In 2018, as part of Amersham Museum’s People’s Story of Amersham in the 20th Century project, supported by HLF, our Learning Officer Georgina and Education Volunteer Mary were lucky enough to work on an extended project with local special school Stony Dean to support their history topic of dinosaurs, fossils and paleontologists. The school selected 18 girls and boys in their Foundation Group to take part in the project, all of whom had met Georgina and other museum staff a year before when they visited for a WW2 handling visit. Before this, the school and Amersham Museum had not closely worked together.
The Fossils and Fossil Hunters project began with a handling workshop at the school in Amersham on the Hill led by Georgina and Mary. They brought along the museum’s collection of fossils and dinosaur bones, curated and donated to the museum by local geologist and paleontologist Robin Reid. In this first session they learned about how fossils were made, with the help of a practical roleplay (and a very fetching triceratops hat!), got the chance to touch and feel real fossils and dinosaur bones, and sketch Jurassic landscapes inspired by Reid’s own illustrations, before making their own fossils from air-dry dough to take home and keep.
Their second session was based around dinosaur skeletons, where – using a variety of pasta shapes – the Foundation Group got hands on to make their own dinosaur skeletons while learning about the different types of bones found in the body and how to tell them apart; long bones (arms and legs), round bones (joints), and flat bones (skulls and pelvises). By this point the class were starting to feel like real paleontologists!
To round off the class’ fossils topic, Amersham Museum brought in the services of mosaic artist Andrew Wynne, with help from Primary Workshops for Schools, who ran a fantastic workshop day bringing their fossils topic to life in the form of a huge mosaic, designed by Georgina and based on the class’ drawings from the first session. Every member of the Foundation Group (and a few teachers!) took part in piecing together the mosaic. Finally, Andrew put on the finishing touches and sealed the mosaic ready for display.
In the meantime, the Foundation Group embarked on Stony Dean’s first ever school trip to the museum. The class enjoyed VIP treatment, with a special private opening of the museum and a tailor-made sensory trail to lead them around the building. They were invited to play with the museum’s handling collection of traditional toys, try on the historical hats, and enjoy being surrounded by heritage and culture.
The finished mosaic now takes pride of place on the wall of Stony Dean School as a reminder of their fossils topic, and a testament to the new special relationship between the school and Amersham Museum which will surely stand the test of time.
Georgina Barrett, 25/01/2019