Busy Bees (Under 5s storytelling) at the Horniman Museum & Gardens
By Rose Mitchell, Family Learning Co-ordinator for the Horniman Museum & Gardens
The Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill is not like your average museum, it’s one of the most family friendly in the whole of London. It is home to lots of different objects, from ancient Egyptian coffins to trumpets and drums as well as an amazing collection of stuffed animals (taxidermy) that help families find out about the world around them. Usually in a museum all the objects are kept safe in glass cabinets, so you can look at them but can’t touch. At the Horniman, we have a special gallery called the Hands On Base, where you can touch every object that’s kept there – all 3,000 of them!
As well as having fantastic things to see inside the museum we also have over 16 acres of gardens, with amazing views over London, so there are plenty of places for children to run and play as well as have a picnic. We also have an Animal Walk with alpacas, sheep, chickens and rabbits, a Butterfly House and an Aquarium.
These are some of the reasons why we’re so popular with local families, but there are even more reasons why families keep coming back to visit us, and that is because of our activities. Usually in non-Covid times we have storytelling, art and craft, music performances, nature sessions and opportunities to touch and discover the objects in our collections every weekend and during school holidays.
One of our most popular sessions is Busy Bees, which is a short 30 minute storytelling session for children aged under 5 and their parents or carers. When we run Busy Bees at the museum, we have a team of storytellers (some are actors, some musicians and some are writers) who take it in turn each week to tell stories inspired by our collections and our gardens. They might tell a folk tale from India, Africa, Hungary or some other faraway place. In the stories we want children to be taken on journeys of discovery around the world. But we know that little children don’t want to sit still too long, not even for a story! So the storytellers make sure to include action songs, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Row Row Row Your Boat to get children up and moving during the session. At the end of each session children also get the chance to come up and touch some of our objects, that have been part of the story, so that might be a stuffed hen or fox or it could be a giant shell from the Pacific Ocean.
However these are not normal times, but we still want to bring the magic of storytelling and our collections to people so that’s why we’re starting up our Virtual Busy Bees sessions. Our storytellers will still come to the museum, and tell stories about faraway places and wonderful objects, but the audience – you – will be able to join in from home. We want to make sure that families still get the chance to join in with the stories so we’ll ask you questions like what an animal might sound like, or what you think a character in the story might do next. It’s up to you and your children how much you join in, you might just want to sit and watch, but if you do want to get involved in the story there will be lots of opportunities.
At the museum we’re really happy to be working with The Early Years Alliance Children’s Centres in Lewisham, as some of the centres are probably as far away from the museum as you can get in the borough – we’re on opposite sides of Lewisham to some. This means that some of you might never has visited the Horniman, and we want to change that. At the moment we’re starting with our virtual sessions but we’re hoping that in 2021 we can start to arrange more sessions at the Children’s Centre itself and we also want to arrange for you to come and visit us – we will be so excited to see you!
In the meantime here are links to some videos that our team of storytellers have made in the past, we hope you enjoy them.
https://urbantreefestival.org/horniman-family-friendly-tree-inspiration (scroll down the page for the story)