Redbridge Museum’s new exhibition opened just last week and the kids already love it!
When I arrived at the exhibition, a little before opening time at 10am, I wasn’t the first one there. There were already at least ten children standing at the doors, anxiously waiting to be let into the Ship Ahoy! exhibition, ready to explore everything that was to offer. Some of them had already been signed up by parents to the morning activity that day ‘Build a Barge’ – where children could use recycled materials, scissors, tape and colouring pens to create their own boats.
From the minute you enter the exhibition, it feels like you’ve been transported to a different place and time. Waves of blue colours on the floor reflect the vast seas, and twinkling lights give the impression of night sky, setting the scene for a truly magical experience. Hard to miss is the adult size (or perhaps child size) ship, all-inclusive with a deck, sails, wheel and even a kitchen! Kids were excited to play-act captain and crew as they imagined sailing the wild seas. The exhibition also includes something a little different this summer, sea-related board games positioned throughout the room! The giant Spice Traders board game includes two large wheels to spin carrying the game forward. For our more musically inclined visitors there is a section to sing along to sea shanties and play with instruments.
After half an hour exploring the exhibition we moved across the hall to the Gloucester Room where tables, chairs and supplies were set out for the activity. Led by our museum assistant Aki, the children were given a history of Ilford docks and the river Roding. One of the highlights of the activity was getting to visit the museum on the 2nd floor. The children listened intently as Aki told them about working at the docks and then each child was given a chance to use a magnifying glass to locate the river on the map.
Returning to the activity room, children were given a chance to plan out their boats before being called up table by table to pick out their supplies. This was where the real fun began! The kids were back and forth, picking out the right bottles, the perfect colours and just the right material to make their perfect ship. The kids were able to get really creative with their ideas, when asked about what they enjoyed most one child said that they “enjoyed putting the strawberries on the boat” while another “enjoyed making the captain.”
The fun was not just limited to the children though! Even the parents were having an amazing time bonding with their children over this great activity. One parent said that “planning the barge with [their] son” was their favourite part!
It was a joy to see the proud and enthusiastic look on each child’s face after they were finished. Aki and our museum volunteer Jemima did a great job leading the workshop and assisting throughout the activity while I spent most of the time photographing the entire process, being a fly on the wall to ensure the children weren’t distracted, however even I was approached by a young boy who asked if I could take a picture of him with his finished boat. That was a request that I was more than happy to fulfil!
Before the session came to an end, some of the children wanted to tell the class a little about their boats. One by one the children talked about why they chose the colours and materials they did, and what they loved most about their boat. They had put so much effort into their creation, and you couldn’t help but feel proud of each of them. A final group photo was taken before each child left the session, with their creations held tightly in their hands.
This was just the first of many activities taking place during the exhibition run. There are plenty more to come in the next few weeks including making your own map, designing a flag for your own ship and singing sea songs and rhymes!
Post Author: Nida Hussain