This View of Life – National Library of Scotland with TAG Theatre


‘This View of Life’ was an innovative partnership project between a theatre and a national collection, designed to create a learning experience for pupils and demonstrate the powerful potential of inter-disciplinary learning. Over a two year period Learning staff at TAG and National Library of Scotland (NLS) worked with the Scottish Arts Council funded writer-in-residence. Together they developed a full day learning experience for schools, exploring the work and impact of Charles Darwin, evolution and our responsibilities to the planet, inspired by research in the collections at NLS.  The play and workshop series toured for five weeks around Scotland.

This View of Life - the set

This View of Life involved:

  • – 1,292 pupils
  • – 4 actors
  • – 1 playwright
  • – 1 director/producer

Experts from different fields worked collaboratively to create a model for communicating complex scientific ideas using drama.  During the development phase academics at Glasgow University and the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery kindly gave of their time and expertise to support the project.  In addition, because the project focused on evolution, TAG liaised with a number of teachers at both Catholic and non denominational schools. TAG’s local primary school was invited to act in a consultative manner in the development of the play.

Through actively encouraging teachers to participate and offering CPD sessions the partners effectively demonstrated the potential for inter-disciplinary approaches to the teaching of science.


The John Murray Archive learning programme at NLS develops innovative learning projects.  Its Writer-in-Residence works with the Learning Officer to bring a unique perspective to archive learning.  Together, they identified that working in partnership with a theatre and using drama, held great potential to develop a project to explore Darwin and his impact on society and modern thinking. The project that evolved, ‘This View of Life’, meets the aims of A Curriculum for Excellence.

Using participatory and active learning NLS and TAG aimed to harness the energy and excitement of theatre to help children understand the excitement of science and:

this view of life

  • – Develop a basic understanding of natural selection/inherited variation
  • – Develop skills to discuss and consider complex ideas
  • – Think about ‘big’ issues
  • – Be confident to ask questions
  • – Build confidence and skills to participate in drama
  • – Consider the future of the planet
  • – Foster connections between young people, the theatre and research institutions

Outcomes from Sciences and People, Place and Environment which complemented the theme of Darwin were used in the development of draft learning activities/scripts by NLS and TAG, which used TAG’s experience of Drama/The Expressive Arts to develop a truly inter-disciplinary approach.

Outcomes for Literacy across learning and Health and Wellbeing across learning were reviewed to ensure activity supported these areas.  Draft activities were developed over periods of rehearsal with a school local to TAG.

Partners engaged in dialogue with P7 teachers at several Catholic and non denominational schools to discuss where the project would complement the curriculum and to ensure Catholic schools were not discouraged from taking part.


One follow up evaluation questions asked about pupil and teacher perceptions to using drama to learn about science.

  • – 264 (of 274) pupils said drama was a good way to learn about science:
  • Science is boring but drama makes it fun.” (pupil)

– Pupils demonstrated learning about Darwin and evolution:

  • “Being big and strong isn’t always good and being small is sometimes better.” (pupil)
  • “Even though we are all different we are all related.” (pupil)

– We encouraged pupils to be open to new ideas and ask questions.  These traits were demonstrated:

  • “Helped the children explore the importance of asking questions and then questioning the answer – so what about us? Why are we here? What’s the point of us?” (teacher)

It also benefited and developed learning practice at both partner organisations and demonstrated innovative arts learning techniques for interdisciplinary learning.

  • – The project included the development of Teachers Notes on learning activities focused on key themes from the play written by the learning staff at NLS and TAG. This will continue to be available via the NLS website and other routes (e.g. GLOW).
  • – TAG and NLS are continuing to use the skills and knowledge developed on this project to develop future work based around NLS collections which will be made available to schools across Scotland.
  • – TAG explored the potential to build links with partners to develop future performances of the play which were not successful.

this view of life

Teachers’ comments:

  • – Made them reflect and question the theory of evolution. Instigated a thirst for knowledge
  • – We had several children who have severe emotional/behavioural difficulties but every pupil interacted so well with the play and took something important from the experience
  • – Helped the children explore the importance of asking questions and then answering the question
  • – When we left the library the children were chatting to each other about how much they had enjoyed it and how they hadn’t expected it to be so amazing
  • – Very important messages were given and discussed
  • – Captured the mood an interest of all the pupils. Spoke the pupils’ language and explained theories/discoveries at the pupils’ level

Pupils’ comments:

  • the day opened up your mind to different ideas
  • – there are more discoveries yet to be made
  • – not to give up because Darwin didn’t give up
  • – drama is more fun and we are more likely to learn because we might not listen when we get told lots of facts



  • – National Library of Scotland
  • – TAG Theatre Company
  • – City of Edinburgh
  • – North Lanarkshire
  • – City of Glasgow
  • – Fife
  • – Hunterian Art Gallery (host partner)
  • – Summerlees Heritage Centre (host partner)

Levels and stages:

  • – Second Stage
  • – P6 and 7


  • – National Library of Scotland as part of John Murray Archive project
  • – Scottish Government Science Engagement Grant
  • – A number of smaller donations

For more information contact:

Jackie Cromarty, Programme manager. Learning and Public Engagement on 0131 623 3843 or email

or go to:


Photographs taken by a professional photographer at a rehearsal with a school present for feedback are available on TAG’s flickr photostream and NLS and TAG are happy for them to be used:

There is also a time lapse video of the set build on YouTube: (you will need to scroll down to the bottom of the page)

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