School and college projects

The MERL works collaboratively with schools, colleges and their students to ensure relevant, creative and meaningful engagement. We work on projects which adopt creative and innovative approaches to our collections and the curriculum. Here are some of examples of our past and present projects.


The Wild Escape: Create a Buzz

Find out about Create a Buzz at The MERL, a project by Museums Partnership Reading that forms part of The Wild Escape (funded by Art Fund and Arts Council England).


With our partners Younger People with Dementia and Admiral Nurses, we are looking to collaborate with schools to develop a toolkit to support young people impacted by a family or parental diagnosis of early onset dementia. Recognising the limited specific support available for young people in these circumstances, we hope to produce a resource which helps to raise awareness and aid schools in supporting their students.

To find out more or to explore opportunities for being involved, please contact The MERL Learning Team at

Examples of past projects include:


We are excited to be hosting several visits by Year 7 pupils at Reading Girls School this Spring Term as part of their Earth Shot Project. The pupils have been given a plot of land at the school to cultivate and conserve. Working with colleagues at the School, we have developed a STEM Widening Participation programme to support this. Pupils will get hands on experience of exploring items from the collections that represent human ingenuity and have brought about change or inspired collective action in the world of cultivation, environment and climate. Each session will also feature colleagues from the wider University talking about their research in these areas enabling the pupils to hear about present and future action. This exposure to past, present and future approaches is intended to inspire the pupils to shape the land at their school.

The MERL is 70: Schools invited to be one of our ‘51 Voices

2021 marks the 70th anniversary of The MERL and we have been celebrating this momentous occasion with an exciting year-long collaborative project. We have invited schools to take part by working with us and local artists on creative programmes which are inspired by the first objects to come into our post-War museum. The outputs of these programmes will be shared during our anniversary year, giving schools the chance to become one of our 51 Voices. The projects – including workshops with artists – will take place online.


A programme of literacy resources for KS1 & 2 

We invited primary schools to work with us and local author, Clare Rees, on a creative writing project inspired by some of the first objects to come into the museum 70 years ago. Using five pre-recorded videos, for five lessons, and accompanying resources created by Clare, the project enabled classes to get their creative juices flowing and create imaginative pieces of writing that turn ordinary museum objects into something amazing. Schools were then invited to submit their favourite pieces of writing to us which were then collated by Clare to form one of the project’s 51 Voices.

Though the submission deadline for writings to feature as part of our 51 Voices project has now passed, please continue to share stories with us. We’d love to continue to read your students’ responses.

How to take part

Participation is free. All details can be found in the full resource pack which is available on request.

To find out more and request the resource pack, please contact the MERL Learning Team on


Another of our school projects involved us working with illustrator, Maisy Inston in partnership with Reading Girls’ School. This part of the 51 Voices project focused on a poster from 1951 advertising pesticide usage in post-war Britain.

The programme comprised three artist-led workshops. The first workshop introduced the project and the historical context surrounding the poster. The second focused on the importance of biodiversity within ecosystems illustrating how our food security depends on an entire web of different species. The final session focused on the species who acted as pest controllers with an engaging drawing class. As part of this collaboration, students illustrated their own updated version of the original piece contributing to a final project in the form of a new poster – promoting biodiversity as a way to tackle food security issues and climate change.

Diwali at The MERL and Reading Museum 2020

The Museum of English Rural Life and Reading Museum have been working with Kala the Arts, a leading dance organisation that specialises in the Odissi South Asian dance as part of an ambitious schools and community project in Reading.

As part of the project 3 local schools have taken online workshops in a series of dances relating to the story of Diwali. The story of Rama and Sita has been split into different scenes, each scene being depicted through movement and expression.

To support these workshops, we have developed a range of resources detailing the Story of Rama and Sita, Odissi dance expressions in body positions and hand shapes, objects in our collection linked to Diwali and decoration like Rangoli and Diya lamps. These resources connect cross-cultural celebration, dance and festival themes and can support the national curriculum in cultural capital, Religious Education and Physical Education.

Museums Partnership Reading logo

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: Agriculture in Medieval Times

This partnership project between The Abbey School and the MERL was to adapt an existing scheme of work on Medieval Life. The collaboration resulted in the design and development of a learning programme using museum objects in the teaching of Medieval farming for Year Seven students. Over the Autumn Term, pupils engaged with object handling, used research skills to investigate primary and secondary sources and then used their knowledge to run a school debate and curate an exhibition in school.

The Full English Extra

This was a collaborative project with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and Arbour Vale School and the Reading Music Centre. The aim of this project was to see how the MERL collections can be used creatively to inspire folk music for a young audience. Two projects were undertaken:

Arbour Vale School

English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) artists worked collaboratively to deliver sessions over four Friday mornings. Using two songs about rural life as a starting point (Daddy Fox and A Country Boy), pupils in two Key Stage 3 classes and the school choir explored and developed the musical material using voices, instruments, movement and Makaton signing. The songs and photographs from the Museum were used as stimuli for cross-arts work, including creating soundscapes and making props, forming part of the final sharing performance.

Reading Music Centre String Orchestra

Working with the Director of the orchestra, EFDSS artists sourced musical material from the EFDSS digital archive which were accessible to string players and had plenty of potential for musical development. Over five Friday evening sessions, the players were introduced to the music through learning by ear. This encouraged them to work together, acknowledging and listening to each other and playing as a more effective ensemble. A final piece, using ideas from the string players, was worked into a soundtrack to accompany a film of a threshing machine, similar to one which forms part of the MERL’s collection.

Visit the EDFSS website to find out more about the project and discover the resources created.

Have a project in mind? Contact Phillippa Heath, Learning and Engagement Manager, on to discuss further.