The Brunel Engine House
Education at the Brunel Engine House
BRUNEL IS BACK
A dynamic learning programme with actor-lead workshops.
The show lasts some 45 minutes and is participatory in nature. It is suitable for teaching and learning, not only across the curriculum in Science, History, Geography, Design and Technology but also throughout the Key Stages. It answers well National Curriculum requirements for History, for example, which recommends Isambard Kingdom Brunel as a topic for study of Victorian Britain at KS2. There are, of course, opportunities for a wealth of other cross-curricular studies.
Typically Mr Brunel begins with a story of his life and Victorian times, laced with anecdote about narrow escapes from danger. He describes how he helped his father build the first tunnel under a river anywhere in the world. He also describes building the railways, and the difficulties he had persuading people that their heads would not fall when travelling at speed in tunnels. The same people believed steam ships could not cross the Atlantic, but Mr Brunel explains how it is done. All very technical, but apparently its something to do with the size of your bottom?
A veteran bridge builder, Mr Brunel describes the different properties of beam, arch, suspension and cantilever, and illustrates their relative strengths and weaknesses by getting children to build them. His previous bridges were built in brick, timber and iron, but a chronic shortage of funds means he is now making temporary structures out of people.
Finally, Mr Brunel makes an important point about inspirational engineering by performing a magic trick, with the help of the audience, and at the same time describing another less successful trick that nearly killed him, in 1843.
This show, with modifications, has been performed to, and with, young people of all ages, from KS2 to sixth form. It is an accessible study not only of engineering, but of Victorian life in all its grandeur and squalor. Did you know, for instance, that in his first project Mr Brunel had men working in raw sewage? But don’t worry, we have told him to clean his act up...
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‘...excellent’ ‘fascinating story’
‘My sincerest thanks for your most excellent performance’ ROYAL INSTITUTION
‘Our guests were greatly entertained’ BRITISH RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE
Key Stage 2
We have worked locally with the Pumphouse Educational Museum, and nationally with the London Museums Agency, to develop a successful module, through four sessions, for QCA 12: How did life change in our locality in Victorian times? (see below)
Visits are supported by a Teacher’s Resource Pack for Key Stage 2, developed with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Key Stage 4
Visits are supported by a Teacher’s Resource Pack for Key Stage 4 students developed with a grant from Price Waterhouse.
In today’s world of equal opportunity, it seems appropriate to remind students that Brunel’s sister Sophie was nick-named ‘Brunel in Petticoats’ by the then Prime Minister, Lord North. Sophie showed greater promise and skill in engineering than her famous brother, and in different circumstances is likely to have made a better career…
Programme for QCA 12
What follows is the programme, as developed by the Museum. We are happy to adapt for your school’s particular needs.
Session 1: Census
Using census materials for 1881
Session 2: People and places
Looking at resource materials.
Session 3: Railways
Speculate how people might have been affected by the railways.
Using names and information from the census materials, groups role play their views about proposed railway/ extension of railway
Foreshore walk to collect evidence of Victorian times. Children return to Museum to clean, examine and record evidence.
IK Brunels grandson meets the children to talk about changes.
A Famous Visitor to your school
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