Enquiremanchester’s Weblog

The Manchester Museum is the lead museum in the North West Manchester cluster in a national project about art and learning for engage called ‘enquire’

To the Skeleton with Cansfield High December 9, 2008

Filed under: Pathways and Progression — enquiremanchester @ 10:12 am
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Cansfield High joined us at the museum last week for our first To the Skeleton session.  The idea was to use the Tyrannasaurus Rex skeleton to look at negative and positive spaces in art and then to develop those drawings with inspiration from local artist, Rob Bailey, and grafitti artist, Banksy.

Another big feature of the Pathways and Progressions programme for us (which is funding the free school sessions) is that we are looking at how the museum ‘environment’ can promote learning.  By ‘environment’ we mean the people, collections and places in the museum.

To the Skeleton makes best use of the museum spaces and collections by using the T. Rex for observational drawing  (arguably one of the most dynamic and exciting objects any student is likely to come across in their school day).  By drawing through acetate and making scissor drawings by cutting the spaces around the bones of the skeleton out of black paper, we encourage the students to use the museum space in new and experimental ways.

When I was delivering the session I made no pretense of the fact that this was the first time we’d tried out some of the techniques.  I thought it was important that the students knew that this was an experiment for me as well as them and that they could see that I was confident in that position.  I don’t know whether it made any difference, but despite the scale of the object they were being asked to draw and the challenge of the negative space drawings, the quality and breadth of work produced spoke for itself.

The museum spaces and its collections were also picked up on in the students written feedback which mirror how they marvelled at the skeleton as they first approached it:

“at school its just a small room but at a museum you can explore”

“school is in one room and the museum is one big room with lots of things to look at”

“working at the museum you could see the things in 3D that you were drawing”

“freedom to express yoiur own work in the session”

“you got to do what you want instead of being told specifically an you can learn by experiencing it first hand”

“you could see actual things instead of just pictures”

Nearly half of the students commented on the size of the T. Rex in their written feedback.

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Art Forms in Nature – in the Life Lab November 11, 2008

dsc004551Last week we were joined by 15 students from Droylesden High School for Girls their teacher who took part in our Art Forms in Nature session up in the Life Lab and down in the birds and insects gallery below.

The girls seemed to be interested in what was going on at the museum from the moment they arrived. Only two of the 15 students had been to a museum before, yet they were soon keying into current debates like the ethics of having human remains and animal remains on display.

The beginning of the session asked the students to interpret scientific illustrations for themselves without any prior knowledge of what they are looking at. This is not an easy task for any artist or art historian but the students were soon coming up with a range of their own interpretations which showed how just by looking and discussing they could understand how art works communicate ideas for themselves.

dsc004571After identifying a range of creative techniques, the students went down onto the galleries to draw from the real insects and birds on display. They were challenged with a number of experimental drawing techniques which reminded them to take risks with their work and not to always be so focused on final outcomes. Two drawings stood out from this, a bird and a butterfly – both drawn with the wrong hand – looked as if they could have just fluttered away.

In the final part of the session the girls developed their drawings into design ideas for furniture, jewelery, wallpaper or architecture. This part of the session involved the girls thinking about how they could turn their documentation of natural objects into a functional design. This was a big step to take within the two hour session but meant the students had the chance to experiment with a range of materials and see how their research at the museum could be turned into something useful.

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The Big Draw and DNA September 10, 2008

We’ve just finalised our session plans for a week in October when Secondary School (KS3/4) classes are invited to join us at the Museum for a whole day of learning.  Half the day will be spent up in the Herbarium researching and drawing botanical specimens (all linked to classification and DNA), and the other half will be spent extracting plant DNA in our Life Lab.

The sessions are timed during the month of The Big Draw which is organised by The Campaign for Learning.  To join in with the spirit of The Big Draw we’ll be using drawing to open up new spaces for us, taking our pencils out of the classroom and up into the storerooms.

While we’re up in the Herbarium we’ll find out how new discoveries, like DNA, change the way that nature is recorded and analysed and look at how artists have presented their thoughts on this.  Then we’ll be doing some documentation of our own, exploring the collections, and making our own visual records.

Down in the Life Lab we’ll be finding out how DNA is used for classification and looking at its structure and role in the cell.  We’ll even get the chance to don our lab coats and extract our own plant DNA.

We think this cross-curricular approach to learning will give students and teachers an exciting and full day out at the Museum.  We hope that by using different approaches to the same subject matter we’ll create a layered learning experience and highlight how exciting ideas and creativity can be shared by subject areas.

The sessions will run daily from Monday 13th October to Friday 17th October, 10am – 2pm, and are for 35 students max.

To find out more or book you and your students in for a day please contact Lauren Furness on: 0161 306 1764.

UPDATE 22nd September 2008 – These sessions are now fully booked