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Tapestry? What did the youngsters make of it then?

It's about teaching youngsters history of course, but also getting them intrigued with embroidery too!

Well of course we knew the Tapestry would see youngsters visiting with their parents, and we also knew that with the Jacobites in the History Curriculum across Scotland teachers would want to use a visit to help the youngsters' learning. So we invited Fiona Campbell, who's now with the Museums of Scotland as an 'Enabler', to design and pilot a range of educational resources for use during the Highlands Parade this summer.

The inaugural group she met, from Ardgour School, is pictured below. Most of them seem happy enough to have their photo taken, and in Fiona's report below she explains how both booked groups, and 'here-we-are' groups that had downloaded the resources from the website, enjoyed their visits.

click to enlarge photograph

We had of course picked the brains of/ imitated other Tapestry exhibitors, including Reading's Bayeux team ...

In designing the educational resources Fiona had visited Reading Museum where the replica Bayeux hangs. The resources they provide for school groups there have been well and most carefully developed so we unashamedly copied their approach - but of course added our 'own' angles. In particular the ability to offer both a front end briefing on its Jacobite history as well as telling the embroiderers' own story is a great help to the youngsters. And many teachers were delighted they had been able to go online to grab the resources before arriving and to give their school group their own briefings - indeed to work out how best to use it as an integral element of their teaching.

Fiona Campbell's abstracted Report follows. Teachers All ... please download and give us any/ all further feedback/ ideas to Arran Johnston LINKED HERE:

"... I undertook in the Spring of 2010 to create a series of education and activity sheets designed to engage primary children in the Prestonpans Tapestry. The sheets offered a number of activities referencing various aspects of the '45, targeting a broad age range. The sheets were designed for both individual users and for the use of organised parties. A set of Teachers’ Notes was also produced to accompany the sheets, and to offer advice on the further value of the Tapestry as an educational tool. An Education Box was created for the Tapestry touring team, which included a stock of all sheets, the teachers’ notes, reference materials for children, and pencils and crayons. By accompanying the Tour for its first half, I was able to monitor the initial responses to these materials and make a few small adjustments to individual activities, as required.

Due to the nature and season of the Tapestry Tour 2010, it was not possible to arrange formal school visits to the Tapestry in advance, although every opportunity was taken to promote the Tapestry to teachers visiting independently. The education materials were laid out for the public at venues, and made available online for free download.

During the Eriskay Exhibition, I was able to arrange with teacher Mary Adam that her class from Ardgour School would visit the Tapestry when it arrived in Fort William. During that display, in one of the Tapestry’s very successful venues, we also received unplanned visits from three other school parties, over the course of two days: Lochyside RC Primary School, Fort William RC Primary and Strontian Primary School. Some classes had successfully downloaded and printed the Tapestry Trail activity sheet prior to their visit, and brought their own pencils and clipboards.

In preparation for the tour, the education resources had been produced in sizable numbers, so that we were able to cater for the other welcome/ unexpected schools as well!

The most effective way for youngsters to engage with the Prestonpans Tapestry seems to be for someone, in this case Executive Trustee Arran Johnston, to offer a brief background of the history described by the embroidery. As arranged with a local teacher, Arran also brought some appropriate props to illustrate his introduction. The pupils clearly relished the opportunity to be so close to a sword, and enjoyed being able to try on a tricorn hat, all of which helped the images contained within the tapestry to come alive. As the acting Education Officer, I then took over the sessions to introduce the concept of the Tapestry, providing the answers to FAQs - how long/how many people created it/ why did they want to do it/ how did we organise it all, etc.

The teachers/ their helpers were then encouraged to spend some 30 minutes guiding their pupils around the Tapestry, encouraging them to read aloud the narrative lines on each panel to one another. After they had explored the full 104 metres of embroidery, Activity Sheets were handed out for completion. Some children worked individually and others in groups - both aproaches worked equally well. Helping the pupils to understand the chronology of events was a key component to this activity. The youngsters clearly enjoyed having one of the Tapestry team/ embroiderers giving them clues where to look, and explaining the smaller details enhanced their experience as well. [Ed: They particularly liked searching for the two ice creams on the Tapestry!]

After successfully completing their activities, each pupil was rewarded with a Prestonpans Tapestry Sticker, and they were clearly excited to be amongst the first school groups to visit us. Having a small gesture of reward after a prolonged period of concentration certainly helps the children leave well content and well educated!

Unplanned school visits occurred throughout the Highlands Parade, but were more informal as a result of restricted time on the part of the schools. They fared better when they arrived pre-prepared with the downloaded materials.

The school visits so far, and the general response of the pupils to the Tapestry, have proven that the Prestonpans Tapestry undoubtedly captures the imagination of a broad range of ages. Some classes which attended had not been studying the Jacobites, but have now been inspired by the story that the Prestonpans Tapestry tells. Each teacher has been given contact details for the Trust to get in touch should they require any specific education resources based around the Tapestry and the Jacobite story.

The Tapestry team also gained valuable experience of how the Tapestry can be utilised for formal education sessions with young learners, delivered effectively without major need for resources and staff. Truth to tell, it speaks for intself once teh context has been provided.

The most obvious improvements will be an ability to schedule/ plan school visits into the touring patterns and so far as possible to avoid several groups visiting at once. In the eventual permanent setting for the Tapestry, there will be a much enhanced handling box with costume pieces, and a room aside from the main exhibition where the introductory talks can take place. Although there are certainly aspects of the resources which can be strengthened in time, our pilot project at ten venues across the sumnmer has demonstraed we have an effective means of engaging young learners.

The development in the coming months of a formal educational outreach programme, linked to the schools' curriculumm, building on and from the Tapestry is clearly going to be of very significant educational value in a permanent home. But we will certainly not overlook ther equally important requirement in the coming few years for a wholly effective on-the-road approach as we continue touring far and wide."


Published Date: September 21st 2010

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