: Adult & Community Learning

Adult Learners Week 2023: its legacy at St Fagans National Museum of History and across Amgueddfa Cymru

Loveday Williams, 24 January 2024

Last year we celebrated Adult Learners Week in September, alongside other learning providers across Wales. 
We were excited to deliver activities across all 7 museums within the  Amgueddfa Cymru family, building on existing offers and piloting new sessions and activities.
At St Fagans we were able to develop a full programme of activities which took place throughout the week, including crafting taster sessions and workshops, mindful nature walks and opportunities for Welsh and English learners. 
The Amgueddfa Cymru programme was promoted via the new Adult and Community Learning section of our website, with the individual site offers also appearing on their main What’s On listings page. We were also able to promote our programme via the Adult Learners Week platform, supported by the Learning and Work Institute, as well as ensuring we ran a comprehensive social media campaign in the run up and throughout the week, across X (Twitter), Instagram and Facebook.
As part of this work, we also promoted our series of virtual craft tutorials and taster sessions and the self-led learner resources we offer. 
We worked closely with partners including Dysgu Cymraeg Caerdydd, Menter Caerdydd, Adult Learning Wales and Creative Lives to ensure our programme was tailored to the needs of the learners we hoped to attract and was enhanced by the richness that partnership working brings.
Over the course of the week, we saw a total of 160 people take part in the learning opportunities on offer at St Fagans and a total of 331 people across Amgueddfa Cymru as a whole. This marked our biggest ever Adult Learners Week, of which we are very proud. Take a look at some of the highlight here: https://youtu.be/lgKtmLHr1_Q 
We wanted to ensure we collected feedback from learners to help us develop and improve our adult learning offer across the organization. 
Here’s a sample of some of the learner feedback we received: 
“Wonderful, positive, creative environment.” 
“Learning a new skill is fun and fulfilling”.  
“Very social and therapeutic experience”  
“I really enjoyed the workshop. Very fun and positive experience. Facilitators were really friendly and found it really therapeutic and sociable.”  
“Very much enjoyed – great opportunity to learn a new skill. Great teacher. I feel very chilled now.” 
“Thoroughly enjoyable and interesting walk – saw things I’d never noticed previously.” 
“Yn agordrwsfydhudol.”  
“I really enjoyed the Mindful Nature Walk at St Fagans. I learnt a lot and would recommend it! It was great to have someone so knowledgeable leading the session.” 
“Friendly environment, not at all intimidating, so if you want to try something new go for it!” (willow weaving bird feeders) 
“Empowered! A great way to learn a new skill.” 
“Great fun! Just go do it, you will enjoy learning a new skill!”  
“Dw i’nmeddwl bod digwyddiadauyn y Cymraeg yndddaiawn.”  
“I have always wanted to make an autumn wreath and the course gave me the confidence. It was an inspirational course.” 
The tuition was fantastic. There was help when needed but given enough space and time to try and do it yourself.”  
“Very much enjoyed drawing again after 20 years. Must get back into it now!” 
“I thoroughly enjoyed the sketching session at St Fagans and the encouraging nature of the group.”  
“A motivating, supporting and encouraging session which was led excellently by Marion and Gareth and so well hosted by Loveday.” (Sketching workshop at St Fagans with Creative Lives).  
“It feels so wonderful to try something new and see the results so quickly.” (Enamelling taster session).  
Legacy programmes: 
As a result of the piloting opportunities Adult Learners Week provided, we have since been able to launch 3 new regular Adult Learning programmes at St Fagans and National Museum Cardiff. 
Our monthly Audio Described Tour programme (alternating monthly between the two museums and shortly to launch at the National Roman Legionary Museum in Caerleon, with a view to extend to other sites as and when capacity allows).
Our new monthly Sketching Group at St Fagans, in partnership with Creative Lives (and building on the success of the wonderful National Museum Cardiff Drawing Group). So far we’ve held 3 sessions. Our first attracted 6 people, our second 8 and our third 24! Feedback has been so positive and word is spreading far and wide. If you’d like to join us next month please do so. All the info can be found in the link above. 
New termly Bore i Ddysgwyr Cymraeg Welsh Learner Mornings in collaboration with Dysgu Cymraeg Caerdydd and Menter Caerdydd. Last term we welcomed 35 Welsh learners to the museum to take part in a session on Welsh Christmas traditions. We’re looking forward to welcoming an existing group of Welsh speakers and learners on 25th January for Dydd Santes Dwynwen where we’ll be exploring the Welsh Love Spoon collection and then the next Bore i Ddysgwyr Cymraeg. 
The 6 commitments enshrined in our 10-year strategy Amgueddfa2030 are embedded throughout our adult learning programme, specifically that of inspiring creativity and learning for life
We look forward to continuing to grow our adult learning offer and hope to welcome you in 2024 to one of our museums to take part in an activity or enjoy using one of our self-led learner resources! 

