Happy Days at MEAL

Jo Rooks, MEAL’s learning officer writes:

Jo Rooks

On Wednesday the 28th April Class Three from Lavenham Primary School came into the museum to open their exhibition, “Happy Days”, in the chapel. They had squash, biscuits and Haribo sweets (other brands of sweets are available) then Bronte cut the ribbon declaring “Happy Days” open to the public.

The exhibition is the product of an entire term’s work by the children and their teacher, Miss Moody, looking at what makes them happy and what made Victorian children happy. It all started with a tweet by the museums director mentioning that we were looking for a school to work with on a happiness project. Lavenham Primary School responded to the call and then the work started!

I was invited to the school with some toys from the museum collection. The children were shown how to handle a museum object, given curators white gloves and let loose on the toys. We discussed Victorian children and what kind of children would have played with the toys from the museum. We also talked about what would have made people in Victorian times happy. They then thought about what makes them happy. Surprisingly, once they had really thought about it, they discovered that it isn’t expensive toys or Wiis or playstations but days out with their families or playing in the sunshine with their friends. Class Three had much more in common with children 150 years ago than they first thought!

Next, Lavenham School came on a visit to the museum to try out the Victorian classroom and see more objects from the past. Once they returned to school Class Three went on to do lots of research into Victorian Life. They found out about school, families and work. They also created a questionnaire for the rest of Lavenham School to find out if all of the pupils agreed with them about what makes a child in the 21st Century happy. From this they did work on numeracy, literacy and maths. They wrote the panels for the exhibition,chose objects to go on display, composed poems, created graphs and charts from the questionnaire findings and drew pictures of what makes them happy. I returned to the school to have a look at all their work and to play a few Victorian games (Miss Moody said she didn’t know how devious her class could be until she saw them playing hunt the slipper).

 “Happy Days” is now open to the public and will be in place until the 31st October 2010.

“Happy Days” is part of a wider initiative Happiness at MEAL. We are trying to make the world we live in a little bit happier. There is already an online exhibition, www.whenwerewehappy.org.uk , and a brand new exhibition on Trust will open in June 2010.

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