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Make and Take Puppet workshops reimagined

Shayna, Schools Learning Officer tells us how she put a fresh approach on the Horniman’s Make and Take a Puppet workshop.

The workshop

My name is Shayna and I’m one of the Schools Learning Officers here at the Horniman. Some 31,000 school pupils take part in taught workshops at the Museum and Gardens each year. The Make and Take a Puppet workshop is a favourite with Key Stage 1 in the colder months.

We start by looking at and trying out some of the Horniman's Sanchar rod puppets from India. Pupils are challenged to guess the secret ingredient in the papier-mâché heads – fenugreek (a curry spice). Their answers range from cinnamon to bacon crisps! Next, I tell the Indian story of Rupa the Elephant by Mickey Patel, with its morals of self-acceptance, diversity and kindness. I encourage pupils to remember these values during the craft activity – making rod puppets to take away.

  • Indian Sanchar rod puppet, Indian Sanchar rod puppet
    Indian Sanchar rod puppet

The revamp

Although the workshop was popular with schools, the team felt it was a little prescriptive and relied too heavily on unsustainable materials. So I set about a revamp. First, I found sustainable alternatives for the materials without increasing the cost – scrunched up newspaper instead of polystyrene balls for the heads; masking tape instead of sticky tape; cotton instead of synthetic felt. The sequins had to go too.

Fabric was the trickiest to source but eventually, we managed to secure a supply of used white cotton napkins (washed, of course) from textile recycling firm LMB. To jazz these up I introduced Indian block printing, which teaches pupils a new skill and links to the Indian heritage of the rod puppets at the start of the workshop.

  • Key stage 1 using stamps, Key Stage 1 using stamps
    Key Stage 1 using stamps

To make the workshop less repetitive, pupils are now given a choice between four different animal faces and feet for their puppets – tiger, leopard, elephant or peacock. To add some differentiation, the feet can be cut out in two different ways to cater for different levels of dexterity.

  • Child making paper rod puppet, Child making paper rod puppet
    Child making paper rod puppet

I wanted to add one premium item to enable pupils to personalise their puppets. I knew I’d found it when I came across some beautiful animal-print Washi tape. It’s great to see how creative the children are with just a small piece of this – fashioning it into a collar or even a bandana or bow.

As a final flourish and a nod to the fenugreek earlier, I spray some mixed spice scent onto each puppet. This fills the room with the smell of gingerbread, which is a lovely way to end the session.

  • Animal-print Washi tape, Animal-print Washi tape
    Animal-print Washi tape

The response

The revamped workshop has been well received by pupils, teachers and parents. One teacher mentioned that our shift to sustainable materials tied in with their focus on sustainability in Science. Another teacher, who had done this workshop before, remarked that the block printing has added more skill and creativity to the session. The real seal of approval for me was overhearing a pupil saying, “I can’t wait to play with it!”

The Horniman Advent Calendar 2017

Have a look through our advent calendar and come back for the new doors being opened.

























Game of Thrones - Teen Takeover Day 2017

Our Horniman Youth Panel took over our Twitter feed as part of the Kids in Museums Takeover Day and led us on a Game of Thrones inspired tour of the galleries. They tell us about the experience in their own words.

This year we (Annie, Gabby and Jaz from the Horniman Youth Panel) were presented with the challenge of running a better twitter takeover than last year’s Pokemon hunt. When brainstorming the biggest pop culture sensations of this year we settled almost immediately and unanimously on Game of Thrones, as possibly the most widely watched television show of all time. We used our youth and cool hip-ness to run the best Kids in Museums twitter takeover so far and to advise old people on when to say on fleek (just stop it guys).


We were surprised by the number of Game of Thrones references we were able to find in the Natural History Gallery alone, with many taxidermy exhibits lining up with the sigils of the great houses of Westeros.

We thought it would be a good idea to ask the public who their favourite house was. The most popular was House Stark, represented by the Horniman’s own “Direwolf” - a beheaded wolf in the Natural History gallery.  


We used quotes from the show and jokes we made up to make our posts interesting. A hilarious example being Annie’s ’NEIGH-bourhood Dothraki’ pun, which was definitely the funniest thing said that day.


We were delighted to have a response from Sophie, who replied in Dothraki (nerd).

Much of our time was spent feverishly googling GoT references because it turned out none of us actually watch the show. Thankfully we had Ben, Digital Assistant and resident Game of Thrones nerd, helping us out with the more obscure trivia.

Obviously, at some point in our tour we had to include dragons! So when we discovered three dragon-like costumes in the Hands on Base to match Daenerys' children, we jumped on the opportunity to have a dragon dab. 

As it turned out one of our costumes was actually a snow leopard, but it looked dragony enough!

  • Teen Takeover 2017, Where are my dragons?
    Where are my dragons?