ESOL Trip to National Museum Cardiff

Souleymane Ouedraogo - Welsh Refugee Council Volunteer, 8 November 2023

On Tuesday 12th September Amgueddfa Cymru kindly hosted our ESOL class on an ESOL trip-out to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. Welsh Refugee Council volunteer Souleymane Ouedraogo submitted the following report on the special outing. 

As part of an outing organized by Welsh Refugee Council ESOL tutors Marie and Chris; ESOL learners from different cities in Wales gathered at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. We were warmly welcomed to Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum of Wales) by museum staff recalling that Wales has several museums including that of Cardiff created more than a century ago. 

We then went to visit the Clore Discovery Centre. In this learning centre, there are multiple carefully preserved objects from geological, paleontological, archaeological and natural history research. Each object has its origin story. After the tour of the centre, there was time for a practical exercise that combined theory and practice seen during previous ESOL lessons. We practiced brilliantly with the support of our guide and the WRC delegation. It was both fun and educational at the same time. 

We then proceeded to visit the Art Gallery. Pictures and paintings are often tinged with landscapes and varied reliefs. Everyone can analyse and appreciate the artwork in their own way. Some paintings are very old (over 500 years), others more recent. You often have to get closer to better understand the artistic work. You need eyes to see, but even better, you need to have ingenious eyes to understand the messages conveyed by these beautiful paintings. Thanks to the great work of painters of other times, each new generation has elements of research to better understand history. 

I would like to thank the Welsh Refugee Council for organizing the outing but even more so the National Museum for having offered this invitation. It has allowed us to not only learn a little more about the culture of Wales but to also create contacts for possible opportunities in the future. 

 “I would like to reiterate our thanks to Amgueddfa Cymru, for an excellent day for our students.  I thought that there was a really nice balance of activities, excellent use of relevant artifacts and pictures – not to mention your enthusiastic and motivating presentation.” said Martin Smidman Volunteer & Partnership Manager at the Welsh Refugee Council.

Diolch yn fawr Amgueddfa Cymru.

A group photo in the Clore Discovery Centre!

New English Learner Resources for Amgueddfa Cymru

Loveday Williams, Senior Learning, Participation and Interpretation Officer, 10 May 2023

Amgueddfa Cymru Museum Wales have been working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers, supporting people to integrate into their new communities for many years. 

As part of this work, we have developed partnerships with key organisations such as Addysg Oedolion Cymru Adult Learning Cymru. They have been working with us over the past year, alongside their ESOL students, to develop new ESOL learner resources designed to support people learning English to explore our museums and galleries. 

The new resources cover the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, the National Slate Museum in Llanberis and the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon. 

The resources have been created by ESOL tutors and tested by ESOL learners. They follow the ESOL curriculum and cover a range of different levels from Entry to Level 2. 

Now that the new resources have been tested, tweaked, and trialed they are ready to download from our website for any ESOL learner or group visiting one of the museums. (See the links above). 

We also have a suite of ESOL resources for St Fagans National Museum of History which were developed in a similar way as part of the HLF funded Creu Hanes Making History Project in 2014. 

