Fun-tastic learning

For Sharjah Museums Department, museums are not just showcases of culture or history. The emirate has a legacy of turning museums into centres that blend education with culture and heritage to give students new insights into the unique history of the land.

By Deepa Narwani

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Published: Tue 23 Aug 2011, 9:58 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:41 AM

From October, the department of Interpretation and Education at the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD) will offer students a chance to get a glimpse of different time periods, dabble in sciences and do it all in a fun environment.

Manal Ataya, SMD Director-General, said: “The SMD’s Department of Interpretation and Education was founded in 2007 and aims to provide Sharjah’s residents and visitors with interesting educational programmes, activities and materials based on the emirate’s museums and their collections, so as to deepen public understanding of these collections as effective cultural resources. These programmes are aimed at creating an understanding, appreciation and respect for Sharjah’s unique identity and the value of its cultural and natural heritage, both locally and globally”.

The programmes will run across Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah Aquarium, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation, Sharjah Archaeology Museum, Bait Al Nabooda and Al Mahatta Museum. It targets children from the age of eight to 15 and will be offered in English and Arabic. The theme of the programmes is “What will next Saturday bring you?”

Number of participants are up by over 70 per cent from 2010 and the department has decided to increase the running time of the programmes from 90 minutes to 180 minutes. The programmes will now run from 10am until 1pm, with a 30 minute break at 11.30am. In addition, the capacity of each programme will be doubled from 25 to 50 persons per day, in response to the increasing number of participants.

“The programmes have attracted tremendous public interest over the past few years and have continued to grow every year, which inspired us to decide on new measures to meet this increased demand,” said Ataya. “The number of participants in these programmes has more than doubled over the past two years alone, with 736 people taking part in the first six months of this year, compared to 350 in 2009 and 449 in 2010.”

She added that the workshops take place every first and third Saturday of each month for an approximation of 50 attendees including parents per workshop.

“However, the Sharjah Aquarium has its own independent programmes held every second and fourth week of each month starting at 11am and ending at 12.30pm for an approximation of 25 attendees including parents.”

The purpose of the workshops is to offer an innovative experience and open new horizons for participants. The collaboration of museums together also creates a new learning experience where the focus will shift from two to three different objects from two different museums that are linked together and hence, create a debated environment that is shared among the attendees. Students will compare items and objects from different museums which will open the door of unfolding cultures, countries, civilisations and people that are linked together across history.

Ataya said: “The programme is designed in such a way that talented youth are encouraged to explore their interests and put them into action through different activities. These include programmes ranging from acting skills to drawing, painting, print making, restoring and many other crafts and arts. Students will be thorough with each of these at the end of each programme.”

Workshops for special needs children will also take place on different topics such as mosques architecture, turn art into drama, glass drawing, jellyfish and aircraft components.

Alya Burhaima, Director at the Department of Interpretation and Education, said: “The department will ensure that, wherever possible, facilities are wheelchair-friendly and that both large-print and Braille publications are available to cater to those with various levels of visual impairment, in accordance with international standards. Also, Arabic sign language will be available upon request.”

She added: “All our programmes take into account people’s differences in intelligence and motivation, and offer a variety of introductions to the various collections and artefacts. The skills promoted by these programmes include critical thinking, creative thinking, communication skills, art performance and much more. And the diverse number of ways in which visitors can use the museums and their collections means that the number of collections-based educational programmes is effectively unlimited.”

The workshops seeks to encourage open dialogue on education in relation to the museums’ collections, programmes and materials, as well as their educational applications.

To register, email at, or call the Department of Interpretation and Education on 06 569 5050.

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