Robert Burns Birthplace Museum teacher information

The best place to get close to Robert Burns and his genius is his birthplace in the beautiful village of Alloway.

Burns Cottage was built by Robert Burns’s father, William Burnes, in the 1750s and it was here that Scotland’s national bard was born in 1759. He lived here until he was seven years old. The cottage has four rooms: the kitchen (which contains the bed in which Burns was born), the spence (where young Robert received lessons from his tutor John Murdoch), the byre (where the family’s animals were stabled) and the barn (where young Robert would help out with the harvest). The cottage is set beside a kailyard, where the family grew vegetables, and looks out towards the original smallholding farmed by the family.

Other Alloway attractions include the auld haunted Kirk and the Brig o’ Doon – both of which feature in Burns’s Tam o’ Shanter. The recently built Robert Burns Birthplace Museum has an enormous numbers of artefacts and interactive displays, bringing Burns to life. Burns Monument (built in 1823) is set amid beautiful Victorian gardens and is also well worth a visit. 

Burns was a passionate believer in education, and we offer a full programme of formal and informal learning, for all ages and levels.

Make the most of our four dedicated education spaces, our diverse programme of Sandford Award-winning school workshops, family activities and research services – all supported by our expert learning team.

Workshops for Nursery to Primary 1:

  • Tim’rous Beasties: Using storytelling and Scots language, children explore the museum dressed as Burns’s wee tim’rous beasties in order to learn more about his well-loved poem ‘To a Mouse’. This workshop is ideal for building movement and language skills through imagination and performance. Curriculum for Excellence: LIT 0–01a/0–11a; LIT 0–20a; LIT 0–07a; LIT 0–16a; ENG 0–17a; EXA 0–14a; EXA 0–08a
  • Kailyard Capers: Through storytelling and performance, pupils learn all about the animals that would have lived on the Burns family farm, as well as the humans who looked after them. They’ll even get to dress up! This is a great way for young children to develop Scots language and enjoy learning through role play. Curriculum for Excellence: SOC 0–04a

Workshops for Primary 2 to Primary 4

  • Robert Burns Superstar: Find out what made Robert Burns so famous in this fun and interactive workshop. Pupils learn about the life of Scotland’s most important poet and consolidate their learning by making something special to celebrate Burns. This workshop uses objects from the collection to inspire creativity and artistic skills. Curriculum for Excellence: LIT 1–02a; LIT 1–10a; EXA 0–04a/EXA 1–04a
  • When Burns was a Bairn: Pupils will explore Burns Cottage in order to find out more about the Bard and his family through the objects they used and the chores that they did. They then have a fun competition to make butter using historical methods. This session provides an excellent opportunity to bring together teaching history and technology. Curriculum for Excellence: SOC 1–02a; SOC 1–04a; SOC 1–18a

Workshops for Primary 5 to Primary 7

  • Hot Potatoes: Using reasoning and debating skills, children explore the museum collection to learn about the provocative issues in Burns’s poetry, including politics and religion. This workshop strengthens public speaking and communication skills. Curriculum for Excellence: SOC 2–03a; SOC 1–04a; SOC 2–06a; LIT 2–02a
  • Being Burns: Using traditional 18th-century costume, pupils explore the Cottage to understand how Robert Burns became a poetic genius in a time before compulsory education. This workshop develops Scots language and brings history to life through the use of re-enactment and drama skills. Curriculum for Excellence: SOC 2–03a; EXA 2–01a; HWB 2–19a
  • Sonsie Scrievers: Find out more about how Burns was inspired by his local environment to write poetry by exploring the Cottage, using different poetry techniques as we go. By the end of the session, everyone will have a poem that they can be proud of! The next Robert Burns may even be in your class. This session is ideal for developing literacy and creativity skills, using the same inspiration as Burns. Curriculum for Excellence: LIT 2–26a; ENG 2–31a; SOC 2–03a
  • Food for Thought: Pupils will explore current environmental issues around food waste and recycling. The sessions will focus on ways of protecting the environment, and will explore Burns Cottage to find out how waste was reduced in the 18th century. This workshop is ideal for pupils to compare the present day with past societies, and develop awareness of current social and environmental issues. Curriculum for Excellence: HWB 2–13a; LIT 2–23a; SOC 2–04a; SOC 2–08a

