The Verdant Works Visit
Field trips in History
The Verdant works is a historical museum situated in Dundee. The verdant works was previously a mill which was famous for its making of Jute in the Victorian era during the Industrial revolution. The Verdant works is a great place as a leaning opportunity for children to learn about this historical period.
I chose to visit the Verdant works as I am very interested in the Victorian era. I really enjoy learning about the way life was lived in previous years and being able to compare this to life now to see how far we have come in terms of industry and life style. The verdant works is in Dundee, so this is local history, which is good to learn about the area I have been living in and find out more about the history. The verdant works looked like a good museum to scope out and see how good it is for learning and how suitable it would be to be used for a field trip to enhance learning.
The Industrial revolution took place between 1760-1840. This was a big step for Britain as it caused the introduction of factories, ships and railroads which helped lead to a better economy for Britain. There was a significant number of factories built in this time the Verdant works. Industrialisation influenced social, cultural and economic aspects of life. The industrialisation of Britain caused an introduction of heavy machinery and this meant a lot of coal was required to run this. One key aspect of the industrialisation was the shifting of population from rural to urban areas for work and the hope for a better life.
What is Jute?
Jute is a natural fibre which has many uses. Jute comes from two different plants; corchorus olitorius and corchorus capsularis which originate from Bangladesh. This arrived in the mill in a pucca bale which was tightly packed. This would go through 9 different processes, it would finally leave the mill as a woven product. Dundee and India created a close connection in the Jute industry. In 1820 the first ever 20 bales were unloaded at the Dundee docks which was transported via a ship.
The uses of Jute
This was a huge problem during the Victorian era and could be argued that some of these issues are still heavily persistent in society today. Two places both in Dundee very close to one another had one significant difference and this was poverty. On side one there was extreme squalor this was caused by overcrowding which resulted in poor living conditions, poor health and they did not have access to a good education. On the other had there was side two living a completely different life. They were the Jute barons, wealthy, living in mansions and well educated.
The mills started off with very bad working conditions. Workers were mostly Women and Children as they cost less to hire. There was unequal rights and no policies were in place during this time. The mill life was very dangerous workers would suffer clogged eyes, mouths and noses. It was extremely noisy and sometimes this would result in deafness. Machines were closely packed together which meant they used children under the age of 9 as they are smaller to go under the machines and clear out any excess. This would result in extreme accidents and children were getting trapped in the machinery. There was also a high risk of getting bronchitis due to the unhealthy atmosphere however there was improvements made which improved the working conditions of workers in the mill. For example, in 1833 the Government passed an act which meant no young children under the age of 9 could work in a factory and it also restricted the number of hours a child would work in a factory.
1820 – First 20 bales of jute were unloaded at Dundee Docks.
1833 – Verdant works begins textile production.
1847- 10-hour Factory act was introduced – People could only work up to 10 hours a day, prior to this act it was 18/19 hours a day.
1852 – A Female mill worker was killed at the verdant works 26th of march (Entangled in a carding machine)
1855 – The first jute mill was established in India (Machinery and workers were used from Dundee.
1863 – Average life expectancy for a man in Dundee was 33.
1864 – The Verdant works employed 500 people.
1874 – The great strike 300,000 workers protested for 4 days against a 10% wage reduction.
1889- Verdant time is over and the name disappears from the list of mill factories in the Dundee directory.
1893- The verdant works has new owners.
1900- Calcutta takes over from Dundee and leading jute producer.
My visit to the mills
Upon arriving to the verdant works, we had the option of an introductory tour guide. I thought this would be very useful. The tour guide was very welcoming, he started off by explaining some background information about the mills. This was very useful as it helped me to become engaged with my surroundings. He also set the scene and told various stories. He brought the stories to life which helped me become very interested and learn more information and really feel like I was in the time zone of the stories he was telling. This was a good start to the visit and created a good atmosphere. The rest of the visit was self-directed.
The first room was in the office of the verdant works. This room was very interactive as it has statues which set out a scene from an office in the mills. This was very interactive as it had accountant books which had been used from when the mills were active which you could flick through. This was very interesting, and I found it good how you could look through an artefact which was used in the mills. This also had a button you could press where the statues would speak and express issues which were present in the mills between men and women with the differences in jobs, men not being allowed to sit and the differences in pay.
The next part of learning was about how the Jute was sent over to Dundee. The processes it went through and how it was shipped over to Dundee. This explained the links between Dundee and India. This room had a game for children to play which was on an interactive tablet where they had to get the ship to collect all the barrels and make sure it arrived in Dundee safely. This is good for younger children as it is exciting and helped develop the concept of how the Jute was taken to Dundee.
The next part of the tour was the process of making the Jute. This was the factory part of the process which explained the processes which the fabric went through in the mill and machines to become Jute. This was filled with a range of different machines which were used in the process and you have the option to be able to watch one of the machines in action. This is extremely interesting as you can physically see the machines which were used which helps to understand how they work and you can clearly see why they were so dangerous. In this part there was many different ‘phones’ which shared information about the lives of different workers in the mill and what machines they worked with. This was good as you could listen to different voices to here different stories which made it very realistic and allows you to picture the lives of different workers.
