Amgueddfa Blog: Learning

Every year a highly achieving school from each participating country is selected as a winning school for the Spring Bulbs for Schools Project. The Edina Trust arrange prizes for England and Scotland (and next year for Northern Ireland) and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales arrange prizes for the winning school from Wales.

This year’s winners were Tonyrefail Primary School. Their prize was a trip to St Fagans National Museum of History with a free coach and educational workshops. It was fantastic to meet the group and we had a lovely time exploring nature at St Fagans.

I met the group from the coach and escorted them through the site to Hendre Wen Barn, which is not usually open to the public and has only recently begun to be used as a facilitation space for schools. This served as our base for the day, and the group were very excited to hear about the bats and birds that make the barn their home!

To begin, I thanked the group for all their hard work on the project, and asked them about how they managed the project in their class room. I provided a brief overview of the projects findings, to highlight how their work has helped input into the long term study of the effects of climate change on the flowering dates of spring bulbs. Interesting feedback from the group included that they used a rotor to keep track of whose turn it was to collect data each week, ensuring that everyone had an opportunity to take part.

Following this briefing, we split into two groups. Group A went with Hywel to the Tannery to explore the wildlife that live in the tanning pits; pools of water that have collected in pits that were once used in the process of making leather. The group were on the hunt for the variety of creatures that have made these tanning pits their home. In the process of exploring this habitat they found a number of different creatures and discussed their life-cycles and habitats. The group were also able to hold a palmate newt, which most said they had not had the opportunity to do before!

Group B went with me to the bird-hide, where we took sketches of the woodlands and used binoculars and bird-spotting sheets to see what birds we could find. We were very lucky, and saw an array of birds including a great spotted woodpecker! We were also visited by squirrels and wood mice, which we were as excited to see as we were the birds. We discussed the different species of birds, their colours, life-cycles and habitat. We also discussed how the feeding-space benefits wildlife and what we could do in our gardens or school grounds to help wildlife.

After this, the groups swapped over, ensuring that everyone had an opportunity to explore the woods and the ponds. We then had lunch in the barn, and Hywel answered lots of questions about the protected species of Brown Long-eared bats that roost in the barns rafters.

After lunch we discussed habitats in more detail, and thought about the different insects that we might find in our back gardens. This discussion helped the group with the next activity, making bug-hotels to take home with them. We used recycled plant pots, straws and straw to make the bug hotels, and discussed where the best places might be to place the hotels to attract different insects. Some of the group decided they would place their hotels high up, in sunny areas to attract solitary bees and others decided they would place theirs on the ground in shaded areas to attract insects that prefer cooler conditions.

We finished with just enough time to make our way back to the coach, and were looking out for different insects while we walked the winding paths back. Hywel and I had a fantastic day, and from the smiling faces and feedback it looks like Tonyrefail Primary had a lovely time as well – thanks again Bulb Buddies!

 

Some of the feedback from Tonyrefail Primary:

‘I think this is one of my favourite trips because I have not seen most of the things I saw today and it is so interesting.’

‘I had a good time and enjoyed bird spotting and pond dipping. I liked bird spotting because it is interesting and I could learn about species that I didn’t know about before.’

‘I enjoyed this today especially because of the pond dipping and bird watching.’

‘I found it fun today. I liked the bird spotting because I saw some birds I’ve never seen before.’

‘I enjoyed holding the newt because it felt like I was holding living putty, and I also liked spotting the birds because they looked very cute.’

‘I liked it because it was my first time holding a Newt. I liked it because my bug hotel turned out great.’

‘I had fun meeting everyone and I loved making bug hotels because it was quite fun. It was fun today.’

‘I liked making bug hotels because I liked making things.’

Regular visitors might recognise Arnie the guide dog. He helped us to develop National Museum Cardiff's audio description tours, visited our Quentin Blake exhibition and even blogged about his Museum adventures! Arnie has recently retired from guiding duties and has handed his harness over to Uri, an enthusiastic young pup just out of training.

