Online learning had not been a priority for the schools team at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in south London in the past because of our focus on object-based learning.
Before Covid-19, we held handling sessions, using a collection of more than 3,000 objects and our gardens, for up to nine school groups a day.
However, we had previously created some online learning resources for the Horniman’s website with a teacher panel, who made it clear that they wanted downloadable images of themed objects and information so that they could make their own resources.
These online resources are used by self-led groups and in the classroom, but they also work well for home educators – they can also be used for research or to create a quiz or PowerPoint.
To further support teachers and home learners during school and museum closures, we first asked teachers what would be useful. They suggested short challenge videos for home learners.
The team quickly decided on topics based on our current handling sessions and filmed some videos just before the museum closed. The videos were edited to add questions and challenges, added to the Horniman’s YouTube channel and promoted via our e-newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, as well as to our home learners network and the Group for Education in Museums forum.
We asked for feedback and for learners to share their work with us. The response has been very positive. Some parents liked the fact that their children could work with minimal supervision and that the short tasks were good to focus on.
The next step is more consultation with teachers about their plans for the remainder of this term and the next academic year. If school visits are not possible for some time, we are looking at how we might run sessions online and will consult with teachers to agree the best way we can support them and give access to our collections.
It is a challenging time but also an exciting opportunity to work with our audiences in different ways and keep learning from them.
Christine Beckton is the schools learning manager at the Horniman Museum and Gardens