“While the historical information was obviously interesting (I thought so!) the kids loved the opportunity to have ‘hands’ on experience…”W Clanthie – Wantirna College 2002
Interestingly, this means that in the last few years we have greatly reduced the number of props we bring to schools. We used to have whole sessions that involved passing one prop after another. Now we have a carefully chosen minimum number that give just enough tactile and visual support to enhance the narrative of the session.
Our Fashion and Dress topic (see picture above) for instance: used to include almost enough props to dress up a class of 26 students, until our follow up research revealed that students rarely recall more than half a dozen of the items displayed. Now it involves just seven costumes: with tactile examination and detailed discussion of each. Result? Students tend to remember all seven, and can usually recite the development story which underlines the presentation.
Again, we believe that show and tell is useless unless they actually learn something valuable and can remember it weeks later.
We also make an effort to make those props look realistic. Which means we try to avoid flashy stainless steel, and un-realistic modern materials. In fact we take the brand new armour and clothing items we buy or produce, and get a little creative with scratches and dents and frayed edges and stains, so we can incorporate realistic discussions of lifestyle into our presentations. (Fully-fitted white ‘plate’ armour for instance, was about as common in the medieval world as private helicopters are in the modern world!)