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Developing materials for self-led primary school visits to the Shefton Collection of Greek Archaeology

Sally Waite and Ulrike Thomas, Newcastle University.

The Great North Museum is currently undergoing a review of its education provision, which includes self-guided visits for primary teachers and pupils, with the goal of aligning these materials more closely with the objects on display. This project aimed to review the quality and relevance of the resources for self-led visits to the Shefton Gallery of Greek Archaeology within the Great North Museum. The Great North Museum works with 25,000 school pupils a year.

Teaching ancient Greece is a statutory part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum and this project sits alongside Sally Waite and Ulrike Thomas’ work developing a Community Curriculum for the study of ancient Greece (this work benefitted from support in previous rounds of the ICS public engagement grants).

The ancient Greece Community Curriculum is embedded in the museum offer through a bookable workshop Hidden Lives

This project connects the self-led resources with the Community Curriculum and supports local teachers to develop their pupils’ subject content knowledge (about ancient Greece) and procedural knowledge (what it means to be a historian) during a visit to the Great North Museum.

We worked with the Great North Museum’s Education and Curatorial teams to review and redevelop the resources before trialing these with around 100 young people. Following this trial modifications were made to the resources.

Four activities were developed, and the pupils can experience each activity during their visit.

1. Describing Objects

Using a large dice with a different material on each side children are encouraged to think about what objects in the collection are made from and what survives in the archaeological record. A second dice has different adjectives on each side to prompt children to think about how objects might be described.


2. Mystery Objects

The pupils are given modern items (a torch, a plastic toy, a plastic feeding cup and a tin cosmetics container) and are encouraged to identify their ancient equivalents in the gallery (an oil lamp, a clay toy, a clay feeding cup and a pyxis). Exact replicas of the ancient objects (3D printed and clay) are provided to promote a haptic, as well as visual, understanding of each object. The activity prompts further discussion of the connections and differences between the past and present in relation to the material, design and function of objects.

Torch and mystery objects

3. Map: Objects and Places 

Pupils are given small tokens with images of items on display. Through finding the objects and using a fact sheet the children can place the tokens on a map of mainland Greece. This activity facilitates a geographical understanding of key places in ancient Greece and their links with specific objects.

Map and tokens

4. Mythical Monsters

Pupils are given a bag of animals, monsters and an amazon associated with the twelve labours of Herakles. By selecting these randomly, pupils create new hybrid mythical beings and discuss their potential powers. The children are introduced to centaurs, gorgons, sirens and griffins and encouraged to hunt for these in the gallery.



The project created new and improved resources which align with current research on the Collection and have been trialed by teachers and pupils.

The resources upskill teachers, increasing confidence in teaching ancient Greece through object-based learning. They provide pupils with more authentic and challenging learning experiences impacting on their understanding, learning and participation.

‘The reviewed and improved ancient Greece gallery kit more closely links to our collection, providing schools the chance to explore the Shefton Collection in an interactive and engaging way’.

Morgan Fail (Museum Learning Officer at the Great North Museum)