Category Archives: 3. Prof. Skills & Abilities

Captain Scott – Visualising His Life through the Drama Lens

This piece of writing is a submission for my Expressive Arts E-Portfolio linked to my Assignment.


Choose a character from the past (it doesn’t have to be a famous person). Research that character and the time that they lived. Use the drama convention Visualisation to explore what it would be like to be that character. What would they hear? What would they see? Smell? Experience? Write a diary entry in role as your character.

Ever since I created a short video of myself as Captain Scott in Antarctica, I have understood the importance of introducing (as accurately as possible) relative figures to children in Dundee. This would apply to the local area of anywhere I taught and figures related to that area. This links in with children understanding their heritage and their place within that heritage, how they can make links and also discover information that they have never known before.

When I was teaching primary 3’s this year and was asked to create a lesson on Captain Scott, I wanted to incorporate my drama skills into creating a stimulus to get the lesson started. In order to do this, I went a visit to the Discovery ( I couldn’t believe that I had lived in Dundee for three years and never gone a look!). This gave me a good understanding of the background of the expedition and the relevance and importance of it to the heritage of the Dundee people. I was inspired by a “Teacher in Role” chapter in the book WIth Drama in Mind: Real Learning in Imagined Worlds (Baldwin, 2012) with this activity in mind:

I discovered I could make a video in my own front room of myself in role as Captain Scott in Antarctica, looking to recruit new members for his team. The children would then compile what they would need in a cold environment and what skills and qualities they would need to be a good team member. From this, they could then fill out their own job application with what they felt was appropriate to get the job. This brought in interdisciplinary learning from across the board, including social sciences and health and well-being.

This was the video I created after much research and work went into it:


To create the video I had to find sounds that would have been relevant to both the time period and recording (I used a Morse code background) and the environment (strong gales and snow in Antarctica). The video was really effective in the lesson and all children, with differentiated tasks, were engaged fully and wrote some brilliant work!

On reflection however, I would have benefited by visualising the character more beforehand. This would have given me aspects of Captain Scott’s personality, accent perhaps and mannerisms that he possessed. It would have also given me insight to how he looked and how he would have changed in the conditions he was in.

This is why I have now created a visualisation of the character now based on research gained from that area:


In a very interesting research paper written by Scott Freer (2011), many of the key characteristics and storytelling’s of Captain Scott’s life are either relatively unknown, or assumed. Such as the nations view of him through books and passages that have actually been altered to suit the public’s iconic image of him. For example, some of the information regarding temperatures in the Antarctic were altered from 12+ degrees to -12 degrees to exaggerate the harshness of what the crew experienced on their defeated expedition to be the first group to reach the Shout Pole. This means the image of him, due to historic content being altered and changed, may be inaccurate. However, we can look at this critically and make our own opinion based on what we read. It is remembering that the context of the lesson is what is important: what we know is that Captain Scott was in Antarctica and was on the planned expedition.

Originally when I recorded the piece, I assumed polar bears would exist and I mentioned it in the video. On reflection I realised that they did not exist in the South region and therefore I changed it to a leopard seal. This was done through research and enabled me to be more accurate in my description of the surrounding environment that he would have experienced.


Scott and his team at the South Pole, on January 18, 1912. Unfortunately, only to find that Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten them.

In Antarctica, when the expeditions were at their most common from 1898-1922, the worst issue regarding clothing was the footwear and moisture retention when these and other pieces of clothing were removed. Most of these outfits would have been made by natural fibres, as synthetic materials were relatively new and not well understood.

Based on the information I have found, I will now create a diary entry based on what Captain Scott would have seen, experienced and felt during his experience in Antarctica:

Dear Diary,

I fear that we have not prepared ourselves well for this venture. We experimented with motor vehicles ,which I have very little knowledge about. And then I chose to use ponies to carry the supplies if these motor vehicles failed at any point, which they did. Our ponies that we have taken to move our supplies are now failing. They are unable to cope in the ferocity of the Antarctic temperatures and wind. I should have known that the dogs would have been better equipped and able to cope with the pace of this venture.

