Kids, Castles, and Crafts: 5 Weeks with Learning Services

Posted by in Education & Outreach, Events, Placement, Skills for the Future

Through the month of October we were lucky enough to be put on placement with Learning Services, which not only took us here, there, and everywhere around Scotland, but also allowed us to experience the amazing work the Historic Environment Scotland learning team does to promote heritage education within different contexts, age-groups, and foci. We took a whistle-stop tour through time whilst shadowing school workshops and activities at Edinburgh and Stirling castles covering a range of eras, objects, and emphasises as diverse as medieval catapult-building, Jacobean crown-making, and First World War poetry, and observed a fantastically immersive Victorian millworkers experience at Stanley Mills.

We also accompanied facilitator Hannah Ayre and Learning Officer Elaine Johnston on a classroom visit to Dumbarton Primary School, where we helped P7s make WWI propaganda posters using screen printing techniques – messy, but memorable! In addition, we aided Learning Services at a number of public events across Scotland, including Spectacular Jousting at Linlithgow Palace, and Top Fest and Scots Language Festival at Stirling Castle and the Big Draw at Urquhart Castle with Learning Development Officer Kirsten Wood – the latter providing us with a definite highlight of the placement, Lewis’ (unexpected) turn as Sir Euan the Brave!

Niamh accompanied Engine Shed Education Officer Jordan Irvine to Limerigg Primary School where he conducted a Tradional Building Materials workshop with P5-P7s. The aims of the workshop were to help the pupils understand how stone is used in traditional buildings, to allow them to explore the properties of stone and how it is used and to help them appreciate the need for conservation of traditional stone in buildings. It was great opportunity to to experience another way of engaging children with their heritage and it was great to experience an in-school visit.

Throughout the placement we were also given the chance to develop our own educational activities with Learning Development Officers Fiona Davidson and Sylvie Silk; Lewis and Niamh collaborated with Fiona on creating a self-led trail around Arbroath Abbey using objects from the Medieval Abbey Life Handling Box, designed as an introduction to abbey life for Early Years students (P1 to P3). This trail focuses on Ruth the Medieval Abbey Cat as she guides pupils around a medieval abbey and was adapted from one already developed at Dunfermline Abbey. Through developing this trail, and subsequently piloting it with a local primary school, we gained experience of writing for learning audiences, assessing and adapting learning materials for a historic site as well as gaining research skills related to devising content for learning materials.

Anna, on the other hand, worked with Sylvie to create a memory-collecting exhibition to accompany the premiere of “An Tac an Teine”, a long-running Gaelic-language film project about the Arnol blackhouses on the Isle of Lewis. Both projects were very interesting and successful, and gave us further insight into the sometimes challenging but never boring world of heritage education!

The range of activities, contexts and indeed places we experienced during our time with Learning Services made for a packed but extremely enjoyable five weeks; the work they do is invaluable to the continued conservation and public enjoyment of some of Scotland’s most important historical sites, and we are very grateful hence that we were able to be temporarily part of such an amazing team.

Below are some images of the highlights of our 5 week placement:

Instagram – @skills_hes

Twitter – @SkillsHES

HES – https://www.historicenvironment.scot/

All photos copyright of Historic Environment Scotland, Anna Mayhew, Lewis Matheson and Niamh Crimmins