Jurassic Packs are activity backpacks designed for family groups with children aged between 7 and 11. They encourage families to explore the Museum’s displays of prehistoric marine reptiles and investigate the role of palaeontologists past and present.
The backpacks were funded by the L’Oreal-UNESCO Ambassador Fund aimed at promoting women in science. The project is intended to raise the visibility of women working in science-based roles, especially in palaeontology, which is a particularly male-dominated field. The Museum has a number of women working in the Earth Collections, as well as partnerships with female palaeontologists in the University of Oxford Department of Earth Sciences. This fund provided an opportunity to highlight these important roles.
The backpacks were designed for families with children aged between 7 and 11 who are looking for something fun, engaging and educational to do during their visit to the Museum. The backpacks offer families an opportunity to explore and interpret the Museum collections with a helping hand. They are led by narrator Mary Anning, a 19th-century female palaeontologist, who highlights some of her most famous finds among the displays.
The main reason for creating these activity backpacks was to promote and celebrate women in science, a significant aim of the L’Oreal/UNESCO fund. The backpacks were intended to highlight historic female palaeontologist, Mary Anning, who made significant scientific discoveries, as well as contemporary female palaeontologists. We wanted to give children the opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of a palaeontologist and find out what they did in the past and how the role has changed today.
To create the backpacks, Education staff worked with experts from the Museum’s Earth Collections and a University of Oxford earth scientist, to ensure that the information about the marine reptiles was accurate and the activities represented real palaeontology.
Four small activity bags were created. 3D prints of real fossils allow families a hands-on experience, and they use real geological equipment to carry out their own measurements and tests. Families are also challenged to work out the order of fossilisation process, using beautiful cards illustrated by a local artist, who created unique drawings for the backpack.
The Jurassic Packs are available for families to borrow during Family Friendly Sunday activities, special events and the summer holidays. They are also offered to school groups to support workshops or self-guided sessions. The packs have been available since April 2018 and have been used by over 140 families.
Using Mary Anning as a character to narrate the story made the topic relatable for families, through the stories of an individual’s discoveries. Working with experts in the field of palaeontology allowed quick access to the latest information and impressive facts. Selecting an artist who already knew the Museum was beneficial, as they were able to understand our ideas much more quickly. Buying top-quality products and having the money to do so is essential for the maintenance and longevity of the backpacks. Unfortunately the callipers chosen for the measuring activity proved not to be up to requirements, so frequent maintenance is now needed.
Carly Smith-Huggins, Education Officer