Today, we all rely on quick, easy international communication. But how does this actually work? Our cross-curricular workshop takes students through the surprising history and science behind modern communication in a hands-on and fun way. We can tailor the focus of the workshop to meet your particular needs too.


Workshop plus Museum visit up to 4 hours, or outreach session (2 or 3 sessions of 1½ hours each)

Workshop outline

The workshop will be tailored to meet the needs of your students. However, a typical workshop would start with a discussion about how we communicate over long distances now through e-mails, cash machines, mobile phones, games and tablets. Students are challenged to consider how messages travel from one country to another.

We then use semaphore flags to explore the challenges of this type of long-distance communication without the use of electricity.

Using circuits, we explore the science behind the electric telegraph, transmitting messages using original and replica equipment.

We then consider the challenges of sending these electrical signals under the sea (across 2,500 miles of Atlantic Ocean) and relate Victorian electric telegraph cables to modern-day fibre-optic cables carrying internet traffic. We consider the impact of cables breaking, and how access to the internet and the cost of mobile communication varies from continent to continent.

Following the workshop, students explore the Museum gallery and World War Two Tunnels.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the workshop most pupils will understand:
Why we communicate and how flag semaphore worked
Why the electric telegraph developed and the science behind it
How Porthcurno fits into the Victorian (and modern) story of global communication

National Curriculum Links

This workshop is cross-curricular, involving aspects of Science, History, Geography and even Maths. It is ideal for activities week, alternative curriculum weeks, school trips or college courses that involve aspects of communication or communications history.

Suggestions for pre-visit preparation

Before the visit it would be helpful if the students have thought about all the different ways that we communicate today.

Suggestions for post-visit activities

A suggested list of post-visit activities is available here: Communication Post-Visit Activities.

Feedback and evaluation

We will give you an evaluation form to complete at the end of the workshop. Please complete this as fully as you can. Your feedback is very much appreciated and is used to ensure that future workshops meet the learning needs of your students.

Telegraph Museum