We continue to work with our partners and community members to provide meaningful opportunities for people facing barriers to participation in the arts and cultural heritage. 

We learn so much from the people who visit our sites and engage in the learning opportunities we offer. 

Supporting those people who are newly arrived in Wales to settle and integrate into their new communities is a very important area of our work and we hope that these new learner resources help many people on that journey. 

Diolch yn fawr to Addysg Oedolion Cymru Adult Learning Wales and the ESOL tutors and learners who have contributed to the creation of these new learner resources. 

March is for mulching

Luciana Skidmore, 16 March 2023

If you are visiting St. Fagans this month you will notice an army of gardeners and volunteers marching around the gardens with wheelbarrows full of organic matter to condition the soil of our beautiful gardens. As winter comes to an end, spring arrives with a promise of growth. This is a crucial moment in the gardening calendar to prepare for the warmer months ahead. 

Because of the over-emittance of greenhouse gases, the Earth’s surface temperature is increasing rapidly. We are noticing summer months that are hotter and drier than ever, only last year we witnessed temperatures around 40°C in some areas of the UK. The excessive heat and prolonged drought have devastating effects on our local flora and fauna. 

One of the most important tasks for this month is to mulch the soil by adding a layer of organic matter to the soil surface. Mulching brings numerous benefits to plants including moisture retention in periods of drought, weed suppression, improvement of soil structure and fertility, reducing the need for artificial fertilisers, prevention of soil erosion, and encouragement of beneficial organisms such as earthworms, soil bacteria and fungi. Additionally, it attracts wildlife to our gardens, one of my favourite memories is of being followed by Robins as we mulch the garden in spring. They patiently wait for a feast of earthworms, while gifting us with their beautiful bird song announcing the arrival of spring. 

There are many different types of mulching materials and each with their own benefits and uses. Most of our gardens are mulched with well-rotted farmyard manure sourced from Llwyn-yr-eos farm in St. Fagans and from a local farmer. The manure is gradually incorporated into the soil by the activity of earthworms and other microorganisms, which improves the soil structure and supplies the plants with nutrients. This nitrogen rich material is ideal to be used on herbaceous borders, vegetable beds, roses and newly planted trees and shrubs.

However not all plants like nutrient rich mulches, plants that are adapted to growing in hot and dry conditions often do not cope well with excessive moisture and high fertility. For example, in the Herb Garden where we have Mediterranean plants such as lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme we have opted for mulching the beds with gravel. This is an inorganic material that does not break down; therefore it does not release nutrients to the soil. In addition, gravel is great at promoting good drainage, suppressing weeds, and adding aesthetic value to the garden.  

This year we are trying new methods of mulching as a sustainable way to utilise the maximum of our local resources. We have started using raw wool provided by the Llwyn-yr-Eos farm to mulch the vines in the greenhouse. This will help with water conservation and prevention of weeds. Besides the wool fleece degrades slowly releasing nutrients into the soil and feeding the vines. Another advantage is that wool can help retain heat during colder months, keeping the root of the vines warm in winter. 

In March we cut back the ornamental grasses and perennials of the Dutch garden and a large amount of material usually ends up in the compost heap. This year we decided to skip this process and instead we added the dried grass clippings directly to the surface of the pumpkin patch. We have sprinkled a fine layer of manure on top to weigh down the grasses and prevent them from blowing in the wind. This will also aid the process of decomposition by introducing nitrogen to this carbon rich material.  While the farmers make hay for a rainy day, the gardeners mulch with hay for a hotter day.

When choosing mulches or growing mediums for your garden, prefer materials from sustainable and local sources in order reduce the carbon footprint from transportation. It is also important to avoid peat-based composts at all costs. The extraction of peat has a negative impact in the environment, it destroys the natural habitat of many species that live in peatlands, besides it releases tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere contributing to the greenhouse effect. 
For the home gardener the most sustainable and cost-effective option is to mulch using homemade compost or leaf mould. Why not try making your own compost using kitchen and garden waste? You will be surprised at the benefits you can reap from your compost heap.