The Great Reading Cheese Mystery – Part 5 more observations from half-term

Lorna noted these comments made during the Great Reading Cheese Mystery trial at the Museum of English Rural Life.

“best trail I’ve ever done at a museum”

“it was really fun and I liked it a lot” (6 year old)

“it was fun but someone was sitting on the basket at clue 6″

“it was fun but hard to find the information” -older girl 11/12ish

“that was really, really good fun”

“that was just excellent”

And here are some observations:

- one person did the entire trail without returning to scan the clues (this was an adult who said they had a child, although the child wasn’t actually seen at any point)

- observation from adult who took two children round separately (i.e. adult went round trail twice) commented that they ‘got bored of reading the parents’ sheet and gave up reading it after struggling through the first paragraph.’ they felt ‘it took the enjoyment away from the trail’ and that they ‘enjoyed and learnt a lot more from just reading and using the detectives report to communicate with the children’. [Further observation from Annette – most parents seemed to have enough to cope with without taking a parents’ sheet. We printed 25 and probably got rid of no more than a dozen (though at least 84 adults took children round. The more useful place for them was probably for those who stayed to talk further about Reading and cheese – not many but enough to make it worthwhile – though most times I forgot there was a sheet they might find interesting post the trail. Speculating I would say the sheet looked too serious and ‘school like’ for what was meant to be a fun, shared half term activity encouraging communication].

- after a while clues began to curl and the inigma machine failed to recognise them

- some clues were found ripped up [very carefully, along the dividing lines and put back in the clue basket – making it difficult to see in passing that the stock of clues was running low. This was next to the tinies’ model farm play-area so may have been a 2 year old vandal from there rather than a registered detective. Annette has kept the one that was actually chewed as a souvenir].

- as far as our records go, only one parent-child set started the trail but did not finish it – in fact stopped after going to the first clue site, saying the game was too difficult for the 6 year old and the child did not want to continue. More support was offered but not accepted.

- a parent and child were doing the rat trail and came and asked if I knew where the last rat was. I explained that Judith at the desk had a help sheet. As Judith was on the phone and there was a slight queue. I offered to have a look at their clipboard and see if I could remember where the last one they were looking for was. This led to me getting the rat trail up on the iPad [this is on the Open University’s free Our Story app] and talking the child through each slide on there, to see if they had found the rat pictured. This helped them find the rat they had missed, without being too obvious about where it was. They then went off to find said rat and later when undertaking the cheese mystery, thanked me for the help in finding it. Not strictly cheese mystery but I thought it was a good thing to note and they seemed to quite enjoy looking at the rats on the iPad. They also got correct names for objects of where the rats where hidden when going through them on the iPad. (as in the object names of where they found the rats were slightly incorrect in the first instance)

- ┬áthere seem to be 2 ways of viewing the Mystery – one as a quest and other as getting round the museum. A lot of children saw it as a quest-like adventure whereas for parents/grandparents etc that went round with younger ones, it was more of a different way of getting around the museum. [we had deliberately designed it so the groups had to go through a substantial part of the museum for three clues, and for another had to go in the opposite direction to the temporary exhibition which people often said they had not realised was there].

- cheese making part of the trail – a lot of people missed the full content of this part of the trail and the detectives’ report came to the bottom of the page part way through and therefore this led to them missing the need to turn over the page. Maybe a P.T.O would have been helpful here [we tried to get more of a ‘flow’ about the actual cheese making process at one clue stop. This meant changing gear to look at 3 objects and as it coincided with having to turn the page on the detective report, a lot did not manage to do all of this. By contrast, a few families looked really closely, lead poisoning being a topic which one mother and child had discussed and the child really interested in e.g.].

- one child asked to do it again – completed it very quickly

- ‘but we can find it’ – two girls [?] when asked if they knew what a milk float was – a positive can-do attitude as despite saying no they didn’t know what it was they weren’t fazed at all and declared as it says that ‘we can find it!’

- Lady (grandparent) was going to tell the story of smelling the cheese to others as she found it very humorous and obviously a must-tell to her friends!

- Reading cheese press – thought it was from Dorset [it was – where it was made. Quite a lot of people didn’t take the extra step to read the old museum label to find where it had been used. – and did a label disappear during the week? This was another ‘change of gear’ in terms of observation which many didn’t manage]