The power of partnerships: how schools can create unforgettable cultural learning experiences

The creative use of digital can provide unforgettable cultural learning experiences on site, in person and in a blended form. Caitlin McMillan, lead partnership and programme officer, City of London (and former CLC-er), and Sian Shaw, digital learning manager at  Westminster Abbey, explain how.

  • This blog post is based on our Bett talk on the topic inspired b our Westminster Abbey collaboration – watch the talk here!

At CLC we’ve got a long history of partnerships, working with some brilliant arts organisations and businesses. Just recently we’ve had fantastic projects with the Garden Museum, First News, IBM Robo Challenge and Tate Exchange and those followed a varied series of collaborations before that too.

You can read more about these projects:

Developing ‘fusion skills’

We believe that these kinds of projects not only benefit curriculum areas and personal development, but also really develop the ‘fusion skills’ that set young people up for success in education and throughout their lives – skills such as communication, problem solving, teamwork, resilience, creativity and critical thinking. 

For all those reasons, when the pandemic hit in 2020 we were very reluctant to simply give up on all our exciting partnerships so we needed to find a new way of doing them when we couldn’t get out to our partner organisations and the pupils couldn’t come to us.

 

So, for example, we took the Tate project online, using its dedicated children’s resources and our own challenges to bring children together to make art.

We also worked with First News to deliver quizzes and media literacy activities in a spectacular online online challenge day for 10 schools, sixteen classes and nearly 480 year 5 children.

And we teamed up with Westminster Abbey for a very special project.

 

‘Making a Difference’ with Westminster Abbey

We had originally been developing a project where pupils would visit the Abbey itself and use technology. Rather than abandon it altogether, we decided to make the pivot online and the Making a Difference project was born

We wanted to find a way for young people to use their own voice to share with others what they had learnt about someone buried or memorialised in the Abbey. In the context of the pandemic, living in challenging times and standing on doorsteps clapping for NHS, we thought about people who make a difference – and found it was a good connecting point between the pupils and the memorials.

We identified eight historical figures buried in the abbey who made a difference. All could be linked to one or more of the KS2 History, Citizenship, Science or English curriculum but, more importantly, all contributed significantly in their fields, often in difficult circumstances. They were:

  • Dame Millicent Fawcett
  • Olaudah Equiano
  • Joseph Lister
  • Howard Florey
  • George Eliot
  • CS Lewis
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel
  • Stephen Hawking

 

When picking historical figures, we didn’t shy away from difficult histories. In the context of the Blacks Lives Matter movement, we were a little apprehensive about how young people would accurately and sensitively talk about enslavement in a way that made sense to their peers. We needn’t have worried. The key was the use of historical sources and giving young people the appropriate language and definitions so they know how to use it properly.

 

The challenge

We challenged pupils to create a film of no more than five minutes, as a class, that taught other KS2 pupils about the life and legacy of that historical person. Core to this project was the encouragement of deep learning and digital creativity.

A role for everyone

Every child’s parent or guardian was asked if they would sign a permission form, as we knew we wanted to share the films with the world on the Westminster Abbey site, YouTube and social media. But, crucially, no one was excluded. Every child could take part whether or not their permission form was signed. Those without permission forms were often lead scriptwriters, directors, prop-makers or editors, which worked brilliantly. Some schools were really imaginative about this, for example using lots of children’s artwork as part of the film.

Teaching the teachers

As a virtual-only project, it was critical that the teachers were confident, so we gave them time to test out the tech. We ran a session with teachers four weeks before the films were due in as a kick off and as a low stakes environment in which they could explore the kit and the software – and make mistakes without the children looking on!

We suggested they use iMovie as it’s easy to get to grips with and it was compatible with the iPads we at the CLC could lend out to schools who needed them. We offered tips on making a movie, from scripting to shooting and editing. 

In addition, we created a Westminster Abbey padlet containing a virtual tour, recommendations of places to start when researching the historical figures, key facts and rights-free images.

We also created a Filmmaking with Mobile Devices instructional padlet for teachers to share with children, which helped with pupils trying different filmmaking techniques – and some of those definitely found their way into the films!

An authentic audience

It was important to the project that the films were shared more widely than the children’s own schools. We organised a week of online screenings we called world premieres, where three classes would come together on Zoom to watch the films and ask questions.

The live Q+A session was the most powerful aspect of the project. The children asked really insightful and engaging questions that showed they had paid close attention to the films, for example asking about film techniques and the historical figures. Questions included: How did you film that? How did you make the screen black and white? Where did they go to university? What’s the best thing you learnt about your historical person? Challenging questions were met with intelligent answers. Importantly, it allowed the children answering to be experts in front of their peers.

The films were then shared with family and friends – and the world! – as they were on the Westminster Abbey website.

More than just technology

While pupils were developing digital skills, they were also mastering teamwork, communication, research, critical thinking and many other creative skills. Beyond the filmmaking, pupils then brought the idea of “making a difference” into their world by designing a memorial for someone they thought has made a difference and deserves to be remembered at Westminster Abbey. They drew a memorial and told us why they had chosen that person.

There were lots of submissions for Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, showing the importance of looking after the environment. Pupils cared about inequality, highlighting the charitable work of Sir Captain Tom Moore and Marcus Rashford. Technology made an appearance with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Closer to home, parents, siblings and other family and friends were highlighted for kindness, hard work and determination.

Try it at your school

We’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you to do this project in your school. It includes a virtual tour, film-making tips and inspiration in the form of the films these pupils made. We want to emphasise that it’s all possible with simple equipment and free tools.

Tip for partnership working for cultural organisations

Be careful not to set too many parameters or try to reduce it down too much. The teachers and pupils will run with it. It’s about learning and developing as you go along.

Tip for partnership working for schools

Think about what you can gain from each other: what are the children gaining, what’s the school getting? The partnership needs to be a symbiosis that creates something that can only exist because of the marrying of minds and could not exist through working alone.

Book now

Summer primary school computing conference

14/06/22,
09:15
- 15:30

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

Does your school need a sustained programme in the use of digital technology to underpin your whole school aims and plans?

Our support package covers the following:

Professional learning

Teacher professional development which puts digital at the heart of teaching and learning

Pupil workshops

Engaging, practical workshops for your class, in your school, at our Clapham centre online

Creative technology projects

Engaging, immersive educational experiences with corporate and cultural partners

Consultancy & advice

Get tailored support from our expert team of teachers and technologists

Technology loans

Kit for every classroom

Book a call
with James

Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

14/06/22,
09:15
- 15:30
EYFS, KS1, KS2
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions. 

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

24/06/22,
09:30
- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
25/11/21,
09:30
- 14:25
KS2

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum
21/02/22,
-
KS1

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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