Smiles all round – Creative Science Engagement explored at Bolton Museum, 20 November 2019

I was delighted to attend on behalf of the Fed this event run by SMILE (Science in Museums Inspiring Learning & Engagement) held at Bolton Museum. Organised by Alex McLeman, SMILE Network Leader and Collections Access Officer for Bolton Library and Museum Service, this free CPD day aimed to enable colleagues from across the North West to share their experiences to enrich science learning and investigation across our region’s museums.

A strong line up of speakers, kicked off by Alex himself outlining some of the innovative science education at Bolton, was interspersed with plenty of ‘hands on’ opportunities and audience engagement. Although this was a day all about sharing the ‘Periodic table bingo’ definitely got quite competitive!

Many of you will know there have been numerous new exhibition developments at Bolton recently, and tours of the new Nature Gallery, Egypt Gallery and Elements temporary exhibition gave an insight in to how contemporary museum displays can encourage public engagement with science. At Bolton Museum this engagement with science has a long history, as we discovered in their Aquarium, which has been amazing people with the wonders of the natural world since it opened during the Second World War.

Visiting speakers included Kirsty Hall, Curator of Lifelong Learning, Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool and Dea Birkett, Ringmaster, Circus250 (who you may know better as the person behind Kids in Museums). Kirsty demonstrated the Bag of Beasts project as a tactile and visually striking way of capturing the attention of even the youngest potential scientist. Dea outlined how her Strong Women of Science circus show is taking a unique new approach to encourage more women to get involved in science

The final session concluded with Carole Ogden’s poem inspired by Bolton Museum’s Encountering the Unexpected project with older people – yet another great example of how the arts can be used to inspire science engagement with people of all ages.

The day allowed ample time for busy colleagues to network and swap ideas and I’m really pleased the Fed were able to support SMILE in delivering it.

Andy Pearce

NW Fed Board Member

Image: Bolton Museum, courtesy Bolton Library and Museum Services

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