Pupils at Wilberforce Primary in Queen’s Park have been getting green-fingered as part of a pioneering new project with Royal Holloway, University of London and Kew Gardens.
Wilberforce Primary has been chosen as one of only two schools to open a mobile museum of botany. The Wilberforce Primary Museum of Plants and Cultures, which opened on Monday 1st July, showcases a number of plant-based artefacts illustrating different histories and cultures. Artefacts on display include a woven bag, a pan flute and an Ethiopian Cross.
The exhibition is the culmination of the three year ‘Mobile Museum’ project which explored the movement of objects in and out of Kew museum since its creation over 150 years ago. Funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, both Royal Holloway and Kew have been investigating how and why plant-based objects from Kew were sent to 400 museums worldwide and 700 schools across the UK during the 19th and 20th centuries. Their findings have uncovered a rich and largely forgotten practice of the use of natural specimens in ‘object-based’ teaching in Victorian schools. This method was used to encourage pupils to engage with their senses as part of an experience-led approach to learning.
In the run-up to the opening of the museum, Wilberforce pupils and teachers participated in a wide range of workshops delivered by Kew’s Schools Learning and Economic Botany teams. These sessions, which were delivered at Kew and in the school, included interactive teacher training, school visits to Kew and its Economic Botany Collection, and outreach school-based workshops. The workshops included object handling, developing enquiry skills and the importance of plants as well as how to develop and curate the schools chosen objects.
Hebah, a Year 3 Wilberforce Primary pupil said:
"I really enjoyed going to Kew Gardens and seeing all the amazing plants. We could see the plants that lots of our objects come from and saw how so many plants are really useful to us!"
Mark Jackson, Leader of Science at Wilberforce Primary School, said:
“The Mobile Museum Project has been a fantastic opportunity for the whole school to explore and learn from plants and plant-based objects. The children have been enthused and intrigued by how important plants are to our lives and cultures. They have celebrated their cultures and collaborated with others to learn more.”
Claire Macfie, Head Teacher of Wilberforce Primary, said:
“This is what Education with Character is all about at Wilberforce Primary. This project has taken our children outside the classroom, given them new experiences and allowed them to be part of something truly ground-breaking. We are thrilled to have been part of this project and to benefit from the expertise and resources of Kew Gardens and Royal Holloway.”
Professor Felix Driver from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway said:
“This is an exciting and inspiring example of what collaboration between university researchers, educators and schools can achieve.”
Dr Mark Nesbitt, Senior Research Leader at Kew, added:
“We’ve found that Victorian teachers were remarkably creative in how they used plants in the classroom. By exploring the meaning of plant-based products in schools today, pupils can find out for themselves the key place of plants in their world.”