Museum shows its metal

16th January 1998 at 00:00
Challenge of Materials. By David Sang, Science Museum, complete pack of booklet and box of materials, Pounds 60 (plus Pounds 5 postage)

My favourite exhibit at the Science Museum in London used to be the flame-operated resonating pipe organ, a wonderfully improbable invention hidden away in a top floor gallery. But museums have changed. Responding to visitors who want to interact with exhibits rather than merely stare at them, they now have galleries packed full of lively, stimulating exhibits. TheChallenge of Materials gallery, whose principal sponsor is the UK Steel Industry, looks at what materials are, how they are used and how they can be disposed of. The central feature is a steel and annealed glass bridge which combines beauty with functionality - key elements of any well engineered product.

To help teachers and students make best use of the gallery, the museum has produced a resource pack comprising a booklet with assignments and a box of materials samples. The booklet targets a group nottraditionally associated with museum visits - GNVQ students. This makes sense as a good museum encouragesindependent learning andprovides ample opportunity for students to undertake research. The text is linked closely to the GNVQ specifications for courses in science andengineering, but the material also has relevance tomanufacturing.

The booklet (spiral-bound for easy photocopying) is essential pre-reading for tutors and teachers as it allows visits to be planned ahead to matchparticular units of work. There are introductory activities for students to complete before the visit, and afterwards they can perform non-destructive tests on the samples in the Materials Box.

Bob Welch is a senior adviser for Berkshire. l Visits to the gallery in term time must be booked at least 10 days in advance, and course tutors can visit free of charge beforehand. E-mail on edbookings@nmsi.ac.uk or telephone 0171-938 8222

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