There is nothing more unusual than facing 400 children while they speak out your name in unison. I have delivered a few assemblies now, one about Remembrance and a few on the topic of VE Day, but the welcome is something I have yet to get used to.
“Today I am here to talk to you about Armed Forces Day”, and I crack on with why I am there.
As Education Officer for the REME Museum, I have had many challenges in my five years of being in the post. One was a group visit of over 90 pupils studying Local History to a Museum designed to hold a lot less. Another was a visit by only five children with multiple learning difficulties for which I needed to find new ways to help them access the collection. My new challenge is to start an education programme for the new location with a new Museum, and this is a challenge which I am looking forward to.
Since our site in Arborfield is closed to the public, my main focus is to start talking to schools near our new site in Lyneham. Assemblies, which for this week were focusing on Armed Forces Day, are a great first step into schools. They are places where we can talk to both children and teachers about who REME are and what sort of thing they should be expecting in the Museum when it opens in Autumn 2016.
The Armed Forces Day assembly focuses on two things: what the Armed Forces do for us and who they are. I talk about protection, peace, aid and innovation. We discuss the role of veterans, men, women and members of the commonwealth who make up our fighting forces (but with a little REME bias!). With the help of a few young volunteers from the audience, the school has a chance to explore some uniform and kit from both World War Two and the present day.
After a barrage of wonderful questions, that usually deviate off track a bit, class by class they file out of the hall leaving just me and a member of staff. After a quick handshake, I am off. In all I come away from the school knowing that many kids have had a great experience with the collections, they have learnt lots. If that was only after 15 minutes in a school hall, imagine what they will learn once they are able to visit the actual Museum.
Oliver Parr – Education Officer