Summer Family Programme

Want to escape from the screen this summer and try a rockpool ramble or a seabird safari?

This summer, we’re encouraging families to head outdoors and explore their local beaches, parks and gardens to discover amazing plants and wildlife linked to our natural science collections.

Each week we will be exploring different themes including plants and gardens, from the river to the sea, bugs and beasties, outdoor photography and castles.

Keep an eye out for new activities here every week!

p.s We’d love to see what you make so remember to share your creations with us via Facebook @SunderlandCulture @sunderlandmuseum
and Twitter @SunCulture @sundmuseum using #SCSummer

We want children across Sunderland to enjoy creative activities this summer.

Please can you support us to do this?


or text SUNDERLAND to 70450 to donate £3.

Texts cost £3 plus one standard rate message.

Thank you.

  • Plants and Gardens

    Welcome to our first activity in our 6-week Summer Family Programme!

    This week, our Learning Team have taken inspiration from Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Mowbray Park and the Museum’s herbarium so you can get to know some of our favourite plants.

    1. Plant Stories

    The plants we usually overlook in our parks and green spaces often have amazing stories and folklore associated with them. These stories can be traced back hundreds and even thousands of years as people passed on their knowledge from one generation to the next.

    Watch the video from Posy below then download the worksheet to see if you can find these plants in your local park or green space: Plant Stories Activity 


    2. We Love Plants Colouring Sheets 

    Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens are passionate about plants!

    Use these colouring sheets to discover some of our favourite plants that grow in Mowbray Park and the Winter Gardens: We Love Plants Colouring Sheets

    Why not colour them in with pencils, pens or pastels?

    For a fun art challenge you could cut them out and stick them onto a background to make your own creative plant collage, adding different bugs and animals that pollinate and feed on the plants.

  • Washington Art-zine – online!

    Over the summer writer James Whitman will be delivering online workshops to create your own zine based on themes of outdoors and wellbeing.

    Suitable for children aged 8 – 12.

    These workshops will be delivered via the online app Zoom.

    The One with the Maps… Friday 7 August, 11am – 12pm, free

    The One With The Daft Quiz… Friday 21 August, 11am – 12pm, free

    For more information and to sign up click here.

  • Plant Potions: How to make a plant spell book

    Download the full activity worksheet here:How to make your own spell book

    First of all, we need to create the book itself:

    Once you’ve folded you’re book, you’re ready to start designing your plant potions…..



  • Zines With Jade

    Transform a humble sheet of paper into functional, floatable, and reflective artworks of your own, inspired by Simon Starling’s Project for a Rift Valley Crossing (2015).

    Follow the link to Zine Marine, created by North East artist Jade Blood, to find tutorials, ideas and templates inspired by Starling’s artwork.

    This is the first in a series of summer family activities inspired by artworks from the Arts Council Collection. The Collection holds over 8000 works by over 2000 artists, and is the largest loans collection of Modern and Contemporary British art in the world. Further information about Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens’ involvement in the National Partners Programme is available here.

    Art, Mental Health and Wellbeing
    We know that being creative is a great way to look after ourselves in times of difficulty and stress. If you think you, or a child you care for needs extra support, help or guidance, you can find resources and advice on

    Image credit: Project for a Rift Valley Crossing (2015) Simon Starling
    Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London
    © Simon Starling. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020.


  • Seabirds

    Today we’re taking inspiration from the seabird collections in the Museum’s Worlds Alive Gallery as we celebrate the start of National Marine Week. It’s a brilliant opportunity to get out and about and explore our beautiful local beaches and coastline.

    Why not Make a Herring Gull Kite with Infinite Arts and then take it to the beach to fly?

    Take your Seabird Spotter Sheet with you and try identifying different seabirds such as herring gulls, cormorants and fulmars.

    If you enjoyed these activities, why not find out more about National Marine Week, or try different wildlife themed activities through Wild@Home, Durham Wildlife Trust’s online programme?

    The Seabird Spotter sheet has been reproduced here by kind permission of the Wildlife Trusts.



  • Journeys and Stories

    We’ve been inspired by Tony Cragg’s artwork ’New Stones – Newton’s Tones’, a rainbow of items collected on a walk! Check out the artwork below:

    Image: New Stones – Newton’s Tones, 1978, Tony Cragg, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London,© the artist

    As a museum, we know about the power of collecting, and how collections of objects can hold memories, feelings and ideas. 

    Watch the video below and take yourself on a journey to find your own collection! When you get home, you can remember your adventure by telling the story of the objects you collect.  

    Remember to share your creations with us via Facebook @SunderlandCulture @sunderlandmuseum and Twitter @SunCulture @sundmuseum using #SCSummer

    This activity is part of our family summer programme,  inspired by artworks from the Arts Council Collection.


  • Rockpool Rambles, Salt Dough Starfish and Sandy Sculptures

    It’s National Marine Week so to celebrate we have THREE fun marine activities for you to enjoy!

    1. Rockpool Ramble

    Grab your wellies and get ready to explore our amazing coastline!

    Watch the video below to get lots of tips and ideas from the team at Durham Wildlife Trust on how to go rock-pooling safely.

    Then check out the information sheets to help you organise your very own rockpool ramble and spot different kinds of wildlife along the shoreline!