I fear we are running out of time. I have heard information over our field telephone that Roald Amundsen is venturing close to us. He has well-equipped dogs at his side and the strength of men. I fear he may reach the South Pole first. However I will not race him and I shall act as if his expedition does not exist. I will not risk losing any more men nor will I dampen spirits.

“He (Scott) cried more easily than any man I have ever known. What pulled Scott through was character, sheer good grain which ran over and under and through his weaker self and clamped it all together.”
 Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)

Rations for one man for one day while manhauling. This is insufficient food for the conditions and work rate. The energy requirement for manhauling is now known to be 6500 calories per day, the food ration in the picture supplied around 4600 calories per day. Scott and his men were effectively on a starvation diet that didn’t fulfill their needs leading to a loss of weight and condition which contributed to their suffering and loss.

We are growing tired and we are so close, yet so far, reaching perhaps only 6 to 7 miles covered in a day. However we are moving forward and not back. We have conducted research on Emperor penguins, and I hope, if nothing else, that this is a great achievement in furthering our understanding of this beautifully unknown paradise.

I hope to write to you again soon, for now I will rise into the 0 degree blistering cold and attempt once again to reach our one goal: The South Pole.




Cherry-Garrard, A. (1922) The Worst Journey in the World, UK: Carroll and Graf Publishers Ltd.

Cool Antarctica (undated), Captain Robert Falcon Scott – The Journey to the South Pole, Web, See: (Accessed on: 08 Oct 2019).

Freer, S. (2011) The Lives and Modernist Death of Captain Scott, Life Writing, 8:3, 301-315, DOI: 10.1080/14484528.2011.579238

The Telegraph, (2012) Scott could have been saved if his orders had been followed, says scientists, Web. See: (Accessed on: 08 Oct 2019).

The Telegraph, (2017) Early mobile phones help Robert Falcon Scott in successful South Pole bid, Web. See: (Accessed on: 08 Oct 2019).


Standing up for justice; standing up for our children.

I sit and write this blog after one of the most thought provoking discussions so far in my university journey. One in which we were discussing theories such as the Montessori, Owen and Frobel perspectives on education. Each being primarily child-centre focused and broadening on aspects of children thriving on their own initiative and creativity.


It has been a week since I attended the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow. Amongst many very interesting seminars, I was particularly hooked on an inspiring talk on the “Play in Primary One” perspective of Canal View Primary School in Edinburgh, a school which has benefited from Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) due to increasing poverty surrounding the area and high levels in the SIMD indicators for deprivation.


After finding that a change had to be made into the dynamics of their early years classroom, Canal View completely replenished their existing timetable. It enabled them to create a more active learning environment in which the children, like the views of the practitoners in the opening paragraph expressed, could thrive in and build on their own learning. This was enforced by employing extra members of staff through PEF, including a child psychologist, an early years practitioner and a speech therapist.

What they then found, was that their stats on both numeracy and literacy rose significantly within just a year of their new practice. What they found to be a key aspect of this change was more collaboratively encouraging continuous dialogue within the classroom, having planned and purposeful play (waiting til children were READY for phonics, reading and writing) and stripping certain things back to basics, for example, teaching children skills such as listening.

  Standardised scores from Canal View after one year of new programme.

Vocabulary pie charts over one year at Canal View.

They did find some difficulties within this however. It took a lot of time and not just within the planning of this, but to get the parents on board with the new ideas. They expressed to sustain the high levels of achievement, they would need two new members of staff for the following year. This they could do with PEF.

Now what striked me today, during the lecture on these practitioners was, are we really getting it right for every child? Yes, you could argue that Canal View is a prime example of a wonderful success story. But could it have been achieved without the increasing staff numbers and the funding available? Why is it not compulsory for us as teachers to have access to these professionals and other specialists in order for our children to have the best learning experience?

Robert Owens in his theory stressed that creative subjects are key to improving health, education, well being and rights of the working class. He used those subjects in his system to relieve stress and when minds became fatigued, he would engage in these subjects with pupils to expose them to physical exercise and music.

When I came to Dundee from Orkney I was surprised that there were next to no specialist teachers in the classroom. From somebody who had achieved great things through music, art, PE and drama at school, I couldn’t understand how a child would thrive in any environment without these subjects. I am thankful to have an interest in these subjects and feel (with practice) I could expose my students to these key subjects in good detail. The same cannot be said for all teachers however. Having specialist creative arts and technology teachers provides our children with enriching experiences that can benefit them in not just the classroom but in their lifelong learning.

