Engaging student volunteers

Over the last two years, the number of volunteers at Wiltshire Museum who are under 25 has increased from three percent of the volunteer team to nearly twenty percent. Much of this increase is down to projects created for Duke of Edinburgh Award (DoE) volunteering.

The museum focused on developing a variety of work skills for young people and resulted in a range of (mainly digital) outputs. 

Here, Nicola Trowell, Wiltshire Museum Projects Officer, explains more.

“Volunteering here has made me feel as though I am doing something for the community, despite also feeling, quite selfishly, very pleased with myself for being a better person. As well as helping the staff here at the museum, it is something I look forward to each week, telling my friends about what I do here with a smile on my face.”  Sasha, DoE student   

  • Creating a student volunteering webpage – with opportunities for young people
  • Advertising through word of mouth using existing students
  • Advertising to secondary schools
  • Developing small projects that were appropriate to the age of the students and achievable within the time-frame
  • Talking to young people to find the sort of projects they would like to be involved in
  • Developing projects that involve group work, but also individual tasks
  • Allocating time to develop the programme and time to supervise projects and participants
  • Designating two days a week for students to come in. We chose 4-5pm on a Thursday and Friday

Specific projects we developed included:

  • Developing and curating a student volunteering page on the museum website
  • Picking ‘unseen’ objects in the collection, researching these and writing articles for the website and content for social media
  • Creating an interactive touchscreen display to be placed in the museum gallery
  • Creating a children’s trail
  • Developing ideas for family craft activities and making examples
  • To engage a greater number of under 25s with the museum
  • To offer work experience and skills development opportunities
  • To inspire the next generation to become involved in museums, archaeology and history
  • To increase our presence within local secondary schools
  • To attract more family audiences

  • Made a list of projects that staff members would like to do, but did not have capacity themselves
  • Focused on suitable projects that would work within the three to six month time frame for DoE volunteering
  • Allocated students to certain projects – depending on existing abilities and skills they wanted to develop
  • Produced a weekly timetable for each student, so they knew what they were working on each week (allowing for flexibility!)
  • Put students into groups, making sure they were alongside people they could work with

Craft activity devised by students

  • Fourteen students have completed DoE through the museum in the last two years
  • Nine have stayed on as regular volunteers after completing their award
  • Two interactive touchscreens produced for the museum
  • Hundreds of social media engagements through posts produced by participants – including developing content for #MusMemeDay, which was far beyond our understanding!

Social media project devised by students

  • Young people feeling they have ownership over their work – they have their name on something that is being used by our visitors
  • Participants considering pursuing archaeology, history and museums studies
  • Many students continuing to volunteer, becoming a valuable resource
  • Families of volunteers engaging with the museum
  • Lovely buzz in the museum offices when the students are here
  • Young people are able to offer a different input and viewpoint on museum planning and programming
  • Many are keen to create and take part in a museum youth panel in the coming years

 

  • Allow staff time for developing and running the programme – in order to be successful a relationship needs to be built with participants
  • Allow time to keep participants focused, particularly if they are working with friends

 

  • Digital is a great way to engage young volunteers – many of them are more tech-savvy than museum staff. Utilise them, particularly on social media.

 

  • Dedicate time to sit down and consider possible projects that young people can work on before recruiting
  • Advertise with the DoE website or contact local secondary schools
  • Make sure your safeguarding policies and procedures are up to date
  • Allocate the staff time for developing and maintaining the programme
  • Talk to young people about what they want to do

Nicola Trowell
Projects Officer
01380 727369
[email protected]

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