Big Pit National Coal Museum

The Structure of the Learning Resource

The Scenario

Children are given an initial scenario which provides the context for their investigation and final report. In this resource, they are asked to be inspectors for a Royal Commission sent by Queen Victoria to discover the truth about working and living conditions in her industrial towns, taking a special interest in the plight of children. This mirrors a genuine historical event, as in 1842 inspectors actually did compile a national report on The Employment of Children and Young Persons in Mines; this provided the basis of the Mines Act (1842) which limited the working of young boys, girls and women in coal mines throughout the kingdom.

Tasks and Activities

Children carry out a series of activities, grouped under four main task headings, and gradually accumulate knowledge about life for people in Blaenavon by examining evidence from a variety of sources. Throughout the activities, children are encouraged to make use of their thinking skills both to draw conclusions about what life must have been like for working people and to suggest reasons for the circumstances and processes they are observing.

The four task areas are: Work; Homes and Health; Education; Growth of the Community. Information is presented through a variety of media, such as: video; virtual reality; still pictures; modelling exercises; graphs; interactive maps and text. Each task area features a number of individual activities and outcomes which provide children both with a chance to demonstrate the knowledge and understanding they have gained of this topic, and a vehicle through which to put their key skills into practice. Many activities are printable, so children can work on screen and/or on paper.

The Final Outcome

At the end of the investigation, children are asked to compile a summary report and suggestions for what they think could or should be done in response to the situation they have uncovered. This 'report' could take any form: a class display; a written document (with illustrations?); a Powerpoint presentation; a piece of drama; poetry; a piece/collection of artwork; a combination of these; etc. etc. etc. Whatever the medium used, the content should be informed by the evidence that children have discovered and by appropriate responses to it. For this activity, we have offered no guidance on structure, content, etc. as, really, the possibilities are endless.

Children's Self Evaluation

An important feature of Children of the Revolution is the optional facility for children to make critical assessments of their own performance. Before each activity, they are invited to choose their own target for how well they want to perform the task; do they want to be working at Trainee Inspector, Assistant Inspector or Senior Inspector level? What they will need to accomplish to attain each of these levels is clearly laid out. After the activity, they can assess how well they actually performed and what status they achieved.

Resource Bank

A selection of additional and relevant source materials has been included to enhance extension activities, personal research and to provide alternative media for accessing information. Suggestions for useful educational textbooks and Internet sites are also provided to assist further research.

Support for Teachers/Parents

In addition to these notes, sample 'answer sheets' have been provided for most of the activities, together with writing frames and/or models of good responses to the suggested task. These will be found in the Teachers' Notes section.

Background Information – Iron Town: Blaenavon and its part in the Industrial Revolution video

Before commencing the investigation, it would be a good idea for children to watch the Iron Town video, which discusses what the Industrial Revolution actually was and what part Blaenavon played in the building of the British Empire. It was filmed in and around Blaenavon and its surrounding mountains, and features most of the key historic elements of the World Heritage Site. It lasts for about 27 minutes.