Workshop 2: Medieval Science and the Modern Curriculum: Part 3a PRIMARY

Introductions completed it was down to the second part of the workshop; placing the methods, approaches and material from our medieval and science collaboration at the service of our education partners. Vanessa Kind, with Per Kind and Dorothy Warren, led the days activities. Divided into groups, one focused on primary schooling (roughly 6-10 as the target age-range), one of secondary schooling (GCSE/A Level, 14-18 age range) and one on A-Level specifically (16-18), we worked throughout the day to develop a range of ideas for worksheets, resource packs, possible lesson plans. All of these were discussed in the context of the National Curriculum Key Stages: we are aiming for activities that are stimulating but workable within, and which enhance, current guidelines and frameworks.

Primary Group in action!
Mike, Charlie and Neil in consultation

The Primary Group, led by Dorothy included Sarah Ward and Neil McLeod from Northumberland Church of England Academy. With five primary schools within the academy, it was great to have Sarah and Neil on board, and we hope to work closely with NCEA in the development of this strand, as well as Lynnfield Primary with Drou Easton. Together with medievalists of various disciplinary persuasions (Charlie Rozier, Lydia Harris, Mike Huxtable and Stephanie Britton) the group focused on ‘The Medieval World’: introducing primary school children to the figure of Grosseteste through the riches of the medieval world in terms of cultural history and unusual locations for problem-based learning. A six-week programme emerged, with the first section devoted to a journey, based around medieval pilgrimage, as a way of introducing some of the values and issues of a pre-modern society. We had great fun with medieval maps, including full-scale reproductions used in first year undergraduate teaching in the Department of History (as well as medieval manuscript facsimiles, a replica medieval sword, and various visual aids). The group suggested a mid-course visit to Palace Green Library to engage with the teaching liaison team and enable children to experience something of the medieval world through the artefacts and activities to hand. The second element of the course would take on some of the scientific problems raised by Grosseteste, especially the rainbow, and investigate the physical problems it poses with a broader cultural response: how did people in the past think of and describe rainbows: from classical Iris iris 2to the Old Norse Rainbow bridge Bifrost-300x201Bifrost, and the Old Testament symbol of covenant.


The rainbow is well suited to KeyStage 2 including the forthcoming revisions. Sarah and Neil were keen to take forward some of the plans we developed together in the immediate term, and we are very confident that this will be something we can develop together. Finding an engaging way to introduce the medieval past, the questions that it asked, and the multi-cultural manner in which answers were formulated are key aspects to this part of the project. What was fantastic to see was the range of imaginative responses, and suggestions for guided reading, from C. S. Lewis Voyage of the Dawn Treader (and the recent film), the Chronicles of Redwall and The Hobbit (with the wonderful cinematic visualisation of that world as well).

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