Boyne Valley, Bronze Age, Cavan County Museum, Children, Education, facilitation, Heritage, History, history curriculum, Knowrh, Museum, Neolithic, Stone Age, Wilson Higgins Heritage Consultancy, Workshops
One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to share my love of history with others. Education as I mentioned in a previous post is a vital part of a child’s life and history is a subject that is all too often overlooked and forgotten about. I think that learning about history and our past helps a person to develop more fully and truly understand where they have come from.
In Cavan County Museum I currently run their education programme through my consultancy business and take great pleasure in being able to welcome children through the doors of the museum and give them the opportunity to explore all the museum has to offer. One of the workshops I most enjoy delivering is a Stone Age Workshop. I find this era of history to be fascinating and exciting and it is also a very popular workshop with the children that come to the museum. I have delivered this workshop countless times to students from both primary and secondary school and I still also enjoy delivering it.
Cavan Museum has a great handling collection that forms the basis of this workshop. When I started in Cavan they had only recently purchased the handling collection but had no one to deliver any workshops with it. As the Stone Age is an area I am deeply interested having completed my MA dissertation of the uses of Neolithic Sites in the Boyne Valley and having previously worked at Knowth, I was eager to get an opportunity to put all this knowledge to good use.
The handling collection is made up of replicas of tools that would have been used by the stone age people. The collection is housed inside a the large wooden box that adds a sense of intrigue and excitement as the students don’t know what the box contains.
In my workshop, I first focus on some original pieces from the museums collection, passing around a selection of stone axe heads that were discovered in the county. Then with as much dramatics as I can muster I open the large wooden box to reveal a multitude of weapons and tools. This reveal is a key part of the workshop as once they see inside the box you have them gripped and wanting more.
Inside the box is a collection of stone axes, arrows and arrow heads, fish hooks, a harpoon, a clay bowl, drill bits and much more. This collection gives me the scope to then teach the children about the Stone Age and the different methods they used to make tools and weapons. It also lets the children see how similar the methods that are used today are, which is vital in making the workshop relevant and informative.
One of the funniest and most interesting parts of this workshop is giving the children the opportunity to guess the different materials that would have been used. For instance, what would have been used as glue in the stone age? This always draws some interesting and at times hilarious answers. I try to keep the workshop quite informal and so allow for any answers however extreme they may seem. When someone finally guesses or in some cases when I tell them, the idea that animal fat was used as glue always draws disgusted looks from some members of the group or exclamations of ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’ from others.
I devised the workshop so that it allowed the children ample opportunity to ask questions and share their stories. This works well in that it puts the children at ease and gives them the confidence to speak out if they have an answer or a question. I have also created the workshop so that the children leave having learned something. When asking for the different materials that make up the weapons I use a lot of repetition so that by the end everyone knows that the Stone Age people were rather fond of using flint to make weapons and that animal fat and tendons act as glue and rope. This aspect has been a big hit with teachers who are keen that even when not in school, the children leave having learned something.
As well as the handling collection I created a small handout which includes some information on the Stone Age and a short quiz. One of the things that the museum is eager to do, is make sure the children leave with something to take home to remind them of their time with us. This short four page handout can either act as a fun activity to do when they get back to school or at home when they tell their parents about their visit to the museum.
I really enjoy this workshop and although I have delivered it quite a lot I never get bored of it. I think the hands on approach of letting the children touch the objects and look at the materials help them to learn more easily. I know when I was at school I found that touching something and getting to have a good look at it had a far larger affect on me than merely reading about it or looking at a picture. Even to this day I struggle to be able to imagine how something would look from a written description, a hands on approach always works best for me.
Overall I am extremely pleased with how well this workshop has been received and as a follow on from this I am now developing a Bronze Age workshop which will act as a further means of sharing the stories of our ancestors with children and school groups.