As the name of this blog suggests, much of the Museum may lie in darkened storage but there is still plenty of activity going on. One such burst of life occurs each week when our Natural History After School Club meets to spend an hour learning about the natural world through the Museum’s collections.
The club was set up a year ago by our Education team and has continued once a week throughout the closure. Its members are all true natural history buffs chosen by their teachers from Year 6 classes in a partnership of primary schools in Oxford. Each has shown a genuine, independent interest or talent in studying the natural world.
Over a nine week course the children spend two weeks exploring each of our four main collections – Entomology, Geology, Zoology, and Mineralogy – learning how to collect and pin insects; how to date rocks and dinosaur bones from microfossils; how to classify life from kingdom to species; and how life and technology all rely on the twinkling minerals beneath our feet.
The members of the club are also encouraged to make their own observations and collections, which they share and discuss each week. This has revealed some interesting facts: last week’s observations seemed to show that our local Red Kite population knows the schools’ lunch timetables and visits each school field in turn to snaffle some snacks.
As well as working with specimens to explore various facets of natural history, the children also get a chance to meet our curators and find out what they do and how they do it, while taking a behind the scenes tour to see some of the jewels of the collections.
The whole programme aims to nurture the children’s excitement and motivation to learn and equip them with the knowledge and skills that they need to continue their interests. The final session looks at how to become an independent naturalist, offering sources of information, reserves to visit and societies to join.
The feedback that we have received so far has convinced us of the value of continuing with the club whether the Museum is open or not. We hope that it will help develop and encourage the next generation of naturalists. And with comments like “I felt privileged and excited…like the chosen one!” we may be doing just that.
Chris Jarvis, Education officer