The National Museum Wales has been busy at Summer of Smiles delivering lots of different workshops and activities for young people, involving elements of both the past and the present.
For a history buff like myself, it has been quite the treat to be based right next door to them!
Steph Burge is the Learning Manager at Museum, which is just opposite the main festival site on City Hall’s lawn, in Cardiff. I just about managed to hear her over the BeeGees, who have been taking the festival by storm with just two songs: ‘Jive Talkin’ and ‘Staying Alive’.
“We’ve got all sorts of different activities to engage children and families. We are doing a couple of craft activities this morning, which can be based on historical buildings the children have seen in the past.”
I met two of the young people at the festival while they were making their houses. Tommy and Bronwen were in the process of shaping their houses while we had a chat.
“I’ve really enjoyed learning about the history. I didn’t even know half of the stuff I have learned.”
Even in the summer holidays, when, in typical Welsh fashion, it was raining, Tommy was still able to learn something new!
While I left Bronwen to get to work on her “mystery house,” I went to catch up with Steph about everything else that was on offer.
You might be forgiven for thinking the term museum only refers to the past, but there is no such cliché surrounding what the team are getting up to here. The National Museum is cleverly trying to fuse the past, present and future with one another.
This was clear when Steph started talking about the museum’s urban meadow.
“We are also doing some seed packets. There is an urban meadow next to our museum, in town, which is all about growing different kinds of flowers to encourage bees and other wildlife which will get people to think about rewilding their gardens.”
“Everyone is mowing their gardens so they can sit on their grass, but it isn’t very good for nature.”
I, for one, think it is fantastic to see young people being encouraged to care for nature and wildlife more. After all, they are the generation who will change our futures.
Steph tells us the work of the team is all about “encouraging young people to be interested in heritage, but also to be active citizens in their day-to-day life and to be thinking about how they can safeguard their future.”
Getting young people involved with history
“I think it is really important. There is a really great role that the museum can play in being a little bit different to a school environment. We are showing them some genuine artefacts, through the chance of getting to come into the Discovery Centre at the museum or at stalls like this.”
“Children can perhaps see a real skull, see a real iron age flint axe and all sorts of different things. It gives children a chance to connect with the past and this kind of hands-on learning is really important.”
Why should you visit the festival?
There is lots going on at the festival, with something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Steph has this message for anyone thinking of coming the festival.
“I think that if you come along, you will have a good time. There is so much to do with the entire Summer of Smiles site. Particularly, at our stall, we have something different planned every day, so you will always get some different activities.”
“If you’re thinking of coming along, it is an excellent opportunity to have a go at doing something as a family and maybe even learn a thing or two, in the process.”
If you’d like to check out the Summer of Smiles, you can book your £2 tickets here.