We focus on Kates Hill Primary School in Dudley and their special programme of trips to the Black Country Living Museum, which uncovered more about their local heroes.

Black Country Living Museum, Dudley

Pupils can take part in a traditional Edwardian school lesson at the museum.

Students who visit the Black Country Living Museum (BCLM) in Dudley have a chance to step back in time and uncover the history of a small region that made a big impact on the world, from the Industrial Revolution to the post-war period. Groups explore the museum’s 26-acres, discovering shops, houses and industrial buildings in its recreated canalside village.

Kates Hill Primary School in Dudley partnered with the museum on The Sunbeam Project to share even more stories from the region’s past and celebrate the legacy of the Black Country’s industrial heritage, bringing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths) subjects to life for 15 KS2 pupils. The project spanned a full academic year from September 2021 to July 2022 and included several trips to the museum alongside outreach activities with pupils at the school.

Kevin Orchard, the teacher at Kates Hill Primary School who helped organise the partnership, said: “We are so lucky to have the Black Country Museum right on our doorstep and over the years we have established a wonderful working relationship with them which has offered so many opportunities to our children that they would otherwise not have experienced.”

Black Country Living Museum, Dudley

Students designed and built their own cars during The Sunbeam Project.

The year-long partnership saw the pupils engage with the story of the Sunbeam Motor Company, one of the most famous Black Country vehicle manufacturers of the early 20th Century. A key part of its designated collection, the museum holds several iconic examples of Sunbeam vehicles including motorcars and bicycles.

As part of the Sunbeam Project, pupils were able to get hands-on with an engineering activity during one visit - the construction of a ‘green power kit car’. BCLM staff worked closely with the school to create a dedicated space to build the car, providing all the materials to manufacture the vehicle, as well as giving support throughout the build.

The practical project gave children the chance to enjoy first-hand experience with engineering as they worked together on the building of this special vehicle, while reflecting on the motor industry’s heritage in the region. Once complete, the pupils even got to give the car a test drive at their school.

Teacher Kevin Orchard continued: “The Sunbeam Project has given children the chance to build their own kit car and drive it around the playground.”

“The skills that the pupils picked up in relation to engineering, planning and problem solving will prove invaluable to them in future years. The museum has provided our children with many hours of education and enjoyment.”

Kevin Orchard, Kates Hill Primary School teacher

Pupils also spent time at the museum to discover the history of the Sunbeam Motor Company and the wider impact of engineering on the Black Country. Using a bespoke museum trail, the students were invited to explore the site to find out stories about John Marston, one of the founders of Sunbeam, as well as other local figures who had an important part to play in the industrial history of the region.

While exploring the museum’s canalside village, key buildings were picked out on the trail which linked to the stories of engineering. This included Bradburn and Wedge Motor Garage, Hartill’s Motorcycle shop, and Sidebotham’s Trapshop. The trail also highlighted the museum’s links to the Dudley canal network and how important the canal was to industry.

The children didn’t just discover big names in industry though – they also got to learn about small scale entrepreneurs, like Seneh Bradley who began to sell small items such as butter and sugar from her pantry at Jerushah, the museum’s tilted cottage.

Black Country Living Museum

Hartill’s Motorcycle shop was one of the visits factored into the school’s dedicated trail.

Mr Orchard added: “There have been a range of activities to take part in during the programme and the incredibly knowledgeable guides have further enhanced these days with their understanding and experience of the Black Country.”

Simon Williams, BCLM’s activity programme developer, said: “We’re proud to work with local schools in celebrating engineering heroes like John Marston, and highlighting exciting stories from the Black Country’s past that happened right on their doorsteps.

“In focusing on our transport collection, we can help pupils find a connection between the historic stories of ingenuity from manufacturers in our local area and modern day practises, and hopefully inspire them to connect with STEAM subjects and careers in the future.”

Following the successful completion of the project, BCLM and Kate’s Hill Primary School will be working together throughout 2023 to create more outstanding learning opportunities away from the desks.

For more information about school trips to the Black Country Living Museum, go to bclm.com/learn.