Wild and noisy

12th September 2008 at 01:00
Young visitors to the Waterfront Museum are encouraged to explore and make plenty of noise

Stuffy is hardly an apt description for the latest addition to Wales's National Museum chain. It is not unusual for the corridors of the state- of-the-art Waterfront Museum in Swansea to be crammed with rowdy, running schoolchildren, eager to explore.

Former teacher Mandy Westcott has been asked to overhaul the museum's schools programme in response to the new curriculum, with a particular focus on the play-based and interactive foundation phase.

"This is not a place to write anything or wander around with a clipboard," said the museum's new education officer.

Mrs Westcott, a history graduate, has consulted primary teachers to create sessions that schools would love to provide, if only they had the resources.

Professional artists, actors and musicians are regularly hired to take part in school sessions, and younger children are given copies of artefacts to handle and examine.

Given the museum's specialist subject - transport - there are many noisy car horns and railway whistles to try out. Mrs Westcott even buys "smells" for children to get a fuller sense of a particular place or time: pit ponies, steam engines or bananas are all within nose distance.

But she is also keen to emphasise that, behind the fun, sessions are strongly focused on developing key skills. A single day can include literacy, critical thinking, scientific concepts and even incidental Welsh, as well as learning about the Swansea area.

As well as developing sessions for younger children, there is plenty of scope for secondary pupils. Mrs Westcott says the museum will soon become a better resource for the vocationally led Welsh bac.

Sessions this autumn include a meeting with a professional actor depicting a "pit-girl" looking back on her life. Pupils can also meet Richard Trevithick, inventor of the first railway steam locomotive, a working replica of which is in the museum. To make a booking, call Mandy Westcott, learning manager, on 01792 638950.

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