moved on to community education - not forgetting a stint with the Voluntary Services Overseas in Bulgaria - and ended up in Botswana, where he lived for two-and-a-half years on the edge of a game reserve.

On his return from Africa in April 2002, having previously worked for the National Museums of Scotland, Mr Price rejoined their education department in Edinburgh. His recent appointment at the Museum of Scottish Country Life, in Wester Kittochside, follows a restructuring of the NMS and a bigger commitment being made to education.

"As a result of the restructuring, the Museum of Flight in East Lothian now has a dedicated education officer and so has Kittochside," says Mr Price.

"Previously education was part of someone else's job in Edinburgh."

Although he will, no doubt, become more familiar with the cows and the other farm animals (which include horses, sheep and hens) over the coming months, Mr Price explains that livestock handling is not part of his remit: a farm manager looks after that side of the museum.

The museum's 170-acre site features a large barn-style exhibition building, an original Georgian farmhouse and garden and a working farm where traditional crops are grown and animals are raised. It is worth noting that as well as flocks, the museum has Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. Dolly died on St Valentine's Day last year but is now preserved as part of the museum's collection.

Mr Price's primary role is to realise Kittochside's full education potential for schools, families and lifelong learning groups.

"Developing our existing schools' programme is relatively straightforward because we already know that there is a demand," he says.

"For instance, Evacuees and When Gran was a Girl are already fully booked for 2004, with a waiting list for 2005. These are professionally-led environmental studies activities for primary schools that centre on people in the past and, like our farm ranger tours for primary schools, can only take place for a limited period in the year.

"On the other hand, general visits to Kittochside, led by the class teacher, can take place at any time of the year, for free, and we'll be doing more to promote those.

"Despite being so near to big urban centres such as East Kilbride and Castlemilk, we're in a preserved area of countryside and the museum provides what is, for many children, a unique opportunity to see farming in operation."

Schools can use the on-site learning centre and book to handle a box of old objects during their visit. There are currently two boxes available, filled with a selection of objects that would have been common to Scottish rural households in the 1940s and 1950s. Mr Price plans to create two more boxes "in the very near future" and they will probably be based on emigration and toys.

"We're expecting a group of primary school teachers to join us for a week under the Careers Scotland scheme (Excellence in Education through Business Links) and I'll be asking for their advice about the handling boxes and other developments in the education programme," says Mr Price.

Until now, most of Kittochside's schools' activities have been focused on the 5-14 curriculum but Mr Price believes that offering attractive and relevant resources to older pupils will encourage them to visit the museum.

"That's the challenge," he says. "I'd love to see three or four schools here on a daily basis."

The museum has a lecture theatre where it stages Burns' poetry and drama performances for primary schools in January and now it is planning traditional Scottish storytelling for nursery schools.

"For secondary schools," says Mr Price, "we could also target the English curriculum and offer drama workshops for Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Sunset Song and other Scottish literature with a rural setting. But consultation is essential to make sure we get it right and I hope to use the Careers Scotland scheme again to get secondary school teachers out to Kittochside to advise us."

For further information or a teachers' pack, contact the Museum of Scottish Country Life, tel 0131 247 4377 www.nms.ac.ukcountrylifewww.careers-scotland.org.uk

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