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BLOG A busy year for our Learning and Participation Team

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

As 2021 draws to a close, the Learning and Participation Team is heading off home for a well-deserved rest. This year has been a wild ride! One minute, we’re teaching 6 year-olds to joust at Newark Castle, then we’re sharing our Ice Age Journeys session in a primary school, and the next minute preparing a civil war handling session for A level students in the museum.

The National Civil War Centre learning team with Adam Nightingale, Donna Hall, Denise Greany and Team leader Sarah Clarke

I have always thought that good teachers must also be learners. Like teachers, museum learning teams everywhere have had to adapt so much since March 2020.  At the National Civil War Centre and Newark Castle, we have learnt to make films on a shoestring budget, record podcasts under the duvet, teach virtual art classes and design digital and analogue resources for use in a myriad of different ways and settings. Yes, it has been hard work but we have reached the end of the year with a collection of new skills and a website that has changed beyond all recognition. Our schools workshops are finely tuned and our subject knowledge is hotter than ever. 

Dancing a farandole and leading a medieval conga is top of the list of things Adam never anticipated doing at the start of the year. He admits that he won’t be winning Strictly any time soon, but he styled it out and gave Donna a good laugh.

‘Donna-in-the-deep-end’ week was a triumph of high-speed learning. When two members of the team were self-isolating, Donna (who had been an apprentice at the time of the first lockdown) stepped up to lead sessions for the first time and did a cheerfully sterling job. 

Denise managed to fit in something she’s wanted to do for years – project management training. That enabled her to lead a tremendous art and literacy project with Newark Academy. You can hear Denise and others talking about it here https://youtu.be/XMXIjTfoq64.

So let’s take a moment in this blog to list our top five favourite things we’ve learned this year.

1. The intrinsic value of play. Learning to be happy and curious in the museum is a far more important outcome than learning facts about the collection.

2. The power of choice to motivate and inspire young people. Taking year 11 students to our stores to choose artefacts enabled them to connect meaningfully with the objects and their stories.

3. The incredible variety of apps and digital tools available to help us. My personal favourite and most-used is a video editing app explained to me by my twelve-year-old daughter. I now contentedly spend hours adding music and captions to all my videos.

4. It is possible to teach three classes at the same time, even when they are in Worcestershire and you cannot see their faces!

5. We have got to know some wonderful experts in the field of Civil War history. Check out What Did The Civil Wars Do For Us [180kb] to meet some of them.

Of course, none of knows how the start of 2022 will work out. However, we do know that, this time, we are equipped with a robust suite of resources and the skills to teach online. We also have bookings for thousands of year 7 students, so we are ready for anything!

Find out more about what the Learning and Participation Team can offer to schools and other learners on our Learn pages and check out our YouTube channel for some great engaging content and resources. 

By Sarah Clarke, Team Leader for Learning and Participation