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Gateway to the world

Key facts

  • Suitable for: Key Stage 2
  • Subjects: English, Geography, History
  • Session type: Museum led
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Class size (maximum): 30
  • Venue: Museum of Liverpool
  • Free


This interactive session considers the significance of the River Mersey and Liverpool's geographical location, and how trade and immigration helped it develop into one of the world's leading port cities.

Gateway to the world can be booked Monday to Friday at 10.15am, 11.30am and 1.15pm.

Further details

children working in a group

© Pete Carr

This session begins in The Great Port gallery which outlines how Liverpool became one of the world’s great ports and how this shaped the city of today.  Pupils explore the trade goods wall to identify examples of imports and exports to and from Liverpool.

An important part of this session involves exploring the significance of the River Mersey to Liverpool and the city’s geographic location.  The growth of Liverpool’s docks is explored as a whole class timeline activity.

Group work investigates trading cotton, tea, sugar, salt and tobacco and pupils handle examples of these goods. Pupils discuss when goods were first traded in Liverpool, where they came from and what would have happened to the goods after they came to the docks?  The geographic location of each trade good is then identified on a world map by the demonstrator on an interactive whiteboard.

Liverpool’s history as an immigration centre throughout the 19th and 20th Century is explored in a game involving role play and costume.  The decline of the docks and impact of container ships is also investigated. 

Curriculum links

Key Stage 2  - Geography

  • Locational knowledge - name and locate counties and cities of the United Kingdom, geographical regions and their identifying human and physical characteristics, key topographical features (including hills, mountains, coasts and rivers), and land-use patterns; and understand how some of these aspects have changed over time.
  • Human and physical geography - describe and understand key aspects of human geography, including: types of settlement and land use, economic activity including trade links, and the distribution of natural resources including energy, food, minerals and water.

Key Stage 2 - History

  • a local history study.
  • a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066.

Key Stage 2 - English Spoken Language

  • listen and respond appropriately to adults and their peers.
  • ask relevant questions to extend their understanding and knowledge.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

  • understand that the River Mersey has played an important role in the development of the city and Liverpool’s prominence as an international trade port.
  • understand  the difference between imports and exports.
  • understand how goods are moved around the World and across Britain historically and today.
  • understand the relationship between industry and population growth.
  • understand that immigration was an industry that it resulted in a wide mix of cultures living in Liverpool.
  • understand the impact changing technology can have on people in a city.


  • use sources and objects to draw conclusions about a subject.
  • present findings as a group.
  • engage in discussion as a class in order to reach their own conclusions through visual evidence.
  • use objects, questioning and team work to explore trade goods.
  • use costume and role play to interpret historical situations.


  • the importance of artefacts as clues to the past.
  • thinking about how Liverpool has changed over time and use maps to explore this.


  • be surprised at the distances some goods have travelled, and the goods which have passed through Liverpool docks.