Out and About: Thinktank

To help us think differently about how we engage with schools both at the Museum and off site, we have been keen to look for inspiration and ideas from other venues. A few weeks ago, Jason Lau, who works across both the Visitor Team and the Learning and Engagement Team, visited Thinktank in Birmingham to find out more about their school programmes.

A guest post by Jason Lau, a member of the Museum’s Visitor Team and Learning and Engagement Visitor Team Assistant

Thinktank science museum, without question, provides an interactive and immersive experience for their visitors. With over 200 interactive displays, an outdoor activity area and a planetarium, their exhibits are educational, interesting and fun.

Thinktank welcomes up to a few hundred children per day, and the large number of school groups is testament to the popularity of their learning programme. The programme itself offers schools a wide variety of workshops, from storytelling and slime making to coding with Lego and exploring the beginnings of our universe.

Although most of their teaching takes place in separate classrooms, I did get to see one gallery space (below) designed for group working, which is used to introduce pupils to the planetarium show.

Thinktank 2
I had the opportunity to experience the planetarium session for myself and found it really captivating. Speaking to Collin (member of their digital team), I was told how the team has the ability to self-edit the content within the planetarium video and update, create or even display different clusters of stars, based on real world information. Like the universe itself, the potential of this type of software seems limitless.http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/thinktank/highlights/planetarium
For schools who are unable to visit the museum, Thinktank also offers an outreach programme that takes an inflatable planetarium to schools. The inflatable planetarium has been used in many classrooms, where the team can either run a planetarium session or use it to explore how light works.

In some cases, comparisons can help us to recognise that what we already have is great, but it can also help us to realise how we can refine and develop new ways of doing things. I have been really inspired by this visit, and it has given me some great ideas to feed back to the team as we start to redevelop our own on-gallery resources, and as we explore alternative uses for our inflatable museum.

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