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Testing the British Museum Google Maya Project with Mexicolore at Preston Park Primary School

Mexicolore, the Google Maya Project and the British Museum

On July 4th 2017 three members of our teaching team joined forces with curators Kate Jarvis and Claudia Zehrt from the British Museum to try out their newly developed Google Maya Project resource (read the background by clicking on the link below...) at the invitation of Preston Park Primary School in Wembley. It was a winner from the start... (Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Ian leads the chanting in the Mexicolore workshop on the Aztecs and Maya
Pic 1: Ian leads the chanting in the Mexicolore workshop on the Aztecs and Maya (Click on image to enlarge)

That day the school had booked the Mexicolore team to run two ‘flagship’ presentations on Ancient Mesoamerica, focussing on the ancient Maya and the Aztecs (see pic 1), each time working with two classes of 60 x Year 6 pupils, one am one pm. It was our fourth visit to Preston Park Primary (the first in 2003), a large friendly multicultural school in Wembley Park, north London. Since the BM’s VR kit only has modules for 15 users at one time, we agreed that the lead teacher Ellen Flynn would pre-choose two groups of 15 x Year 6 pupils to take part in the Google Maya Project demo sessions consecutively during the lunch hour, in the same hall...

Pic 2: Kate Jarvis, Claudia Zehrt and Ellen Flynn supervise as the group don the VR goggles
Pic 2: Kate Jarvis, Claudia Zehrt and Ellen Flynn supervise as the group don the VR goggles (Click on image to enlarge)

After an introduction from Kate, Claudia guided the students as they set off on a 20-minute virtual field trip, starting and ending in the Mexico gallery of the British Museum via the ancient site of Quiriguá in Guatemala. On the way they viewed stone glyph-covered stelae (columns) and friezes, precious jade pieces, ancient ruins in the Guatemalan jungle, mounds covering still-to-be-excavated buildings, forest creatures, sacred trees and hills, and the wider landscape - all viewed through 3D interactive goggles. As heads and hands moved around as if literally exploring in the field, the gasps of delight from the students were enough to impress any teacher seeking exciting new ways to bring history to life.

Pic 3: Via the base module, Claudia not only directs the children to key objects but can monitor exactly where each pupil is looking. Natty!
Pic 3: Via the base module, Claudia not only directs the children to key objects but can monitor exactly where each pupil is looking. Natty! (Click on image to enlarge)

Ellen wrote later: ‘It truly had the ‘WOW’ factor - you could hear audible gasps from the children as they seamlessly travelled from the galleries of the British Museum to the foothills of Guatemala, using their ‘Virtual Reality’ headsets to do so. I believe that the chance to observe some of these artefacts up close gave the children a greater appreciation of the intricacies of Mayan society and injected some ‘awe and wonder’ back into their learning. The children were full of inquisitive and perceptive questions after their sessions, which was fantastic to see. I would highly recommend both the Mexicolore team and the BM Google Expeditions sessions.’

Pic 4: ‘A few lucky people had a wondrous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wear brand-new VR headsets. It was a wonderful experience...’
Pic 4: ‘A few lucky people had a wondrous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wear brand-new VR headsets. It was a wonderful experience...’ (Click on image to enlarge)

Feedback from the children themselves was equally uplifiting:-
• ‘I think that this is the most interesting thing that I’ve ever done in History’
• ‘When we put the VR glasses on, it entered us into a world of imagination and we really were able to put ourselves in the Mayans’ shoes. It made me want to put them on again and really explore the world of the Maya. Now, I really want to find out more about Mayan temples’
• ‘I really like what the British Museum did for us... It made me really curious... ‘
• ‘It was as if we had been teleported to Guatemala and we found some more splendid artefacts. Due to this amazing opportunity, I learnt a sackful about the Mayans!’

Pic 5: ‘The British Museum sessions were a wonderfully enriching addition to the enthralling, engaging and interactive workshops that Mexicolore deliver...’
Pic 5: ‘The British Museum sessions were a wonderfully enriching addition to the enthralling, engaging and interactive workshops that Mexicolore deliver...’ (Click on image to enlarge)

The combination of a Mexicolore workshop and a Google Maya Project VR experience all in-school seems to be a winner, and we plan to roll these dual sessions out in schools later this year, after further consultations with the BM.
What did the school think of the combination? Last word to Ellen:-
’The British Museum sessions were a wonderfully enriching addition to the enthralling, engaging and interactive workshops that Mexicolore deliver. The passion, enthusiasm and detailed knowledge of the Mexicolore team was infectious and the children relished the opportunity to develop their understanding of the Mayan civilisation in such an interactive and engaging way... I would highly recommend both the Mexicolore team and the BM Google Expeditions sessions.’

All photos by Kate Jarvis, Joanna Sotres and Ian Mursell.

‘The Google Maya Project at the British Museum’

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