Science Museum Outreach – Inmates of the Holloway and Pentonville Prisons

Project aims:

Initially the Science Museum Outreach Team was approached by South Bank University to work in Holloway prison. The attraction of this was that this was an audience we had never worked with before and it seemed like a challenge. We had a few outcomes which led to more prison work being taken on:

• The team worked with a new and diverse audience

• The audience’s perception of a museum is that they are boring, dull and you have to be well educated to learn or appreciate anything in there. The team broke down these barriers and changed the perception of what a museum is.

• The museum outreach staff had the opportunity to have a positive influence on people’s lives and had the opportunity to become role models. It was a rewarding experience for them.

• The team encouraged a desire to learn in an audience that find it difficult.

• The feedback was that we had inspired family learning in an interactive and fun way, allowing barriers to be broken down and bonds to be built between parent and child.

Summary of activity:

Holloway Prison:

The Program was a trial made up of a 3-tiered program.

First, we hosted a day at the science museum for families with relatives serving a prison sentence at Holloway. After a meet and greet the families watched a science show. The group then had lunch and were taken on a tour of the temporary exhibition, Wallace and Gromit. The children were given goody bags and the rest of the day was free for them to explore the museum

Secondly, we ran a Kitchen Science Workshop with the Mothers in Holloway prison. The workshop looks at simple experiments that can be done at home in a kitchen. The aim of this workshop was primarily to build the confidence of the mothers by teaching them new skills. It also taught them some basic scientific concepts and enabled them to do some experiments with their children on the next Family Day and when they get out.

Finally, we ran an activity day in the prison on their Family Day with both Mothers and their children. The outreach team delivered two workshops. The first workshop was hot-air balloons. In this workshop the mothers and children make hot-air balloons and launch them. The second workshop was Slime Time. In this the mothers and children made their own slime.

After the trial we decide to only run the 3rd part of the program, the family day. As giving an afternoon of workshops to both the children and inmates seemed to promote family learning. The next prison we visited was Pentonville.

Pentonville Prison:

The family day session that was run had different workshops owing to different restrictions in the prison. The first workshop was Slime Time, here the fathers, mothers/cares and their children made their own slime. The second workshop was Mission to Mars, in this workshop we created our own rockets and launched them.

Evaluation approach:

What went well:

All the workshops were a great hit amongst the inmates, children and prison staff. The more fun and interactive the workshop the better the response from the inmates and their families.

What was learned:

We learnt that when working in prisons it helps to be very flexible and thick skinned. We changed from three sessions to one session to make it logistically easier for the team and for the prisons

Top tips and advice for others

• Allow a lot of time to sort out the regulation and restrictions that will be imposed upon you by the prison

• Pre-visit the venue, as every prison will have different restrictions, e.g. the venue may have bolted down furniture, or the ceiling may be very low.

• Do as the prison stuff instruct, they are the experts and will be of great help in making the day run smoothly

• Ensure all staff visiting the prison have a valid passport

• Always arrive at least 2 hours before you are due to start, this will ensure that you have plenty of time to get thought security

• Know your contact person in the prison; ensure they know who is coming with you, what you will be bringing (everything even down to the pen) and what time you will be there.

• On your visit leave behind your camera, ipod, USB sticks etc, it will make your life easier

• Go in with an open mind.

About this project



Project type:


Started (approximately):

May 2009

Ended: (approximately)


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