In a recent survey, Education Scotland (2013) said that the general consensus of creative skills amongst teachers were as follows:

” Although most staff are familiar with the interrelated skills within the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, there is general agreement that understanding of the creative process and associated
creativity skills as distinct concepts needs to be enhanced across education sectors,
so that their particular characteristics can be developed for the benefit of children
and young people.”

What I feel strongly about is that specialist teachers are crucial to a child’s development. It was shown in Canal View to make an incredible difference to not just the children’s creative skills, but their all round skill levels, including numeracy and literacy. I feel that to remove this from schools is a major injustice to our children in Scotland and it will be interesting to see how this changes in the future.

Standing up, speaking out and supporting our children in their journey through school –  if it can make a difference to some schools, we must ensure this is happening in the rest of Scotland.



Education Scotland (2013), Creativity Across Learning 3-18, Livingston: Education Scotland



Memorable Classes in School – The Creative Arts

Throughout my time at school (both in primary and secondary), the most memorable classes for me were ones that emphasised on skills primarily used in the creative arts. Be this cutting cardboard with Stanley knives to make human sized dinosaurs or presenting wall posters describing Orkney’s role in World War 2. My favourite experience at school however was when I played Rizzo in Grease!

Yes back in 2014, I got the chance to play one of my least favourite characters (yes you heard right…LEAST favourite) in my world of musicals. The real story behind this was how I grew to love her through learning about who the real character was behind the attitude and how I apply and think about this in my every day life.

My drama and music teachers were my most influential and inspirational teachers at school. They saw my potential as a learner and encouraged me (and others in the class) to think outside of the box in everything that we did. Be that both within and outwith the classroom.

When the news came out that we were doing Grease as our school show I was ecstatic. Our teachers prepared us for auditions by doing extra script readings after school (they did this so often and I realise now how much that helped so many of us through our time at school) and song sessions at lunchtime. As we became familiar with the script, I despised Rizzo’s character more. I had never played such a saucy, sarcastic and tough character in my life?! No way would I be auditioning for that part.

2 weeks later and my hopes of playing Sandy were quashed…I had got the part of Rizzo..

What followed however, through many rehearsals, tears and tantrums, was a love for a character that I had only ever had once before (Nancy in Oliver!). You see, despite the tough and arrogant persona that Rizzo flaunted, there was a certain vulnerability to her that I had never considered before. My teachers had encouraged me through means of messages in song to see beyond the outside version of a person.

This particularly hit me emotionally when I sang “There are Worse Things I Could Do.” The words and power behind the music really got me to contrast the previously stubborn Rizzo into a sense of sorrow and relent on her previous behaviours.

The show was a real hit in the community which was great and we ended up raising around £10,000 for the school. What I think was important about this particular time in my life was realising the importance of never judging a book by its cover, and it was my teachers, whilst encouraging me to pursue the role, that made me realise that.

Our first values workshop: Experiencing inequality and how it effected the group

On Tuesday, we had our first of the values workshops. For this, we were split into 4 groups. I, unaware of what was to come, was put into group 4. All four groups were handed an envelope, that included items in which we had to use to make a resource for freshers coming into the university that they may find useful. In our envelope, we had an elastic band, one post-it note and a pencil. That was it. Immediately ideas started circling round the table. A map? A game? What could we possibly do with these extremely limited resources?!

As a group we started discussing what we could have benefitted from when we first arrived at uni. For me, it was simple: people to speak to and become friends with. This was something I seriously struggled with when I first came to university. What we discovered while discussing topics was that: a) Every other group had more resources than us and b) they were getting far more encouragement from Carrie than what we were. This (despite knowing it was an exercise of some sort) disheartened the group. It also made us question if what we were doing was correct.

