Katie Smith is the Learning Officer at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museum, and very good at it she is too. In this article she writes about a recent Early Years & Key Stage 1 event there; Once Upon A Time: The Museum of Fairytales.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, 300 schoolchildren visited the Museum of Fairytales at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. Over the course of three days in June and July, we ran Once Upon A Time, a new schools event aimed at younger children. During the event, children developed their communication skills and understanding of traditional stories, whilst having lots of fun! After its successful pilot days, Once Upon A Time is set to be a regular feature in the dynamic programme of learning events that Gressenhall offers local schools.
The day started in the chapel where the children awaited excitedly the grand opening of the Museum of Fairytales by the (slightly batty) Curator, played by Jan Pitman. He’s worked hard to build up a collection of fairytale objects, including the golden egg, Thumbelina’s walnut shell bed and the Pied Piper’s rat. Special guests were invited too: the gallant Jack (our very own Rachel Duffield) and the beautiful Cinderella, played by Annette Philipps. On unveiling his brand new displays it is discovered that…the objects had all been stolen by the cackling Wicked Witch!
The children had to discover where the Wicked Witch (Katie Smith) had hidden all the fairy tale objects and report back to the curator. With no objects to look at in the museum, the other fairytale characters offered to keep the children busy until everything has been found…
There were plenty of opportunities to explore the site and to take part in fairy tale activities. These included a Beanstalk Quest with Jack in the Woodland Playground; making wands and crafting crowns in Cherry Tree Cottage, stirring up potions with the Wicked Witch in Centenary Woods and cleaning the farmhouse with poor old Cinders and her two Ugly Sisters! The children also greatly enjoyed hunting for the stolen fairy tale objects, hidden around the site by the Wicked Witch!
The three days were a resounding success and much fun was had by children and adults alike! Miss C. Hindry from Whitefriars Primary School wrote:
‘We attended your ‘Grand Opening’ for the Museum of Fairytales and were incredibly impressed with the amount of enthusiasm and detail you had included into the day. It was obvious that a huge amount of time and effort had been put into creating what was an exciting and memorable day and both the staff and children thoroughly enjoyed themselves…it gave the children an experience they will never forget. They took in every detail and in their written work about the day it was apparent just how much they were immersed in the whole experience.’
And Tomass, aged 6, said: ‘Thank you for letting us come. Thank you for the adventures Jack and everyone. I loved the rat because I love rats. The witch was silly and naughty but I thought it was funny.’
The Learning department would like to thank all the volunteers who supported these events (Barbara Slattery, Christine Walters, Debbie Craine, Fred Bragg Gillian Wilcox, Jill Lamb, Sue Rogers and Veronica Phillips) and especially to Hannah Jackson, our Sustainability Project Officer, who heroically stepped into the role of Jack when Rachel lost her voice!
Needless to say, the Wicked Witch got her comeuppance at the end of the day. Jack turned her into a museum object, using the immortal line ‘Don’t be such a flibberdy jibbet…I turn you into a museum exhibit!’ With this new addition to the collection, the Museum of Fairytales opened to much excitement and critical acclaim. And, of course, the Curator and the fairytale characters… all lived happily ever after.