Museum-making day

17th February 2006 at 00:00
As part of its centenary celebrations, the Historical Association is encouraging schools to hold one-day events. Ben Walsh's school made documentaries about the Blitz, while Jane Cowie's pupils created a museum of local history

Our museum-making day grew out of an idea to make use of a museum created by one of our partner schools, Grange Primary, for research on local history. But it turned out that the museum didn't yet exist.

The museum club is run by Sarah Crookes, who is responsible for the museum. The club had done all the research on the school and its surrounding area and had collected items for the museum, but none of it was displayed. Wilsthorpe Business and Enterprise College decided to take up the challenge.

I run an after-school history club, which was researching Jack the Ripper at the time (why do they want to research only the nasty bits of history?) but was amenable to new ideas.

We set up a date during the holidays to go to Grange and help to build their museum displays.

On the arranged day, a student teacher, some sixth-form and Year 10 history students, the Year 7 history club and children from the primary school all gathered together. Even my mum came along to help (and very useful she was, too, when a pupil's loose tooth came out). Following team-building games fronted by Lu Garner, of the University of the First Age in Derbyshire, teams were formed, some doing computer-based research, others working on displays (one team created a 1940s classroom, another studied the evidence to create a time tunnel).

Children of all ages worked together to study real history, their faces lighting up when they suddenly found a photograph of a person mentioned in a document, or when they could fill the gaps in information when they were putting together a timeline of events, just as real historians might, and the thrill of seeing their teachers in old photographs and realising that they were young once.

The day was a great success - friendships were made, lots of fun had, and many children were inspired with a love of the mysteries of history which we hope will remain with them for years to come.

Jane Cowie is head of history at Wilsthorpe Business and Enterprise College, Long Eaton, Derbyshire


lKeep everything simple so that there are fewer things to go wrong.

lHave lots of caring people on hand, especially if working with younger children who like lots of attention.

lTeams of mixed ages work well, shy little ones from secondary school suddenly turn into confident helpers of even smaller children.

lLet children explore in their own way. I had to stop myself from saying "Let's put the sources into chronological order". Instead they did it by family names, coming to the same conclusions anyway, but understanding what they were doing much better.

* More on Centenary Challenge Days at

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