The next part of the tour was learning about the lives of the people in the Victorian times. It was made clear the quality of life was much different in the past in comparison to now. There were big displays giving facts and information about the quality of life. There was also the chance for you to measure your weight and height and compare it to a child in the Victorian times which I thought was something a bit different. This was a good way to use numerical skills and comparing different aspects of life which has a link to numeracy. This part also explained the schools life of a Victorian kid, there was a small classroom for you to access and there was a clear difference. There was a hopscotch on the floor and a cabinet with other children games this is a good discussion point as there is a clear difference in the toys children play today. This was very interesting as it was good to find out the information and learn about the differences in lives
During this visit I already knew about the poor quality of living during the Victorian times and the dangers of the machines and working in the mills. I did learn how Jute was made and the many different uses of Jute.
A school visiting opportunity
This would be a very useful place for a school trip for children in a class of first to second level. This would enhance the learning for a class topic on the industrialisation or the Victorian times. There are many advantages of the verdant works as a school trip. The verdant works is situated near the centre of Dundee and explains information about the local history of Dundee. This would be particularly good for a class which are from Dundee or even the surrounding areas of Dundee. This helps children learn and understand more about Dundee and why It is famous for the Jute industry. This is a beneficial site as it has artefacts you can look at and touch in the museum which are from the time. This makes it more real for the children which can help create more meaningful learning and excitement. The artefacts hold great value which children are more likely to learn from as they come from a time and a place and these kinds of artefacts can have a story behind them. The verdant works is a very interactive and is very child friendly. The verdant works has opportunities for dress up, storytelling is an aspect of history and this will help children feel like they are going back in time and they really are a Victorian child this brings more meaning and excitement as it sets up a story and helps children become immersed in this story. Role play can be very beneficial for learning. There are more opportunities for interaction with the ability to make stamps, listen to real life stories, watch the machines in action, play hopscotch and learn more about different games in which children played in the past, there is so many different opportunities for children to get involved and be active with their learning which will make it more memorable. This is useful as it provides children with different ways of learning as every child learns differently. This creates a new experience to broaden opportunities and we can share new experiences together which can build on reflection and importance of learning. This helps children nurture their creativity and allows teachers to set up tasks which can help further learning on their trip. This will be a negative experience if the field trip is not relevant to learning, the teacher does not provide meaningful activities to stimulate children’s learning, if cost becomes a barrier as not every child will be able to afford a school trip and schools must come up with ways to avoid this being a barrier i.e. fundraising and if the children don’t take the chance to make the most out of their experience.
– What is the Industrial revolution
– Main aspects of a life as a Victorian child
– Conditions of working in the mill
Activities on the trip
– Dressing up
– Interaction with museums features
– Discussions after each exhibit – Through questioning and observation.
Skills which can be developed through the trip
Investigating- the lives of mill worker children and comparing to our own lives as children, how does it differ etc.
Enquiring about an object in the museum i.e. the children’s toys in the Victorian times. Thinking of questions which we can ask ourselves about the object and creating a line of enquiry to focus the learning – How did the children use the toy in the Victorian times, why did they use the toy etc.
Communication – communicating and expressing thoughts and ideas on surrounding and expressing our feelings towards situations.
Collaboration and working together – involving team work and discussions to stimulate learning and ideas, sharing helps learn from peers.
A link to the verdant work website as they give greater educational opportunities for learning after the Verdant works.
– Expressive arts – Drama, art (Painting), making opportunities.
– Literacy – Story telling, Reading, writing a letter, newspaper article.
– Health and wellbeing – Games and food.
A Victorian classroom
Upon coming back into the classroom an area for further learning opportunities could be to further teach children about learning in the Victorian classroom. You could bring role play into action by completely turning the classroom into a Victorian classroom. Imitating the teacher, making slates for the children to use, leaky ink pens, unconfutable seats, singular desks. This will set the scene and make children feel like they are in a Victorian classroom. This will help children understand that learning has changed over the years. A lesson would be handwriting practice and drills using the rules of a teacher in a Victorian classroom. (Hoodless, 2008).
Follow up lesson
Children will write a diary entry on the life of a child in the Victorian Era. First, they can read different diary entries from Victorian children and look at a range of resources, which can be a scaffold for ideas. After being to the verdant works they will have gained a lot of knowledge and had the opportunity of dress up/role play. This will help children understand what the general life of a Victorian child was like and allows the children to collate their understanding and create a diary entry. This allows children to take themselves back in time and add feelings and emotions into their writing. This has IDL links with literacy. To make the effect more realistic they can dip their final diary entry into water and tea bags to make it more like it came from the Victorian times by scrunching up the paper also. This makes it more realistic and has a link the expressive arts. The teacher should display the work of the child to make it more memorable and purposeful.
“Children are extremely curious and should be given the opportunity to explore and make sense of the world around them by studying outside the classroom, making links between feelings and learning what they see, hear, touch, taste, touch, smell, do, feel, imagine and sense provide avenues to deep meaningful learning” (Pickford et al, 2013)
The verdant works is a great museum to help with educational learning. It provides a range of opportunities of learning and allows children to build on their skills. It helps children learn about the industrial revolution and the Victorian period which children can compare to their lives today to see how much and what has changed over the past. When reflecting the children should have a great memory which means the learning will last a lifetime.
Pictures from the Visit