In the end, despite the lack of supplies, we had created two (pretty genius, if I don’t say so myself) inventions for freshers to use when they first come to university, using a combination of experiences and contributions from within the group. The first was a map, using the envelope, post-it and pencil, displaying what building each lecture would be in for our course. The second was a friendship bracelet. The idea would be that the bracelet would be placed on the chair next to you in a lecture, so someone potentially feeling the same way, or just wants to sit with you, would know that you’re looking to meet new people. Both of these ideas seemed well received from the groups, but Carrie gave us no support or encouragement throughout the presentation. Again, we questioned our motives; had we completely lost the point?! As the rest of the groups presented, she showed a variety of interest. It was noticeable that it increased from group 4 up to group 1 to which it came across that she loved their idea.


The message behind this workshop was that despite lack of resources in an environment, a childs’ social background, ability, race or even what kind of socks they chose to wear that day, everyone has the right to being treated equally and with respect. It raised a whole range of issues, from social divisions to being appreciated in society for being who you are. What I also took from it, was that to always trust your instinct. As we received next to no encouragement, we started to doubt our own, perfectly valid judgements. I found it, overall, a very interesting and beneficial workshop.

Why music is so important in the teaching profession

I have always been a firm believer that extra curricular activities are as important for a child as having academic skills. I believe this, not only because it’s important for future CV reference, but also because as a child develops, it is vital for them to adapt skills outwith an academic environment, to feel different emotions and develop their own individual skills and qualities.

When mum was pregnant with me, she used to sing to me in the womb. Once I was born, she sang to me in the bath, when I went to bed and even during the day. Music has always been around me and I’ve always been interested in it.  In an age where music is one of the most celebrated cultures worldwide, I feel that it is vital that children get taught about music in the teaching profession and that the rewards and opportunities that come from it are endless.


Where I’m from (the Orkney Islands) we are extremely lucky when it comes to music tuition. First off, that the teaching staff are idols for all of us in the music department. Teachers that are not only inspirational but show sheer dedication and commitment to their area of work that I have never seen before. A scheme introduced by the Orkney Islands Council, means that from primary age upwards, there are many opportunities for a pupil to receive free lessons in school time with an instrument. In time, providing that the pupil sticks with the tuition, playing an instrument can reap benefits. Meeting new friends, gaining confidence but also, due to the complexity of music reading, it trains the brain to deal with other aspects of life.

In a primary school environment, children are so keen and willing to learn. They soak up everything like a sponge. Simple songs, rhythms and musical exercises can liven up a classroom and make learning enjoyable. Having a wee story behind songs as well can also be an extra idea.


However, I do understand that music isn’t every teacher’s cup of tea. But that is okay. You don’t have to have done music before to do as good a job as someone who knows Mozart’s Fifth Symphony backwards. It’s about engaging with it and embracing the enjoyment that comes out of it.


Why teaching?

Well, it’s amazing to think that this time last year, I was making one of the biggest decisions of my life; what was I going to do once I left 6th year? Now, a whole year later, here I am at the University of Dundee about to start my big adventure into the world of teaching.

It was pretty easy for me to make my choice of career. Having done work experience over the course of last year and the year before, it was clear in my mind that teaching was definitely what I wanted to do. It was, however, one lesson in particular that influenced my decision. I was on placement in a nursery, and there were several children struggling with sellotape. I showed them a fun technique on how to find the edge of the tape. It was when I came back the following week, the group of kids that I’d showed it to the week prior, were then teaching their own friends and classmates how to do it. It gave me a positive clarification that yes Gemma, you can do this (or at least give it a good go)!

I have also been a member of Girlguiding Orkney for 13 years. Doing volunteering with the younger Brownies and Guides furthered my ambition to work with children. I absolutely loved it. Teaching them extra curricular skills that they can use in not only different aspects of life, but also as they progress through Girlguiding itself.

Music and drama are two extra passions of mine. Using the skills gained from that particular subjects in a classroom environment has come at a huge advantage, especially when communicating with younger children.

I would say that I am most looking forward to going on placement, and the reason that is is because during the year, I will develop new skills and qualities that I can then try out in the classroom once more. I’m really hoping that I can improve my academic writing and organisational skills. These are crucial to have as a teacher. Being in a classroom and engaging with the young minds of children is what I have enjoyed doing in work experience, so I can’t wait to see how this year goes. Just hoping that Miss Harcus has a good ring to it!