Ever the cultured canine, Arnie wanted to make sure Uri gets to sample the best of the National Museum but for a young pup the first visit can be scary. He has written so has written a few words to help Uri - and other guide dogs - take their first steps into the Museum.

Arnie's advice

"The National Museum Cardiff is a very old, impressive building that towers into the sky. It looks similar to other buildings in the area, but you'll know it because it has a big set of steps in front and a giant ball on top called the dome. The road outside is usually busy with traffic so your humans will need your help to cross. On either side of the front steps is some grass. You can 'spend' here but make sure you indicate to your humans that there's a step down to the grass. They might be safer letting you on a long lead and staying on the pavement.

You may feel overwhelmed as you stand at the bottom of the steps looking up at the building. I still get queasy. The stone ceiling looks like it's being held up by stilts (Mum calls them 'Grecian columns'), but I've been assured they're safe. The steps up to the Museum are in two flights, with brass rails zig-zagging across. You will need to guide your owner to the next rail between each flight. If you're feeling adventurous you might want to use the magic glass box that lifts you into the air instead. This is to the left of the steps, through a gate. Once inside, look out for the large silver button to the left - this opens the door.

Once you reach the top of the stairs you will need to guide your owner through the massive brass doorway. Then you will come to a set of glass doors that open automatically. They are much safer for us guide dogs than the old revolving type - less danger of getting squished! Be careful as you enter the Main Hall - your paws may slip on the marble-effect floor. You will hear lots of noises echoing and reverberating because the ceiling is so high. Guide your owner to the reception desk, which is straight ahead across the hall.

And then the best bit. You will soon be hit by a whiff of cakes and biscuits from the coffee shop to your left. Drooling is inevitable, but stay calm. This is the first of many temptations you will encounter. The Museum is full of animals you can't chase, bones you can't eat, and rocks you can't spend a penny on. Enjoy!"  

We wish Arnie the very best in his retirement and look forward to welcoming Uri and other guide dogs to the Museum. Our next Audio Description tour is on the 10th August. Cultured canines and Guide Dogs in training welcome!

In parts one and two I discussed the highlights of the galleries, learning department and the carpentry. In this post I will be discussing the highlights of the historic buildings.

Historic Buildings

On the final day of our exchange we had a full tour of the historic buildings with Marina, head of Historyland. The buildings we visited included a 19th century Inn, 18th century timber farm fortification, a 19th century school, a 1940s house and 1970s buildings. The tour also included a chance to look inside a 1950s bus which was used as a mobile shop. The bus reminded me of the van I used to load when I worked in a fruit and veg store back in my teenage years (in the 2000s not the 1950s).

One of the highlights of the tour was the 19th century inn, which was also used as a court house. Underneath the inn was a cellar that was not only used for storage but also to house prisoners before a trial. It would have been a tight squeeze to fit in this tiny space! Another highlight were the desks in the 19th century school that had a sandbox across the top for young children to practice their letters. In our Maestir school we have small sand boxes for this purpose, so it was interesting to see these on a larger scale. 

My favourite area we visited was definitely the 1970s. This area included a country shack for hippies to escape the hustle and bustle of the modern world and a luxury family villa. Both buildings showed how immersive Historyland must be when it’s in action. It was like walking back in time into someone’s home. The buildings were full of clothes, furniture and working 70s technology. You were free to fully explore and even look inside the drawers and cupboards which were full of bits and bobs from the 70s. Each room of the villa was a different world to explore. In the parents room there were clothes and wigs, in the children’s room there were toys, in the teenage girl’s room there were drawings of her favourite pop stars, and in the teenage boy’s room there was even a 1970s adult magazine hidden away in a drawer! I can’t imagine a British museum being so risqué!

Overall experience

Overall it was a great experience to see another open air museum in action and to pick up some tips on making the visitor experience more interactive. All the staff were very friendly and informative and the people we met in Östersund were all very friendly and courteous. I look forward to an opportunity to return to Sweden and I would definitely like to see Historyland in full swing.

