The Aims of the Project
The first aim was to produce a resource which was comprehensive but flexible; a resource which could provide a clear framework for a structured investigation but whose components could also be used selectively by those who preferred to plan their own projects.
Secondly, we wanted a resource that would dovetail perfectly into Welsh National Curriculum History, but which would also widen access to the World Heritage Site of Blaenavon for enthusiasts of social or industrial history anywhere in the world.
Thirdly, we aimed to create a learning tool which would excite the imagination, encourage children to develop their historical skills and understanding whilst also providing a vehicle through which to practise and nurture key life skills, such as: working with numbers; recording and problem-solving; ICT and communication. It was hoped that Children of the Revolution would not merely teach children about the past, but also how to learn about the past (and how to learn from it), and create a stimulating context in which children will want to put other hard-earned skills to good use.
Fourthly, and crucially, we wanted to harness the power of ICT to make learning about history as enjoyable and accessible as possible to learners of all abilities; to utilise its best qualities to bring new facets and possibilities to learning both in the classroom and in the home.
The project was run as a partnership between Newport City Council School Improvement Service and the National Mining Museum, Big Pit (part of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales). It also involved a professional network of five Newport primary school teachers, funded by the General Teaching Council for Wales.
The collaboration has lasted for about fifteen months, during which time the GTCWfunded teacher network met on six occasions, between November 2002 and March 2003. The other members of the team, and especially the two project managers, have met frequently for team meetings and to prepare teaching resources.
The Project Team:
Don Trueman, Humanities Advisory Teacher, Newport City Council (Joint Project
Manager and GTCW Network Coordinator);
Sharon Ford, Education Officer, Big Pit (Joint Project Manager);
Chris Price, Associate Advisor for ICT, NCC;
Steven Singer, ICT Development Officer, NCC;
Natalie Gould, St. Patrick's Primary School;
Nerys Tudor-Jones, Clytha Primary School;
Alex Smith, St. Andrew's Junior School;
Sue Webb, Eveswell Primary School;
Sarah Mason, Somerton Primary School.
Needless to say, at various times colleagues from other branches of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales and from Newport LEA also had input into meetings and discussions and provided practical assistance to the project.
The composition of the project team thus achieved a balance of complementary knowledge, skills and expertise: subject knowledge and vast historical resources; specific technical abilities in ICT and multi-media; a clear understanding of the National Curriculum and priorities and approaches in education; practical, current classroom experience; experience and understanding of practise and principles in historical interpretation.
Such partnerships only bear fruit, however, if all parties concerned recognise and appreciate the complementary nature of each other's experience and expertise, and are committed to making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Newport LEA and the National Museums and Galleries of Wales had collaborated on a previous multi-media project based on the Roman Legionary Museum at Caerleon, The Caerleon Challenge, which was Highly Commended in the ICT category of the British Archaeological Awards 2002. Although far less ambitious than Children of the Revolution, this project nonetheless established the fact that close working relationships between the two organisations were both feasible and highly productive.
The Resource Itself
Children of the Revolution is a web resource based around its own internet site. It is therefore both organic, in the sense that it can grow and be modified at any stage in the future, and accessible from anywhere in the world.
The investigation is based around a scenario which mirrors a genuine historical event: that the children are Royal Commission Inspectors, sent to Blaenavon in 1842 to find out about living and working conditions for people in the town, with a special emphasis on the lives of children. They have to examine evidence from four key areas: Work; Homes and Health; Education; Growth of the Community. Having gathered, analysed and discussed their evidence, our 'Inspectors' are asked to prepare a report for Queen Victoria and Parliament, to summarise the problems people faced and suggest solutions.
Historical evidence is presented through a variety of media, including: video; virtual reality; spreadsheet exercises; pictorial and written evidence; interactive mapping.
For those who wish to find out more, links are provided in each section to relevant and suitable internet sites, lists of recommended school text books and to an internal resource bank containing further sources, information and pictures.
Activities are included to help learners glean information from the sources and to develop key ideas, and a self-evaluation grid is provided to help them to decide the level of achievement they a) want to attain and b) have attained in each activity.
Children of the Revolution is both progressive and modular. It is progressive in the sense that it provides a clearly structured pathway, or progress, through the investigation for those who chose to follow it, with a gradual accumulation of knowledge and understanding which will inform and inspire children's final report. It is also modular, in that each section is self contained, with its own specific activities and outcomes, so teachers who simply want to dip into certain parts of the resource may do so without having to utilise the whole package.
The Target Audience
The resource is designed to support the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum study unit Life in Modern Wales and Britain, in which children have to learn about what it was like to live and work in Wales and other parts of Britain during the Industrial Revolution, and contrast this with a selected period of the 20th century. This topic is compulsory in Wales and has an equivalent study unit in England, so the potential market for the resource is huge.
It is also possible that some learners at Key Stage 3, especially those with reading difficulties, could benefit from the variety and graphic nature of the presentation of evidence.
Due to its cohesion and inherent flexibility, Children of the Revolution can be used in a variety of ways by teachers. The investigation could be set as a project for pairs or small groups of more able learners, to challenge and develop their independent learning skills. Alternatively, it could be used as the framework for a whole class topic which could extend over a whole term, stimulating debate, further enquiries and in-depth investigation of related topics. It provides ideal opportunities for using classroom PCs, computer suites and interactive whiteboards, though, should a teacher prefer, most resources could be accessed via a television and VCR.
2) The Wider Public
Being web-based, Children of the Revolution can be accessed from anywhere in the world, and will thus open up an entirely new avenue into the World Heritage site of Blaenavon for those interested in industrial history and/or the effects of industrialisation on a nation's people, or those with ancestral links with South Wales.
Of course it is not comprehensive in the information it contains, but it does offer an exciting and user-friendly threshold into the site and provides useful links to pathways for further study. We believe that the activities and resources of Children of the Revolution will appeal to young and old alike, regardless of their level of education or interest.
The Launch of the Resource
Children of the Revolution was officially launched at Big Pit, Blaenavon on November 26th, 2003.