Workshops for Secondary 1 to Secondary 5

  • Tam o’ Shanter - rewriting Tam for Today: Experience the story of Tam o’ Shanter through film and then bring the story into the 21st century through dramatic interpretation and analysis of the characters. This workshop develops dramatic analytical and creative writing skills. Curriculum for Excellence: SOC 2–02B; ENG 2–31a; EXA 3–12a
  • Hot Potatoes (advanced): Students will learn about the provocative issues affecting Burns and how these influenced his thinking, politics and poetry. The session concludes with a lively debate. If you’d like us to focus on a specific Burns poem, please let us know at least 6 weeks in advance. This workshop strengthens analytical, public speaking and communication skills. Curriculum for Excellence: SOC 4–02a; SOC 4–04c; LIT 3–06a/LIT 4–06a
  • Inspired Bard: Pupils will explore the different natural, social and romantic influences which inspired Robert Burns to create his works, facilitated by the setting in which he was born. The session will conclude with the opportunity for pupils to create their own poems. This workshop will give pupils the opportunity to analyse the various influences on Burns and develop creative writing skills. Curriculum for Excellence: ENG 3–31a; ENG 3–27a/ENG 4–27a; SOC 3–05a

Workshops for pupils with additional support needs and mixed age groups

  • All our workshops can be adapted to fit the needs of any class and ability. They can also be adapted for school groups with a mixed age range.

Possible themes

  • Poetry
  • Robert Burns
  • Scots language

Resources for schools

  • Illustrated guidebook for sale

Planning your class visit

  • Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is open for educational visits throughout the school year. Please telephone us on 01292 443700 to arrange your class visit.
  • Book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Please note that January and February are popular months and book up very quickly.
  • A transport subsidy is available for your visit to Robert Burns Birthplace Museum – please see our School Visits page for more information.
  • Maximum class size: 33, with a ratio of 1 teacher/adult to 10 pupils
  • Access: The Education Pavilion is fully accessible. Burns Cottage is a heritage site, with some access restrictions. Please call us for more details about the whole site. There’s also further information on the RBBM webpage.
  • Parking: there are spaces for school buses/coaches in both the Burns Cottage car park and the museum car park.
  • Refreshments: The rooms in the Education Pavilion can also be used by pupils during lunchtime for packed lunches. In warm weather, schools can choose to picnic in the gardens.
  • Toilets: Accessible toilets are available at the Education Pavilion and at the museum.
  • All workshops have been risk assessed. Teachers are expected to prepare their own risk assessment for the visit.


Charges

Option 1 (2 x 90 minute sessions per class, full access to RBBM site; lunch facilities): Member £3.50; non-Member £6

Option 2 (1 x 90 minute session per class; full access to RBBM site; guided site tour; lunch facilities): Member £3; non-Member £5

Option 3 (1 x 90 minute session per class; full access to RBBM site; lunch facilities): Member £2; non-Member £4

Extras (including guided site tour, Alloway Auld Kirk, Brig o’ Doon, Burns Monument and Poet’s Path): £1

  • Accompanying adults (a maximum of six) are admitted free.
  • Trust Member schools can book an entirely self-led visit to the museum free of charge; self-led visits for non-Members are £2 per child.
  • Class teachers are encouraged to make a free preparatory visit to the site.

During your class visit

  • Upon arrival: please report to the place advised at the time of booking.
  • Trust staff will lead school workshops.
  • For workshops, your class will be divided into two groups for their trip around the cottage and then work in small groups (of up to five) for activities, such as drama and butter churning.
  • Teachers are responsible for their pupils and their behaviour.
  • Pupils and teachers are welcome to bring cameras and there are opportunities for taking photographs.
  • Coats and bags can be left in the Education Pavilion during a workshop.
  • Shop: pupils are welcome to visit the shop in small groups and with teacher supervision.



Feedback from teachers:
‘Excellent staff. Very impressive – students were fully involved and participated enthusiastically. The active nature of this session supported all aspects of learning, particularly for those who struggle to focus in class. Thank you!’
‘Very good, meaningful activities. Children’s answers were elaborated on to emphasise teaching points. Use of costumes and props brought history to life for pupils.’

Feedback from pupils:
‘It was fun and I would love to come back. I want to find out more.’
‘I learned that my life is a lot easier than Robert’s, and I have had a better education.’

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