Sense of Place
‘An amazing way for kids to enjoy poetry.’ Quote from Prudhoe High student.
Northumberland National Park recently took part in a collaborative learning project for secondary schools, in partnership with Newcastle University, Historic England, and English Heritage. The aim was to work with children from Year 9 from three secondary schools across Northumberland, using the heritage links between the four organisations to inspire the students to be creative, and to explore how a sense of place and learning about heritage enhances art and literacy. Learning staff from the four organisations also wanted to make the most of the links in our collections and our work, and find out how we can best work together in the future.
I also wanted to take forward our work with secondary schools, make some new contacts, and hopefully create a session that could become part of our programme in the future, ideally using our Poems in the Air mobile app as a basis.
The three schools that took part in Sense of Place were Haydon Bridge High School, Bedlington Academy, and Prudhoe Community High School. I met regularly with Sara Bird from the Special Collections at the Newcastle University Robinson Library (who led on the project), Helen Klemm, Education Visits Officer North East at English Heritage, and Vicki Angel, Local Heritage Education Manager for Historic England, to discuss the format of the school sessions, designing a three-day programme of engagement for the students.
- Day 1: Newcastle University Special Collections. Inspiration – Thomas Bewick prints. Sara led a session exploring the prints, and the students attended a poetry lecture with award-winning published poet Sinéad Morrissey, Director of Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, to learn about different poetry techniques.
- Day 2: The Sill. Inspiration – Art in nature, and Poems in the Air. I led a workshop on artists who have been inspired by the natural world, and we explored the poems written by Simon Armitage for our Poems in the Air app. The students then went on a guided walk to Sycamore Gap with one of our Rangers, Sally, who told them about her experience of taking Simon on his walk in Greenhaugh. The students then had time to sit and sketch the scene and write some poetry.
- Day 3: Hatton Gallery. This final day brought together the students experiences from days 1 and 2, and they worked with staff from Northern Print to create their prints. They used the sketches they produced on day 2, and the poetry techniques they learned on day 1, to produce their prints and write their poems inspired by their sense of place.
Each student produced a poem and a piece of art and all the staff involved have been very impressed by their work. Each school was also awarded Heritage School status – an award that aims to help school children develop an understanding of their local heritage and its significance. The Heritage Schools programme also funded the project with a grant of £3000, which also helped the schools to cover their transport costs.
The artwork and poetry are on display in the learning rooms at The Sill throughout August, providing a great addition to our summer programme, while also giving the students a further sense of accomplishment. In their evaluation, students said they were ‘a little nervous but excited’ about having their work exhibited, and that ‘it makes me feel proud of my work.’
Both teachers and students alike found the project very inspiring and rewarding. In their evaluation, one student wrote that ‘I thought the opportunity and freedom we had to make notes and sketch was very enjoyable, and helped me with my finished piece,’ with another saying that ‘getting into the outdoors helped me understand the landscape more.’ One teacher from Prudhoe High School wrote, ‘Students were inspired by the new landscape… the whole day was fantastic. This has been a brilliant experience for all of us.’
This was a very rewarding project to take part in, and I’m already working with staff from the three partner organisations to develop future joint projects. The partnership working was a key element of the projects success, and each element of the three workshops brilliantly showcased our different strengths. It was also clear to see, through the students artwork and poetry, that they had really engaged in all elements of the workshops, and had picked up new skills and experiences that helped inform their final pieces.
The Inspired by Nature workshop I ran for the students will now become part of our regular offer for secondary schools.