All that was left at the end of the day was giving the House of Horniman its own sigil, and the choice was clear from the start. The walrus is a resident celebrity and the perfect representative for the House of Horniman. 



Goodbye Busy Bees

Our Busy Bees programme has ended for the summer but we hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have. Fear not, Busy Bees will return at 10, 10.45 and 11.30 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, beginning on Tuesday 12 September, with more stories, objects, music and outdoor play. In the meantime, we hope to see you at some of our summer events.

During the school holidays, we run an exciting programme of events for families and children of all ages. Activities take place every day from Saturday 22nd July until Sunday 3rd September and full details can be found on the calendar on our website.

Some highlights from our summer programme include: 

Wednesday 26 July – Big Butterfly Count

Join Richard ‘Bugman’ Jones exploring our gardens and Nature Trail and take part in the nation’s Big Butterfly Count using spotter sheets and sweeper nets.

Wednesday 2 August – Horniman Favourites

Celebrate National Play Day by watching a traditional Punch & Judy Show and get up close to some live owls with JAMBS Owls.

Wednesday 9 August – Indian Summer  

Join us for the launch of our Big Wednesday Indian Summer programme, watch traditional Indian dance, find out how to drape a sari and listen to Indian folk tales.

  • Subrang Arts, Subrang Arts
    Subrang Arts

Muddy Bees is back

With our outdoor play session returning Wednesday 5 July and Tuesday 26 September, volunteer Gemma Murray provides us with some great ideas how you can have some messy but manageable fun at home.

Muddy Bees is an outdoor play session for under 5s run by the Horniman throughout the summer months and there are two more sessions left for this year: Wednesday 5 July and Tuesday 26 September.

Since we are lucky enough to have our wonderful Gardens at the Horniman Muddy Bees takes place on a grand scale. With a massive water butt, several tables, and tonnes of pots and pans, we can offer you sand, water, mud pie making, and lots of messy fun.

However, often parents will ask us for ways to replicate our games in the more confined spaces of their own homes and gardens. So here are my top five outdoor game ideas, be warned though, there's always bound to be a little mess.

Plant Sprayer Shootout

Set up a series of targets around your garden, this could be anything from plastic cups and bottles to something as simple as a sheet of paper with a target drawn on it. Arm each child with a plant sprayer and see if they can hit the targets. Older kids will have to stand further back than younger ones in the interest of fairness. Watch out, there's a high chance that this could spill over to a fully fledged water fight.

Water Drawing

Another one that makes use of plant sprayers, but a clean set of paint brushes and a pot of water works just as well. This one couldn't be simpler, just let your little ones loose on whatever surface they can find. Fences, patios, and walls will all become blank canvases for them to express themselves on, and you could end up with a clean patio for their troubles too.

Chalk

Chalk can look rather tasty so make sure nothing ends up in your kids' mouths, but, like water, chalk offers a chance for children to express their artistic sides with minimal cleanup so drawing on pretty much anything goes. 

Water Trays

Make your own paddling pools with just a tub of water. This works very well with babies but big brothers and sisters will probably want a piece of the action too. Adding food colouring to the water can prove an interesting experiment for older kids who want to see what colours they can mix together but can lead to bright blue fingers leaving their mark. 

Potions

Gather up ingredients to brew a 'magic' potion in any waterproof container you can find. Sticks, mud, leaves, petals, stones, or whatever your kids can get their hands on are sure to result in something as magical as it is messy. Last year, my kids were delighted to discover that their concoction made in a chocolate tin has transformed into a viable pond full of growing grass and little wriggly things. I was a little less thrilled when it came time to clean up.

Spring Welly Walk

This spring, a group of young explorers and their families walked the length of the Horniman Nature Trail.

They were accompanied by nature guide Shayna Soong and armed with binoculars and a Signs of Spring spotter sheet.

Only one of the families had visited the trail before, so this was a real walk on the wild side for most of the group.

The Horniman Nature Trail lies in an area that once formed part of the so-called Great North Wood. Other fragments of this wood are found in this area at One Tree Hill and Sydenham Hill Woods.

In 1865 a railway line was built to bring visitors to Crystal Palace. This was the London, Chatham and Dover line. Almost all trees and vegetation were cleared to make the railway. A railway bridge used to cross London Road here to the Lordship Lane station.

On our walk, we looked for historical clues and relics that remind us of its history as a railway line, such as the bumpy clinker underfoot.

We also looked for signs of spring. The challenge was to keep an eye out for blossom, flowers, birds and pond life and fill out a spotter sheet. Once the sheet had been filled out, they could shout out BINGO (but not too loud as to disturb the wildlife!).

We used a parabolic microphone to listen to birdsong which brought the lively chirping and tweeting so much closer.

A male newt from the pond was met with shrieks of delight as it showed off its breeding spots and crests. We also looked at the bat boxes and bird boxes along the route.

What will the Summer Welly Walk bring?  Come along on Saturday 8th July to find out!

