What's Hot at Bristol Museums - A guest blog by Kerrie Dodd, Learning Team, Bristol Museums

Written by: Elmtree Press

What’s hot at Bristol Museums?
An inside look at the activity of the Learning Team.

A guest blog by Kerrie Dodd, Learning Team, Bristol Museums

Here at Bristol Museums, we offer a range of inspiring school workshops delivered across five museum sites: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Blaise Castle House Museum, The Red Lodge Museum, The Georgian House Museum and M Shed. School visits are also available at Bristol Archives and Kings Weston Roman Villa.

Our learning team is made up of 6 staff members and together we develop, deliver, market, administrate, book and manage all Learning activity across these sites.

We tailor our interactive learning experiences to age and curriculum needs with object handling, costumed role-play, ‘meet the expert’ opportunities, gallery activities, storytelling and tours, bringing local history to life.

At M Shed, we’ve developed a Wildlife Safari on the dockside, school children are joined by a professional photographer. New this year, we also have an Amazing Animals workshop with a conservationist. Both will accompany Wildlife Photographer of the Year, from the Natural History Museum, and include exhibition entry for your class.

Our Discover Chocolate workshop is a popular choice (surprise, surprise)! In this yummy session you learn about Bristol’s past connections to the chocolate industry. From bean to bar, pupils find out what it was like to work in a Bristol chocolate factory and how chocolate is made. This tasty workshop is available at M Shed from October – November and also in the build up to Easter.

October is Black History Month. Supporting this, Year 7-10 can learn about Bristol and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Workshops, teaching resources and loan boxes are available from M Shed covering the process, abolition and legacy of the trade. We offer this workshop all year round.

If you have time on your hands, you could follow this session up with a visit to The Georgian House Museum, an 18th century townhouse built for a wealthy sugar merchant. A small display explores John Pinney’s involvement in the sugar trade and the life of his enslaved valet, Pero Jones. During a workshop Year 1-4 children get to meet the housekeeper for a role-play session exploring Georgian Life above and below the stairs of this fascinating family home. The Georgian House Museum is one of Bristol’s hidden treasures!

Educational groups can also take a trip to The Red Lodge Museum. Our learning sessions focus on the study of Tudor Life and Tudor Portraits and actress Kim Hicks does a brilliant job engaging the children. History is brought alive with period costume, object handling, role play and stories of the past. This is one of my favouites! The Great Oak Room is especially worth a visit, the house is complete with a knot Garden. It is full of interesting tales and in the past was also a Victorian girls’ reform school.

Moving onto our most traditional museum site, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, it offers a range of hands-on learning sessions from Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greeks to Rocks & Fossils and Art workshops.  The latest exhibition Pliosaurus! is proving a huge hit with visitors of all ages and is designed with families in mind. Pupils are given the chance to dive into the Jurassic deep during a Dinosaur Discovery session available until 15 December.

Dinosaur Takeover! is also back again at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery from 21-24 November. In this roar-tastic session, children meet experts from the University of Bristol and take part in a range of dino discovery activities including a dinosaur dig and food chain exploration. A bonus visit to see the Pliosaurus! exhibition is included in the price too. I advise you to book your class a place before they become extinct! They are very popular and sell out quickly.

Now for something festive….school groups can learn about yuletide traditions by experiencing a Victorian Christmas at Blaise Castle House Museum during November and December. Set in a 19th century household, this session is complete with Christmas spices, crafts activities and carols by the fireplace! A special session is also being run for Home Educating families on 15 December. Lessons are also available in the Victorian Schoolroom with costumed role play and interactive activities.  

To kick off 2018, schools within a 40 mile radius of Bristol can look forward to Bristol Museums attending their school for Chinese New Year. Celebrate the Year of Dog with Chinese traditions, folk tales, celebration artefacts, mandarin lessons and lion dance and learn about Chinese culture with an assembly for the whole school and optional class workshops.

Other new in-school learning activity includes a Brilliant Bristolians school assembly, an Anglo-Saxons KS2 in class workshop, Archaeology in Action at your school and Transatlantic Slave Trade in-school sessions, teaching resources and loan box for KS3.

Teachers are catered for too with regular CPD opportunities. The museums can also be booked for meetings, education events and INSET days. Not many teachers know this.

Formal learning activity extends to Brownies, Cubs, Guides and Scouts. Bristol Museums are also validated learning destinations with The Children’s University encouraging young people to learn outside the classroom. For students who speak English as a foreign language, EFL tours are available at both M Shed and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Regular themed sessions are also developed to support home educators.

So, as you can see, for a small learning team, we work pretty hard! We strive to keep our learning programme varied, interesting and inspiring supporting educational needs the best we can. Your visits are important to us.

In recognition of our efforts, we were thrilled to hear that M Shed has just been awarded the ‘Sandford Award for Heritage Education’ an award that Bristol Museum & Art Gallery achieved in 2016. The Sandford Award is an independently judged, quality assured assessment of education programmes at heritage sites, museums, archives and collections across the British Isles. An achievement we are very proud of.

Well, this brings me to an end (I could go on!). Thanks for reading what we’ve been up to. I hope you’ve ‘learnt’ a thing or two! To find out about any of the activity I’ve mentioned or to sign up to receive our teachers’ newsletter, just visit

Here’s to the 2017-2018 academic year!  Our friendly team look forward to hearing from you!