Over the past year all the primary schools on Islay and Jura have been involved in an Island wide history project in conjunction with Islay Heritage and archaeologists from the University of Reading. The children have been learning about their history and heritage, as well as the many STEM skills required to be an archaeologist. The results of their learning are now on display in the Gaelic College, Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile, in the Islay and Jura School’s Heritage Exhibition.
The project started with a party from every primary school on Islay visiting the Giant’s Grave site, 90 children in all. This involved a lengthy walk from Nerabus up through the forestry to the site, where the archaeologists were excavating and surveying. The children were then able to experience the different fieldwork techniques, from geophysics to troweling to photography. They learned about life in the early Neolithic period, and discussed with the experts what the grave was for, how it might have looked and how the people at the time lived. They then returned to the classroom to continue the learning, carrying out many different tasks; timelines, brochures, reports, sways, story telling videos, den building, pot making, art and imaginative writing. Some of these can be seen on the Islay Heritage site, as well as at the exhibition.
Then in late March the archaeology team returned for phase 2 of the project, in which schools adopted their own local monument and carried out surveys. Children applied some of their previous learning on Geo-physics and photography, whilst also learning how to make scale drawings and documentaries. They then got to see the results of the survey transferred into 3D representations of the site. Bowmore surveyed Cill a’ Bhulig, the remains of an old chapel, Port Charlotte surveyed Carnduncan, a Bronze Age burial cairn, Port Ellen surveyed Kilbride Chapel and Small Isles and Keills surveyed a crannog at Loch nan Deala.
It has been a great learning experience for all involved and made us grasp just how much fascinating history we pass on Islay everyday without even realizing it. The process of revealing Islay’s past through the use of modern archaeological techniques has been a truly great experience, and the children have a far better understanding of their Island as a result. We would like to thank all those involved for providing us with the experience, including the Mactaggart fund for enabling the project to take place. We hope people will visit the exhibition over the next two weeks for a unique insight into Islay’s past.