Two museums in Northwich have received prestigious Sandford Awards.
The Lion Salt Works Museum and Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse were recognised for their excellence of the museums’ imaginative teaching and inspirational learning activities with schools.
The glittering award ceremony took place at the Fashion Museum and Assembly Rooms in Bath, where they received their award from writer, historian and TV presenter Dr Lucy Worsley.
The Sandford Award is an independently judged, quality assured assessment of education programmes at heritage sites, museums, archives and collections across the British Isles.
The annual awards focus on formal, curriculum-linked education opportunities offered to schools by heritage sites.
The Sandford Award’s committee praised the Lion Salt Works Museum’s ‘experienced and talented’ learning staff for providing ‘high quality opportunities to learn about the salt industry and its impact on the local community, economy and the environment through activities that promote enquiry and discovery.
It also praised its ‘creative and effective programme of interactive tours and workshops.’
The Lion Salt Works aims to engage its school parties in a way that is fun and educational.
For instance, the museum has a character in costume who plays the role of ‘Harry the Innkeeper’, the fictional landlord of the of the Red Lion pub.
He takes the children on a tour of the site, engaging pupils and teachers alike in the story of salt production.
There are also a wide range of workshops on offer to teachers and pupils, designed to promote discovery and enquiry around core curriculum subjects including history, science and geography.
Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse was praised by the Sandford Award’s committee for providing ‘strong opportunities for pupils to engage with the collections and to have an immersive experience, meeting real characters from history through live interpretation that both informs and inspires them.’
Staff were also praised for ‘working hard and creatively’ and for seeking out new opportunities to meet the needs of new audiences.
Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse runs a Viking session to support the national curriculum led by a costumed Viking.
The Sandford Award praised the atmospheric setting and use of replica artefacts and the way pupils were encouraged to engage on many levels, including smelling preserved fish and tasting bread.
The quality of teaching, the rapport with the pupils and the insights into the life and work of a Viking trader were described as ‘outstanding’.
Cabinet member for communities and wellbeing at Cheshire West & Chester Council councillor Louise Gittins said: “Our dedicated learning staff work tremendously hard and imaginatively to inspire a love of history in everyone who visits their museums.
“Using costumed characters, artefacts, educational storylines and fun they inspire the children to participate and engage with history.
“The comments from the Sandford Award show just how well they succeed and I am delighted and very proud of this formal recognition of these outstanding staff.”
Both museums offer a wide range of workshops and activities that support the national curriculum and are cross-curricular.
At the Lion Salt Works Museum, this includes a history detective workshop, where children have to solve the mystery of a missing salt worker and a geography session where children are enrolled into a spy academy.
Weaver Hall Museum offers sessions on the Vikings, Great Fire of London, a Workhouse experience and a local town trail exploring the history of Northwich.
Both museums were made Children’s University Learning Destinations in January 2017.
This provides children and families with learning activities and experiences out of school hours.
This ‘Passport to Learning’ programme is open to children aged five-14 to collect ‘stamps’ that recognises their learning and commitment.