On a blustery and foggy winters day, I braved (almost) the whole length of the M62 to go and visit the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield.
After a slow start (the M62 doesn’t get its terrifying reputation from nowhere!) I was off into the wilds of West Yorkshire, ready to learn all about coal and how to teach both history and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – you will see this abbreviation a lot if you are involved in education) to Key Stage 1 and 2.
I chose to visit the National Coal Mining Museum because George is being restored to her 1950s National Coal Board days, when she took coal from the mines at Wigan along to Liverpool and Blackburn. Having not had much previous experience in teaching about coal, I thought this museum was a good place to start! I saw an excellent Year 3 workshop about geology and fossils, as well as viewing some ‘living history’ – actresses who played characters that would have been alive at crucial points during the history of coal – for example the 1842 act and the closure of the big pits in Yorkshire in the 1970s and 80s.
After a quick bite to eat I also was able to meet the education officer at the museum and discuss their learning offer with her. Although I wasn’t able to see a STEM workshop, she took me through what they do and showed me their handmade coal tubs, made by their in-house miners.
It was really interesting to see the different ways that history and science can be interpreted and linked together in the primary curriculum – you can learn about both science and history from looking at fossils! As I am not a science specialist, it gave me some great ideas about how we could use George to bring science as well as history to life.
As I made my winding way back through the Pennine countryside (I decided to take a more scenic route home than the M62), I was able to reflect on a fascinating day in Yorkshire. It certainly made me very excited about the coming months and to get George out on the water interacting with her local community!
I would like to thank the National Coal Mining Museum for being so accommodating and allowing me to visit, as well as the primary schools who allowed me to sit in on their sessions.
The National Waterways Museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of artefacts that tell the story of Britain’s canals and navigable rivers over the last 300 years. With sites at Ellesmere Port and Gloucester, the museum holds over 12,000 historic objects and 68 historic boats and is designated by the Arts Council England as of national importance. The National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port is also home to the Waterways Archive including over 100,000 papers, drawings photographs, plans and books relating to the waterways – a vital part of our national cultural heritage.
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