Volunteer Blogs: Creating School Resources from Local History Objects

School Resources – Delving Into the Collection and Cambridge

For many of us, the pandemic has been an opportunity to take life at a slower pace and to notice things that we usually miss in our busy, “normal” lives. Volunteering on the Museum of Cambridge’s Education Team during the pandemic was just such an experience for me. It gave me the opportunity to look more closely at the Museum’s collections and the history of Cambridge, using that research to create resources for schools. It was lovely to be able to take the time to research into a specific topic within the context of Cambridge and the Museum’s collection and help children to learn more about their local area.

We first worked with St. Matthews Primary School to create resources for a set of lessons on the topic of ‘A Victorian School Day’. The museum has several Victorian School items in its collection, including, perhaps unsurprisingly, a cane, a dunce’s hat, writing slate and a quill and ink; however, it also has more unusual items such as a teachers box of mineral samples used as a visual aid in the classroom for geography lessons; an ink jug which was used by a chosen student at the start of the school day to fill the class’ ink wells; and a wooden board to help (or rather force) children to sit up straight.

These items gave me the opportunity to create resources which discussed a range of themes such as gender roles, discipline, technology, and development of publicly funded education, allowing the children to compare and contrast Victorian schools with their own to learn about change over time.

Using the census from the 1870s-1890s, we also researched into families that lived on St. Matthew’s road, creating profiles for each family that discussed the jobs of the parents, lodgers, whether some of the children had jobs, school ages and poverty. Hopefully, with children being able to learn about Victorian families that lived in houses they see everyday walking in and out of school, it would bring history to life and allow modern day children to have a deeper learning experience.

I also created resources regarding the Civil War in Cambridge, focusing some of the resources on specific places such as Cambridge Castle and Thriplow Heath, as again, that tangible connection can deepen our understanding of the past.

It was certainly an enjoyable experience creating these resources and learning more about these specific parts of Cambridge’s history, and hopefully the children who use the resources will have a rich learning experience too.

The resources and lesson plans are available on the website here: https://www.museumofcambridge.org.uk/resources/schools/ Feel free to tell people about them!

This post was written by Victoria Mitchell, a volunteer at the Museum of Cambridge.

Volunteer Blogs: Creating School Resources from Local History Objects