Presenting Year 7s – behind the scenes at M Shed

Posted on by Saffron Smolka.

By Saffron Smolka – Museum Learning Marketing Officer.

On a very wet and wild day in February, a group of local Year 7 students had the whole of M Shed to themselves. This was on a Monday when the museum is closed to the public.

South Bristol Youth work with museum staff to run activities for Key Stage 3 students that improve confidence, knowledge and skills. This day at M Shed was about developing presentation skills. The first activity was a behind the scenes tour with a curator. This is always popular! Museum staff then led visits to the museum’s three galleries to talk about the objects on display. This helped the students to pick up tips about how to structure a presentation. They focused on content, delivery, structure and how to be ‘knowledgeable’ and ‘passionate’. After lunch the students took a vote on which gallery to focus on and, in pairs, chose their favourite object. Next, they researched their object and wrote their presentation together.

Nick, a museum volunteer, has supported these sessions at M Shed for three years. “It is so enjoyable, each time it’s different as there is such a variety of objects for the young people to choose from and even if they choose the same, their approaches to delivering their presentations is so different. My favourite part of the day is listening to them deliver their presentation, some are funny, some are moving but all show young people having a definite interest in a subject that has grown over the course of the day, alongside their confidence in public speaking.”

It’s not only about speaking! It is also about listening and how to give constructive feedback at the end of a presentation. We moved around the museum and listened to each pair deliver their presentation on the objects they had chosen. These included a book bound with human skin, some fossilised horse poo and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre’s coat of arms.

For those presenting, the pride felt in completing their piece was tangible. As they waited for the school bus, the students reflected on the day’s learning:

“I liked learning our speech because it was interesting”.
“I liked knowing about the Bristol dinosaur because I didn’t before”.
“I actually enjoyed doing the presentation. I learnt lots that I didn’t know”.

One moment during the day stood out for me. There was a girl who insisted she was terrified of doing the presentation and would deliver it from inside a cupboard if she could. When the time came, she actually volunteered to go first.

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