Opening Doors, Opening Minds: Learning and Outreach

Open Treasure is not only transforming the physical spaces inside Durham Cathedral. It is also transforming the way we engage with visitors of all ages, both on-site and off-site, through a dynamic learning and outreach programme.

As Head of Education, I lead a team responsible for co-ordinating the learning and outreach programme. We already engage with almost 20,000 school children each year and during term-time we welcome up to 15 school visits per week. Tours and hands-on activities are designed to encourage children to interpret the meaning of this wonderful building and its collections.

Open Treasure is an opportunity to increase our engagement with schools. In the autumn we will be launching Cathedral Explorers, a new afterschool club for children aged 7-11, as well as Treasure Boxes, resource boxes for schools which include replica artefacts, source materials and lesson plans. Treasure Stories will also be developed, with special outreach sessions inspired by the Cathedral’s collections which will be delivered in local schools and colleges.

In addition to our work with schools and colleges, we continue to develop new ways of engaging with families and young visitors to Durham Cathedral with an exciting programme of family events, activities and self-guided trails.

Drawing upon the Cathedral’s history and heritage, a new monastic herb garden is being developed. Special events throughout the summer will enable families and visitors of all ages to get a real taste of life in a medieval monastery.

Young Curators, an exciting new group for young people aged 11-16, has also been launched. Young Curators will have unique opportunities to explore the new exhibition areas of Durham Cathedral. They’ll learn how to handle and display objects, interpret the collections and help develop a new children’s book about the collections.

Free taster days throughout the summer have been organised for young people who are interested in Young Curators. From September 2015, the group will meet on the second Saturday morning of every month, in the Education Centre, from 10.30am – 12.30pm.

In August we are holding a Magna Carta Medieval Weekend where everyone can meet medieval townsfolk and craftspeople as they take up residence within the Cathedral grounds.  There will be demonstrations of pastimes and skills that filled their daily life and you can even try your hand at skills such as rope making, candle dipping, butter churning and striking your own coin.  It promises to be a fun filled, fantastic occasion.

With so much going on, my role is a challenging one and the Education Team has expanded in recent months to cope with demand.  We now employ three Learning Officers, one Learning and Outreach Officer and an Education Assistant and the Team is supported by a dedicated team of over 35 Education Volunteers.  As the project develops we will be launching new initiatives for adult learners.  Watch this space!

With the invaluable input from all of the Education Team we have successfully shaped a vibrant learning and outreach programme, enabling visitors of all ages to enjoy and engage with this incredible building.

Charlotte Rowbotham, Head of Education, Durham Cathedral

See www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/learning for information about sessions for schools.

See www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/whatson for information about public family events.

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