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By Laurel Mackie on

Developing the Marvels of Medicine family activity trail

How did we develop a family activity trail for Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries at the Science Museum, London? Laurel Mackie, Content Programmer, Medicine Galleries, Science Museum, shares the process and key elements of the resource.

The front cover of the Marvels of Medicine Activity Trail for Science Museum Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries. Let me introduce you to one of the newest Science Museum learning resources: the Marvels of Medicine Family Activity Trail for Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries. This is the first trail available permanently on gallery and we pulled together all our previous experience to develop it.

What did we include in the resource and how did we keep our visitors needs at the centre of our trail?

Everyday examples

Our family trail is designed to be relatable and accessible to all our visitors. The five core activities are positioned around the simple human fact that we each have a body, we are held up with bones, we visit hospitals, we shop at the pharmacy or chemist, and we go for a wee. Plainly put, we wanted our activities to link science to people’s day-to-day activities and whisper: Science is everywhere in our everyday lives!

Confidence and ownership

Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries is the world’s largest display dedicated to the story of medicine. The galleries are enormous, vast, potentially overwhelming, and our trail aims to provide families with anchors in a sea of over 3000 fascinating objects.

To help orientate families and give them confidence in the space, we have included an uncluttered map with a clear photo of each of our 5 featured objects with lines clearly pointing to their locations.

We have used the cover image to inspire confidence too. We hope that the playful line sketch of a human brain with a maze running through it invites families to pick the trail up. It sends the message that this piece of paper is more fun than function and can be used by ‘people like me’.

Once the playful trail is in hand, the information bar on the front lets families know that this is indeed for them. We always include information about a resource’s age range, topics, and the time it takes to complete as well as the skills it helps develop. We wanted visitors to feel ownership of the trail once they know who it is for and how long it takes to do.


In creating the family trail we thought carefully about the language we used. Our audience for the trail includes children so we made sure that we kept our language accessible, natural and conversational. While a word like urination is undeniably correct and pleasingly ‘science-y,’ the term ‘have a wee’ won the day for our activity linked to a Victorian public toilet lock.  Wee is familiar, non-threatening and, if you are a child or a playful adult, wee is a fun term to use!

Our Seek and Find (treasure hunt) section uses more than words: it speaks in pictures which reduces the language barrier and makes the activity open to families with English as an Additional Language. ‘Reading’ pictures is also more empowering for children who are at an early stage of their reading journey.

The inside of the Marvels of Medicine Activity Trail with challenges to look closer, try this, imagine, think about and talk about.

Which skills and behaviours do we want people to use?

We aim to use consistent activity types across all of our learning activities and resources. These invite visitors to either ‘Look closer’; ‘Try this’; ‘Imagine’; ‘Talk about’ and ‘Think about’. These headings are a feature that we use to help visitors to feel more welcome and confident to explore our spaces.  In all our family and school resources we avoid words like examine and hypothesise, getting to the same science behaviours without putting up a wall of jargon.

We hope and believe that our Marvels of Medicine Family Activity Trail for Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries, will be picked up, played with and learned from. Exactly what it’s there for.

Our Marvels of Medicine family activity trail is printed on gallery and available to download online. Our Learning Resources website also hosts our other medicine resources including 3D models of objects from our Medicine collection, our Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries Gallery Guide, and our Marvels of Medicine activity trail for KS3-4.

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