    Activity information sheets: Going on a Rockpool Ramble

    2. Salt Dough Starfish

    If you are feeling inspired by your rockpool ramble why not make your own starfish from salt dough and paint it with bright colours?

    You will need:
    • 250g Flour
    • 125g Salt
    • 125ml Water
    • Paint/pens
    • Varnish (Clear nail varnish could be used)

    Download the full activity here: Salt Dough Starfish

    3. Sandy Sculptures

    A few years back, we took part in a project called ‘Pages Of The Sea’ where people were invited to gather on Roker Beach as part of a project to remember the men and women who left their homes to fight in the First World War. Large-scale portraits of local people in the First World War, were made in the sand, then slowly washed away as the tide came in.

    Can you make a sculpture in the sand? You’d be amazed at the wonderful creations you can make on the beach!

    Download all our tips on how to create a sand sculpture here: Sandy Sculptures!




  • Blue Rooms

    Over the last few months we’ve probably all seen transformations in our homes – kitchens have become school rooms, bedrooms have become studies and gardens have become playgrounds!

    For this activity we’ve been inspired by an artwork by Roger Hiorns called SEIZURE. Roger Hiorns filled a London flat due to be demolished with liquid copper sulphate. When the liquid was drained away, electric blue copper sulphate crystals grew all over every surface of the flat!

    The Arts Council Collection extracted the flat from its block and transported it to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where you can visit it. Inside, you can see the recognisable hallmarks of a home: light switches, fittings, dado rails, even a bathtub!  But they have been transformed by the crystals into something brand new:

    (Image: SEIZURE, 2008, Roger Hiorns, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist. Donated by the artist, Artangel and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation through the Art Fund, with the support of The Henry Moore Foundation. SEIZURE was commissioned by Artangel and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation with the support of the National Lottery through Arts Council England)

    Here’s a close up of the blue crystals covering every surface:


    We’re inviting you to play and experiment with seeing things a bit differently…

    Find some coloured blue cellophane or acetate (try using sweetie wrappers or packaging from bunches of flowers)  or experiment with coloured filters on your phone.  Can you explore your world through colour to change things? If you hold it in front of the light from a window or a lamp does it change the way things look?  How does it feel to change things? How does the colour blue make you feel?

    Download the worksheet here: Blue Rooms



  • Let's go on a Minibeast Hunt!



  • Making Paper Butterflies

    The Museum has many different butterflies in its natural history collections, including Birdwing butterflies, one of the largest butterfly species in the world. Butterflies belong to the order of insects called Lepitoptera which means ‘scaly winged’ in Greek. A person who studies butterflies is known as a Lepidopterist!

    This activity celebrates the summer season and the many different colours of butterflies that visit flowers in our parks and gardens.

    Suitable for age 4+ with adult support

    Download the full activity here: Paper Butterflies

  • The Sounds of Stormy Weather

    Image: Antonio Frasconi, A Storm is Coming, 1950. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © Antonio Frasconi/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020.

    At the moment, lots of us can only see our friends and family outside – in gardens and on walks together, so the weather has become very important to the way we interact with others.

    This powerful image tells a story. Set against the dark black background with the start of rain shown in the top left corner, the bright red and mustard yellow of the girl’s clothes stand out. Her hair is being blown around by the wind, and her skirt is flying behind her heels as she races to get out of the rain. She’s using a newspaper or a poster to keep the worst of the rain off her face, which is turned down.

    Even though this is a still image, we feel like we can hear the rain coming down, the thunder rumbling in the background, and the newspaper rustling overhead.

    Inspired by Antonio Frasconi’s artwork, ‘A Storm is Coming’, composer and sound designer, Roma Yagnik, shows us how to make our own stormy weather sounds with a rain stick!

    This is part of our family summer activity inspired by artworks from the Arts Council Collection.

    Art, Mental Health and Wellbeing
    We know that being creative is a great way to look after ourselves in times of difficulty and stress. If you think you, or a child you care for needs extra support, help or guidance, you can find resources and advice on


  • Tie Dye Printed Birds with Emma Bird

    Image: Kathy Prendergast, Land, 1990. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © the artist.

    This week, we’ve been inspired by Kathy Prendergast’s work, ‘Land’.

    Artist Emma Bird demonstrates a fun marble printmaking technique that you can do at home – all you need is a cereal box, some tin foil (or the inside of a clean crisp packet!), some felt tips and a toothbrush.

    This is part of our family summer activity inspired by artworks from the Arts Council Collection.

    Download the full instructions for this activity.

    Art, Mental Health and Wellbeing
    We know that being creative is a great way to look after ourselves in times of difficulty and stress. If you think you, or a child you care for needs extra support, help or guidance, you can find resources and advice on

  • Castles

    Today, we’ve been inspired to think about heraldry by Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London, an exhibition that will be opening soon at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

    How about creating your very own coat of arms with artist, Poppy Chancellor?

    You’ll get to think about what makes you unique, and about the images that tell the story of you and your family.

    Download the full instructions for this activity and also learn more about the heraldry at our own local castle, Hylton Castle.

    For more castle-related creative activities, collect a copy of the Castles and Heritage Family Takeaway Pack from Sunderland Museum (or download a copy!).

    The Castles Tour is part of the National Gallery’s commitment to promote the understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of Old Master paintings to as wide an audience as possible and has been made possible by the generous support of the Art Fund.




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