We also have two exciting Bat Walks coming up, one for families on the 11 August and one for adults on the 18 August. Come with us to explore these exciting creatures. 

How to make an origami walrus

Coco Sato shows us how to recreate our star Natural History specimen in paper form. 

We recently had origami artist, Coco Sato, come into the Museum for one of our Big Wednesday events. 

Coco made some amazing giant origami animals with our visitors and had a pop-up installation in our Music Gallery. 

As an added extra for us, Coco showed us how to make an origami walrus, in honour of the big man himself.

It was modelled on the walrus in our Natural History Gallery. Here, you can see how Coco copied the walrus' shape and size into paper form. 

If you would like to make your own origami walrus, you can watch the following video where Coco goes through the whole process. 

All you need is a square of coloured paper and some scissors. 

If you do manage to master the skill, share your masterpieces with us on social media using #horniman.

A shrine to pencils

Today is National Pencil Day.

This wonderful day is observed each year on 30 March because, apparently, Hymen Lipman registered the first patent for attaching a rubber – or eraser to our American friends – to the end of a pencil on this day in 1858.

The holiday is a US tradition, but we thought we would use it this year as an excuse to tell you about the pencils we found while decanting our Galleries.

Last year, our African Worlds Gallery closed as we started the exciting process of turning the space into our new World Gallery. To do this, we needed to decant the Gallery and move all the objects back into storage.

  • A shrine to pencils, A shrine during the decant of the African Worlds Gallery.
    A shrine during the decant of the African Worlds Gallery.

As we took down our shrines, we realised that there were a few more objects inside them than had been there originally.

It seems that visitors had been popping pencils and other items through the small holes at the bottom of the cases.

  • A shrine to pencils, A small, pencil-sized hole in the case.
    A small, pencil-sized hole in the case.

While we decanted the cases, our team took an inventory of the number of extra items that had been ‘added’ to the shrine. We present this here.

Haitian Vodou shrine:

1 pencil

Brazilian Candomble shrine:

14 pencils

1 hairclip

1 crayon wrapper

And the winner by a mile…

Benin Mammi Wata shrine:

58 pencils

1 biro

1 twig

1 plastic lolly stick

As you can see, that is a total number of 73 pencils added to our shrines. 

Our team enjoyed these 'offerings' and made sure they were recycled and put to good use. 

  • A shrine to pencils, So many pencils.
    So many pencils.

Stories of Ganesha

Dotted Line Theatre tell us about 'Stories of Ganesha', their storytelling performance happening on 5 April as part of our Big Wednesday

‘The show includes three stories about Ganesha, 'How he came to have the head of an elephant' and two others (I don't want to ruin the surprise about which ones they are). They are introduced by a storyteller guide and a surprise cheeky accomplice, who has his own agenda.

One of our challenges has been that there are many different versions of each story, and who's to say which version is the definitive one. So we've tried to balance presenting a clear narrative with providing some alternative details.

  • Stories of Ganesha, A sketch for part of the design.
    A sketch for part of the design.

The show is lyrical and visually beautiful and there is some comedy too. I took my inspiration from the stories themselves and thought about the best way of using visual language to present both the drama within the stories and the different layers of meaning.

We are using a fusion of styles, blending together some Classical Indian dance with shadow puppetry, rod puppetry and some object puppetry using objects from the Museum collection.’

  • Stories of Ganesha, A test of a shadow puppet for the show.
    A test of a shadow puppet for the show.

About Dotted Line Theatre

The performers are: dancer Maanasa Visweswaran, puppeteers Jum Faruq, Ajjaz Awad and Almudena Calvo Adalia.

Dotted Line Theatre was formed in 2012 by Rachel Warr, a theatre director, writer and puppeteer. Dotted Line Theatre create original pieces with a playful quality and a strong visual style. Rachel's work includes productions at The Barbican Centre, Little Angel Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Underbelly, and festivals in Prague, Berlin, France and Singapore. This will be our third production for the Horniman Museum and Gardens and we are delighted to be back.

A new full-length show!

Last summer we performed a piece called ‘Stories on a String’ at the Horniman as part of their Festival of Brasil.

The show was inspired by Brazilian Literatura de Cordel (literally translated as 'stories on string'). These are booklets with woodblock printed covers, sharing stories and news to the masses, sold at markets from carts. Literatura de Cordel are also an oral tradition performed through music and poetry. In our show, these wood block pictures came to life as puppets to tell the story of a young girl from the city on a quest for her grandmother through the Amazon forest. With music and song from Rachel Hayter (a composer/ musician who studied and specialises in music of Brazil) and the talented Camilo Menjura.

It was a 25-minute piece and we are going to be developing it into a full-length show that we can tour, for which we have some funding from the Arts Council England and some support in kind from the Little Angel Theatre. We are also fundraising to make up the rest of our financial target. See our Kickstarter campaign for more information.

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