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Object lessons for schools

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Paul Sargeant Paul Sargeant | 13:15 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Since September we've been inviting schools to take part in the Relic Challenge. The idea is to get kids talking about objects from their homes and seeing how they can be used to look at history. Schools are invited to upload a selection of these objects to the site, to add to our growing digital collection.

BBC Learning made some great short videos with Kay Topping from Haslemere Education Museum to give teachers an idea of the power of of objects in the classroom.

Watching the videos again, I thought they would be of interest to more than just teachers, so I've put one of them at the bottom of this post. And to introduce it, I asked Kay to explain why she believes objects can be such powerful educational tools:

When the BBC contacted us about doing some filming here at Haslemere Educational Museum around the Relic Challenge I was very happy to say yes, as I really believe in the power of the object and this was a great opportunity to show this in action.

School subjects can be learnt through books, film and the Internet but, however good these resources are, they are unlikely to be as powerful as an actual object. Children especially like to be able to touch things and by telling stories through objects history itself becomes more tangible and easier for children to understand.

As a museum educator I have the privilege of using objects everyday, but although I have a real familiarity with some objects, for example the ancient Egyptian shabti that I use regularly, they still have a special wow factor.

When I explain that this object was made for a real ancient Egyptian by another real ancient Egyptian I can see the kids faces reflecting this ‘Wow’.  Only objects and the actual places where events happened are able to do this.

It is often hard to see the children’s reactions while you are actually delivering a session but watching the film clips and listening to the children as they were discussing the objects confirmed the power of objects for me.

Watching them become really animated and discussing the objects with such passion just proved what I already knew – that I am very privileged to be able to use objects to bring history alive and spark kids imaginations.

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You can see more videos about using obects to teach history and find out how to upload them to the site on our Schools page, including one about Kay's Egyptian shabti.

What do you think? Add a comment


  • Comment number 1.

    At last! I know what it is that annoys me so much about this series (at least this series' title, because when I've got past that I've found the episodes quite enjoyable and informative): it's the hubristic title.
    This is a cultural history, not a "history of the world" at all!
    This is just history in a hundred objects. How much more attractive, and probably audience-generating that simpler title would have been. It would also have been honest in its admission of cultural bias. It would have presented an unspoken invitation to other world broadcasters to produce versions of their own.


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