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Museum Trumps



Before the visit

Print out the Museum Trumps pdf template, one sheet per student or two sheets per pair/small group.

Decide if you want the students to draw or photograph their chosen objects and gather the necessary equipment to take on the visit.

You might prefer to pre-select and photograph some objects during a planning visit. In this case make a note of where the objects are located in the Museum. For example, in the Challenge of Materials gallery:

  • glass bridge across the gallery
  • the Perspex guitar in the ‘Plastics’ display case
  • Damascus steel sword next to the ‘Metals’ display case
  • the bulletproof vest in the ‘Protective clothing’ case
  • carpet dress in the ‘Unusual materials’ case.

You will need at least 20 different cards for a good game, but not all need to feature objects chosen by you.

Encourage students to bring in and play their own trumps games in small groups in class. This will familiarise them with the rules if they have not played before (see below), and the importance of fair and honest scores for each category.


  • The cards are shuffled and dealt between players, who hold them face down.
  • All players turn their uppermost card and the youngest person reads out a category that he/she thinks will win.
  • Whoever has the highest number in the category wins all the other upturned cards and puts them at the bottom of his/her pack.
  • If other players have the same score, all the cards go in the middle. The players who had the same top score play again using their next card with a new category picked by the same person as in the previous round; winner takes all.
  • Play passes to the winner of that round.
  • Play continues until one player has won all the cards.

During the visit

Students work individually or in pairs/small groups to choose objects that they think are particularly cool or interesting. Encourage them to choose diverse objects that are different from what others are choosing. Discourage groups sharing scores, as this will result in a smaller range of cards to play with once all the cards are collated into one pack.

Or direct students to the objects that you have pre-selected during a planning visit.

When students have chosen an object they need to record its name and draw/photograph it. Encourage students to record the name accurately to help with their research after the visit. If they can find an unusual fact while in the gallery they can write it on the card, but this can also be done later as a follow-up classroom or homework activity. Encourage students to look closedly at the objtects rather than do a lot of writing.

Using the scorecard as a guide, students need to decide a score for the various properties of their chosen object. They may find it helpful to write brief notes on the back of the card to remind them why they allocated that score, especially if it is going to be a while before they have to justify their scores in class.

If an object is made of more than one material they should base their ratings for strength, flexibility and transparency on the main material. Other scores such as weight, importance and coolness can be judged on the object as a whole.

Please ensure that your students are respectful towards the objects; when scoring for strength, flexibility and weight they will need to come up with their ratings based on observation, not physical testing.

The aim is to choose objects giving range of scores across the categories so that final set of trumps cards allows fair and realistic comparisons. If students simply award the highest score all the time it will not make for an interesting trumps game. 

For teh scoring students will need to use careful observation and apply their prior knowledge. There is no definitive answer; the categories of strength, flexibility and weight would require testing and measuring to be accurate, and the category of importance may require further research. For this exercise students just need to come up with their best guess and be able to justify their scoring when they compare it to other students' cards, so their rationale must be well thought out.

Tell students that they may need to change their ratings as they see more objects so that they are a true reflection of the objects in front of them.

After the students have filled in their sheets they can challenge one another to a game over lunch or on the way home to get a taste of what's to come. Remind students not to lose the sheets - they will need them when they return to the classroom. To ensure none get lost you might want to collect them in to take back to school.

After the visit

Back in the classroom, encourage discussion and debate by getting students each to pick one card they have written, explain why they selected that object and justify how they have scored each category. If other students have chosen that object, particularly if it is one of your pre-chosen objects, do they agree? What do the rest of the class think? Can they use effective arguments to get everyone to agree with them? Set a time limit, e.g. two minutes, for argument from both sides.

If no clear decision is reached then have a vote on what the class think is the most accurate score for that object, or calculate the average score by adding all the numbers and dividing by the number of groups. Do this for each category for each object (or as many as time allows) to come up with the definitive class pack of trumps cards. An average trumps game has around 30 cards, but any number above about 20 cards will work well.

Discuss how the scores have been listed on the cards. For example, in the flexibility category, ‘not bendy at all’ has the highest score implying that it is good to be rigid. However, some objects need to be very flexible and this is not a failing on their part.

Allow time for students to finalise their cards by:

  • researching an unusual fact for each object they have chosen
  • sourcing a photograph if they haven't taken one (try our Picture Library or do an internet image search)
  • amending the scores following the class discussion.

Add the content into the editable 'trumps' template. (The template must be saved and then opened in Powerpoint, in order to be edited.)

Print the finished cards onto thin card and get the students to carefully cut them out, ready to play.

Organise a tournament where everyone has the full pack of cards and the class is split into gaming groups of six to eight students. Students in each group play one another until one student wins. All the winners from the various groups then have a play-off to come up with a class winner.


Ask students to decide which of the objects they would save if the Museum were on fire (if size and weight were not a problem). Why choose this object? How does it score on the importance and coolness rating? Is it the most valuable? What is that judgment based on? Get students together into groups to agree on what they will save, get each group to present their view to the class, then reach a consensus about which object the class values most.

As a STEM-based homework challenge, ask students to make a box for the cards by designing a template on a single sheet of card that can be folded into shape. This should have a cover design to appeal to potential players, as well as instructions on how to play. If the students were selling these cards, how much would people pay for them and what would be the profit margin? (Students will need to work out the total cost of producing them, including what they will pay for photocopying, paper and labour, and then decide on a 'mark-up'.)

The finished pack can be used as a 'highlights' tour or object hunt for your group visits to the gallery in the future, after which students can add new cards they have prepared themselves or argue for the existing cards to be changed if they do not agree with the scores.