A Q&A with the MAD Museum

Date Posted: 06/08/2015

Pictured: A school visit to the MAD museum in Stratford-upon-Avon.

We spoke to Katie Wilson, educational officer at the Mad Museum, about the learning opportunities they provide.

Can you tell us little bit about the MAD Museum?

“'MAD' stands for Mechanical Art and Design. Based in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon, this quirky attraction houses a variety of weird and wonderful pieces of mechanical art. Think of Heath Robinson mixed with Wallace and Gromit and Scrapheap Challenge. Our MAD Museum displays over 80 awe-inspiration pieces of art made by eccentric artists from all around the globe.

“Nearly everything in the museum is interactive which means you have to work out how to get it moving. We've got all sorts on display; marble machines, giant clapping hands, interactive light walls, 3D faces, musical typewriters and loads of other bizarre and witty contraptions.

“As well as being highly interactive and a lot of fun, MAD appeals to those with curious and methodical brains too, it offers something for everyone.”

What does your educational programme cover and how is it tied in with the National Curriculum?

“When pupils are really engrossed in a subject it shows in their understanding, attention levels and grades. MAD is entertaining and supports the national curriculum for Art, Science, Design Technology and Engineering.

“Every piece on display has been handcrafted with precision and remarkable skill. This is where art meets movement, sometimes operating to achieve a function, but most of the time just moving for the fun of it. At our museum pupils can examine exquisite yet unusual styles of design, fine art, technology and sculpting.

“Physics, Engineering and Maths principals are portrayed through most our exhibits. Whether you’re looking to inspire or help pupils understand, MAD shows you impressive science and purposeful beauty.

“Early this year we installed 'MAD Marbles' which is essentially two walls on which kids (and big kids) can build their own marble runs. This has already proved very popular as a group exercise.”

Does your educational programme cover all Key Stages?

“We currently provide educational supplements for pupils aged five to 16 years and we are looking to extend this age group in the near future. For each age group we provide different key stage activity packs, these all support the National Curriculum.

“For young children a trip to MAD involves being in a totally new and exciting environment. They take pleasure in the fact there are plenty of different colours, sounds, lights and motions to gaze at; not to mention we tell them they can touch things which always goes down well. 

“Mechanical art is loud, eccentric, interactive and perfect for the primary school-aged pupils. Although our MAD Museum is relatively small, it's jam-packed with fascinating ingenuity and quirky design which challenge the laws of science and teases the senses.

“For Secondary school-aged pupils, MAD offers a chance to experience an handcrafted assortment of both modern and old fashioned, yet highly innovative machines with a bit of ‘physics in action’. We ask teenagers to examine and interact with weird and wonderful creations in the hope of inspiring future artists and engineers.”

Pictured: There are plenty of interactive exhibits for students.

Most of the exhibits at the museum are interactive. Why do you think it is important for education to be fun and interactive for pupils?

“Gone are the days children, and teachers for that matter, are satisfied with looking at artwork with their hands pinned to their sides. Encouraging them to touch things and to make exhibits work, that is what matters now.

“Not only do interactive exhibits provide more entertainment, through initiating another one of their senses, interaction is more successful in terms of learning and engagement. It brings the exhibit to life, makes pupils connect with it and encourage understanding and inspiration.

“Pupils stand a better chance of really getting their heads around a subject it they and see and feel it. Not only are our exhibits interactive, our MAD Marbles wall and workshop activities all follow a hands-on approach.  Interactivity is a big part of our museum and we're keen to keep thinking of new and excited attitudes to interactivity.”

How do you help teachers prepare for a trip to the museum?

“At the start of all group bookings, we always provide the teacher with our Education Resources pack. This contains everything they need to know, from the discount rates and further information about what we offer schools, to the risk assessment forms and cancellation details.

“Throughout the booking process there is an on-going e-mail thread of the details and costs. We also encourage teachers who haven't been to The MAD Museum before to visit us beforehand. In this case, I'd post the teacher a couple of complimentary tickets and they would come and look round our museum at a time which suits them best.”

How do you support the teachers and students during their visit?

“We are a family-run local museum looking to entertain teachers, students and families. Our team at MAD encourage the pupils and support the teachers present on the trip. When a group first arrives, everyone is given an introduction our museum and a safety briefing.

“Many teachers opt in for our 'assisted’ visit. Since opening the MAD Museum we've found the best way for groups to experience the museum is independently with the support of a knowledgeable member of staff on-hand. This is a very popular service with educational groups because it basically means pupils can do their own exploring while accompanied by a clued-up member of staff.” 

Pictured: Worskhops are also avaialble at the museum.

Do you provide school workshops as part of the visit?

“We do indeed. We launched this new activity a few months ago but already we have seen some great interest.

“The MAD Museum has opened up its normally off-limits workshop to offer construction activities to small groups. Get behind the scenes and build your very own piece of automata in the same room machines and sculptures are fixed and assembled every day.

“MAD workshops focus on Design Technology, Engineering and Art and they support the National Curriculum. The automata building activities varies depending on the age of the pupils in your group.”

For more information visit www.themadmuseum.co.uk/schoolgroup-visits.

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