On 29th July, we are going to take part in an international event to support tiger conservation across the world.

You may be shocked to realize that we have lost 97% of all wild tigers. Worldwide, tigers are on the brink of extinction with many species listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered. The goal of the day is to raise public awareness of tiger conservation issues, and to work to find a way to halt their rapid decline. This is an annual event that we will be taking part in for the first time.  The day was first celebrated in 2010 following the Tiger Summit held in St. Petersburg.

Many international organisations will be involved in events across the globe, working towards increasing the numbers of tigers in the wild. So what will be happening at the museum on international tiger day?

The star of the show will be Bryn, a most handsome Sumatran Tiger. Bryn came to the museum in 2016 after spending his life at the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay. You can find out more about him by reading my last blog. Bryn will only be on display for this one day, so do not miss this opportunity to come and see him up close.

Helping us learn more about Bryn will be the ever-wonderful Dr Rhys Jones. Lecturer, reptile specialist, jungle man and wildlife welfare warrior, Rhys has worked with many charities in conserving and rescuing endangered and exotic animals.

We are especially pleased to announce that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will be joining us, one of the key charities involved in conservation efforts across the globe. WWF work closely with governments around the world to provide support for surveying and protecting tigers and have launched Tx2. An ambitious conservation project aiming to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022 – the next Chinese year of the tiger.

I am also incredibly excited to announce that the fabulous Nicola Davies (@nicolakidsbooks) will be with us running big cat activities throughout the day. Nicola is a wonderful children’s author with an infectious enthusiasm for animals and the natural world. Join her for storytelling sessions and rhyming activities (bookable on the day).

There will also be drop-in activities throughout the day so there is plenty to keep you and your family busy. We can't wait to see you. You can find out more on our Facebook event page, or What’s On.

You can follow global tiger events on social media using a range of hashtags: #doubletigers, #iprotectTigers, #TigersForever, #3890tigers.

If you want to find out more about what is being done to protect tigers, here are some useful webpages: Project Tiger, Tigers ForeverSave the Tiger fund, WildTeam & Save Tigers Now.  

In part one I gave some background to the exchange programme with Jamtli museum and my experience of the galleries. In this blog I will focus on the shadowing opportunities we had.

Learning Department

Much of the week, Heulwen and myself shadowed members of the Jamtli learning department. The sessions we shadowed included a visit by a preschool class (6 year olds), a primary school prehistory session, adults learning Swedish and parents with preschool aged children (aged 0-5).

The highlight was the session for the preschool class as it had similarities with 2 of our sessions at St Fagans. The session was run by Pia who was playing a 19th century character. The children helped Pia prepare her house for a visitor by cleaning and doing some shopping. It was a very interactive session and kept the children engaged the whole time. It has given us some good ideas to make our school sessions more hands on. The buildings used for the preschool were perfectly set up for young children, with play areas designed to be child sized.

We also had the opportunity to visit the 1950s house and had a discussion about reminiscence sessions. It was very useful to find out how the sessions are delivered. Of particular interest was discovering that when groups from care homes visit the museum finds out where the participants are from. They then cater the information and images to the group by providing images from their home towns. The participants sometimes even recognise the people in the photos!

Carpentry

On the Wednesday, Heulwen, Pascal and myself had a tour of the timber buildings led by Jamtli’s head carpenter, Matts. The highlight of this tour was the timber church with painted walls on the inside. This was vividly painted and reminded me of our own St Teilos church here at St Fagans.

Afterwards we visited the wood workshop where we learnt how to make thin shingles and thick shingles (known as church shingles). I had a go at making both types but found the thin shingles much easier to make and was able to make several during my time. The thin shin shingles didn't require too much skill, whereas church shingles required skilled use of an axe. In my unskilled hands I found the axe work very tiring and I only made one church shingle.

Up next…

In the final instalment of my Jamtli visit blog I will discuss the highlights of visiting the historic buildings.