Audience Diversity Academy Fellow, Anais Vanais-Cooper reflects in her final contribution on some very interesting and rewarding experiences.
As you may know we at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust are holding immersive days as part of The Arts Council England’s Museums and Schools initiative.
I started out to see how the children felt when they were told they have the opportunity to guide in a historic house and what the outcome of that would be. Would they be encouraged to come to museums and be confident in the surroundings after their visit or did it put them off? I am pleased to say that the majority were happy and confident to come back and go to another museum with their parents and peers.
I cannot deny that there were and are some difficult times when things do not go to plan and you need to re-evaluate the situation and turn it into a positive. But what has to be at the forefront of your mind is that this whole project is giving an opportunity to children that they may not have had otherwise and the benefits that they are receiving and feeling are beyond measure.
I have been involved with this project for nearly a year and it is not yet finished as it will continue and I will find out the outcome of my initial experiment in just over a year from now.
However, the education team have been involved with the Schools project for over 3 years.
The project has evolved over those three years, each year with a newly devised activity plan to fit the funding brief. This year we have included outreach sessions – as well as the schools coming to us we go to them.
As part of the offer we provide Arts Award Discover activity booklets (which are covered by the funding) so that the children can record what they do when they come to the houses to have their immersive day.
We have exceeded the target number of children achieving Arts Award at Discover Level with over one thousand awarded over 3 years; our original target was 300.
We also have a web page which the children contribute to by picking out their favourite item from the Trust’s Collection, including items on display in the houses. They draw their favourite in their booklet and we put it up on our website. Here is the link for you to see.
It’s all very well telling you what we have done with the numbers and such, but what has it done for the children, for me and the team that I manage in Hall’s Croft?
Well, for a start, from the comments we have had from the children (see Blog 2) we see that this has opened up a whole new world for them and they have learnt so much from it. The children gained confidence and were empowered to be able to speak to their peers without being embarrassed or intimidated, as this was special knowledge which they had gained and were telling their peers about.
Our visitors to Hall’s Croft, of which we have had over 3000 since the beginning of the AMA study, have been very positive and in awe of the children’s enthusiasm and keenness to learn and to impart the information which they had gained about the history of the house.
As for the Hall’s Croft team, we are always happy to see them and it makes us very proud to know we are sharing a special experience with the children.
As for me, I have learnt so much from them including the tenacity they have exhibited in wanting to work so that can deliver a good talk, the willingness to share information with their peers and their confidence in talking to the general public. It has made me very proud to be part of this experience and this is the best thing I think I have ever done for a project. The project continues next year.