Workshop 2: Medieval Science and the Modern Curriculum: Part 3c ADVANCED SECONDARY

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Ulrike, Per, Kathy and Andrew Powney

Our third and final group, took what appeared to be a slightly different approach to the other two, but one that ended up with a great deal of continuity with the others. Led by Per, the group involved Andrew Powney from Ampleforth College, Steven Burdon from St Bede’s Lanchester, and Mark Robson from St Robert of Newminster, Washington, as well as Tom McLeish, Richard Bower, Devin O’Leary, Kathy Bader (Durham medievalists) and Ulrike Nowak (Philosophy and Psychology, University of Oxford). Starting with the notion of collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s texts, the group thought hard about how they, in their conceptual integrity might be best deployed in the classroom. Andrew and Mark both teach religious studies, Steven teaches Science, and together with the Durham and Oxford contributors the group made considerable headway into the ways in which the activities might be carried out.

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A gaggle of heads from the Bowes Museum

In the first place, the same emphasis on contextualising the period, but with a more articulated focus on drawing attention to the physical environment of the 13th century to begin to the evoke the period (and the north-east is such a rich location in which to do this).

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Harpist from Hexham Abbey – later sources record Grosseteste as a keen harpist also.
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Thoughtful, from Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders

Thinking about stained glass, sculpture, architecture opens up questions of the period, an from the period. The group thought that excerpting, with summary, from the treatises might be the best way to present what are, at the best of times, challenging writings. An anthology of Grosseteste on colour, on light, on the rainbow might be produced, for example. The textual focus would be challenging  and would have to be handled appropriately for the module and for the class, but the aim would be to encourage a respect for the complexity and seriousness of the Middle Ages, and the coherence and logic of its cultural and intellectual productions. As well as ways to explain what seem at first startling and strange aspects to the people of the period.

In the second place the group also constructed a putative lesson plane based around Grosseteste’s law of refraction, including an opportunity for pupils to compare their own analysis of experiments reported by Grosseteste with the extracts themselves. Quantitive experiments on parallax could be carried out, with creation of hypotheses, data collection and presentation of evidence, again with the opportunity to contextualise with reference to Grosseteste’s thought. Key Stage 3 and 4 guidance on developing theories and building experiments would be informed well by this process, through opening a dialogue with the past.

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