Take 5 – Explore environmental impact

Box containing rows of different sized bird's eggs

‘Take 5’ is our series of blog posts, each highlighting the incredible objects and activities on Museum of the Highlands – a digital learning hub for use in the classroom or at home. They’ve been put together to help you explore key themes in the classroom by museums education specialist Rosie Barrett. Whatever you’re teaching, Take 5 will help you discover amazing objects and stories from across the Highlands.

Take 5 – Explore environmental impact

Climate change is never far from our minds. If you’re looking to explore the environmental impact of the way we lead our lives with your students, we’ve got lots of resources to help you.

1) People of the past have been very resourceful with natural materials. This pot scrubber from Gairloch Museum needed no packaging and made use of simple, easily available materials.
Natural Heather Pot Scrubber | Museum of the Highlands
Use the ‘What’s that Noise?’ activity to guess what’s making the sound as a nice way to introduce the topic.
Natural Heather Pot Scrubber | Museum of the Highlands

2) Take this further by thinking about the materials we use today. Consider objects in the past that would be made of plastic today through this stoneware lemonade bottle from Brora Heritage Centre.
Dingwall Lemonade Bottle | Museum of the Highlands
Then, explore if the time has now come to ban plastic packaging with ‘The Big Question’ activity on the site.
Is it time we banned plastic packaging? | Museum of the Highlands

3) How have people made changes to their behaviour? Discover why we no longer collect birds’ eggs, and the decimating effect this hobby had on the bird population through an incredible collection of eggs from Gairloch Museum.
Collection of Birds’ Eggs | Museum of the Highlands
You can use the ‘Object in Focus’ activity at the bottom of the page (in the link above) to let your students guess what the object could be.

4) Make a memorial for declining animal species with the activity ‘On Reflection’ – or pledge to take positive action to help today.
Declining Animal Species | Museum of the Highlands

5) Finally, decide if we should take more drastic steps to reduce our environmental impact. Use objects from across the Highlands to debate, ‘Should we stop having holidays for the sake of the planet?’ in ‘The Big Question’ activity.
Should we stop having holidays? | Museum of the Highlands

Museum of the Highlands – A Digital Learning Hub

a yellow background with the name of the website - Museum of the Highlands and a selection of objects such as a bugle, metal helmet, silver cigaratte case with bullet hole

With a launch date set for the end of May, The Museum of the Highlands digital learning hub is almost ready for you to explore. MHH Innovation and Network Manager, Nicola Henderson, offers a little background on how we got to this point and the aims of the project.

When the country went into lockdown in 2020, museums across the Highlands (like museums all over the world) looked for new ways to engage with their audiences. Many already had a digital presence, but it was very much secondary to the physical. Now digital was everything. This was particularly true for museum education content. How do you engage with young people and schools when your core asset – your museum – is closed? As a sector, we experimented with downloadable pdfs, online activities and virtual visits, to name a few initiatives. These were very successful, not just with our local audiences but with schools and families across the world. Suddenly, we weren’t just offering resources and activities for our local communities but for anyone, anywhere, who was interested. The potential was huge.

However, many of our small – medium-sized museums already work over capacity. As we began to open up our buildings and demand for in-person interactions rose again, maintaining and capitalising on the opportunity offered by this global reach was challenging.

Museums across the Highlands get together through monthly online ‘Heritage Cafes’ – informal gatherings on Zoom to share challenges, and successes, ask questions and meet with colleagues. The focus of one session was education and our museums. How could we meet this challenge, grabbing the opportunities while maintaining and nurturing local relationships?

Through discussion, we decided that a collaborative approach – a central hub that could host content and point to museums and their unique offers – could be the answer. Sharing the work, sharing the learning, sharing the reach and potential. This idea grew arms and legs. And, thanks to funding from Art Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland, has become the Museum of the Highlands digital learning hub.

Over the last year, we have worked with museums across the Highlands to create a dynamic digital learning hub enabling children, young people and teachers to discover and engage with museum collections in new and exciting ways. Fifteen museums from across the region have collaborated and worked closely with our Digital Learning and Interpretation Specialists by bringing objects from their collections together to create a digital portal into the rich history and culture of the Highlands.

The learning hub will allow users to access museum collections and learning resources related to objects and topics for use at home or in the classroom, with the functionality to contact museums directly to set up virtual or in-person learning visits.

The site is sponsored by Ilum Studio to help with ongoing maintenance costs and to develop new activities in the future. This ongoing support is essential to the project, ensuring that it doesn’t fall to our already overstretched museums to maintain – it will also allow the website to grow and adapt as feedback is received and we are very grateful to the team at Ilum Studio for supporting us through year 1.

The team of Rosie Goodwin and Freya Samuel as Digital Learning and Interpretation Specialists, have led the curation of the objects and designing the associated learning games and resources in partnership with teachers and young people. In the lead up to the launch of the website, Freya and Rosie will introduce you to the process and types of activities you will find on the site.

I am excited to share the project with you – it is no small task working with the collections of fifteen museums and ensuring content and activities meet the needs of teachers and parents. I believe we have created an engaging, fun and, most importantly, user-friendly site that will support schools, families and museums to engage meaningfully with museum collections in the classroom.