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By Lauren Hamilton on

Let’s talk Makaton!

Explainer Team Leader Lauren Hamilton gives us an introduction to Makaton, and tells us more about plans to incorporate it into future learning programmes.

Throughout August and September, the Explainer team here at the Science and Industry Museum undertook intensive accredited Makaton training in preparation for the launch of our new free early years show, Mini Movers.

Mini Movers, on between 19 October and 3 November, is not only the first show of its kind to include Makaton, but has also been recognised more widely by the Makaton charity to gain official Makaton-friendly status.

What is Makaton?

Makaton is a leading and internationally recognised communication programme that uses signs and symbols with speech to help people communicate, and is used in over 40 countries worldwide. The signs used in the Makaton vocabulary come from British Sign Language (BSL). However, unlike BSL, the Makaton signs are standardised and so the same sign is used across the country.

Here at the museum, we always aim to make our programme as inclusive as possible, and when the time came to develop some new activities for the upcoming October half term, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to incorporate Makaton into our offer.

How did we do it?

Embedding and delivering Makaton within our programme was an entirely new (and slightly daunting!) way of working for us, so we began training with Amanda Glennon, an accredited Makaton representative, who told us:

“It is absolutely fantastic that you are looking at incorporating Makaton at the museum and in your activities! I am currently working with Weaver Hall & the Grosvenor Museum—one of which has just become Makaton-friendly, with the other hot on its tails. I’ve been looking over your website and I think you could follow in their footsteps perfectly.”

After a few conversations with Amanda about how best to approach the implementation of Makaton, she came into the museum to deliver a high quality and personalised two-hour training session with both the Explainers and wider Learning team.

The session itself include core Makaton signs and symbols followed by sign and symbols specific to the Mini Movers show. We learnt a range of signs, from ‘train’ to ‘power’, and our personal favourite, ‘biscuit’!

This initial training then went on to inspire further internal training to ensure that the team felt confident and comfortable in what they were delivering.

So, how do the team feel about it?

It’s safe to say that they love this new way of working!

Natalie, one of our Explainers, created resources including personalised lanyards and signage for the show, while Patch has said that learning Makaton was a ‘ fantastic’ experience and that he ‘can’t wait to put it all into practice and get signing in public!’

A woman holding some cards, next to a sandwich board with a picture of a baby on it
Natalie with her Makaton-friendly resources

Meanwhile, Ben and Judith both said that learning Makaton has actually helped them improve their presentation skills:

“I’ve really enjoyed learning Makaton, as having a sign, or action, actually helps me learn a show!”

– Ben

“I have found Makaton a really useful tool when approaching and delivering programming for early years audiences. Using Makaton in my sessions really slows down my delivery speed, It makes me more consciously aware of the words I am using and the way in which I am stressing them. This variation in speed and tone is so important for this particular audience.”

– Judith

Two men making signs with their hands
The Makaton signs for ‘movement’ and ‘spin/twist’

What next?

Following the training period, Amanda worked with us in an advisory role to further tweak and finalise the Mini Movers show, and even supported us through the Makaton-friendly accreditation process by providing her approval for us to be considered for the application.

Gaining this status, for this specific learning programme, is something which we are all extremely proud of and has inspired and kick-started our journey to become a Makaton-friendly museum.

With more Makaton training happening in the future, and another Makaton-friendly show launching in December, this is just the beginning! We are currently discussing how we can effectively embed Makaton within not just the Learning and Public Programme offer, but across the wider museum in a sustainable and effective way.

It is an exciting time at the museum, so keep your eyes peeled for more Makaton-friendly programming, and more importantly don’t forget to let us know what you think!

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations on where else you would like to see Makaton within the future offer? Or do you have any feedback from our Mini Movers show? Let us know in the comments below!

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