Embracing my Inner Child (and the wind)!

Ok, so all my friends from the Central Belt of Scotland talked of great trips of the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for class trips. Being a ‘Northern’, I had never been and was a little jealous. So, with the elective as a great excuse, Katie and I set off to Edinburgh for a day trip to the museum.

 

I walked into the museum and was overwhelmed by the size of the place, there isn’t anything up north quite as big. In the museum, there are sections for Scotland, Science and Technology, World Cultures, Art, Design and Fasion and the Natural World as well as the special exhibit section. There is so much in the Museum of Scotland, I as a 21-year-old adult, found it hard to focus at first. There was just so much to play with in the Technology section which we just so happened to walk into first. Another considerable difference, was the amount of children who were in the museum. Whenever I have been on any other of my trips, the children have been scarce. In the museum, there was a plethora of children in the technology section. This showed to me, this maybe a very good trip as the children would choose to come here but on the other hand, it may not be such a good trip if you worked in the local area as the children may have already been and therefore, may not be as interested in the museum.

 

This made me think as a teacher, there would have to a thorough plan in place for a trip to the Museum of Scotland as it would be quite easy to derail from the purpose of the trip. However, I would also not be opposed to timetabling in free time for the children to explore a section such as the technology section as it was highly interesting and I feel a class of primary 6’s or 7’s could be trusted to enjoy the free time sensible and come back to a designated point at a given time. This could be done with a younger class as well but I suppose it goes on how well you know and can trust your own class rather than a set age.

After spending probably a little too much time having fun, we only had two hours in the museum, Katie and I ventured up to the top of the museum for the section “Scotland: A Changing Nation”. This section I found really interesting as well. The majority of the exhibits in this section I could personally relate to. Although the exhibition was dated from 1900 to the present day, I felt like I knew most of the exhibits on show. This section really made me think about how much of Scottish History I have been a part of, from the best parts such as Glasgow 2014 to the worst drop in oil Aberdeen has ever seen, to exciting changes in history such as the voting aged being dropped for the Scottish Referendum to 16 years old.

 

A Changing Nation, I felt did really well at including the whole of Scotland in the exhibit which isn’t always the case in other museums, they tend to be focussed a particularly era or part of Scotland. In this section, Katie learnt I wasn’t lying when I asked Foos your doos? or fit like I’day? And told her these were real words when she watched a video from the people of Scotland. Both of us, were very fond of this video, it really encapsulated Scotland and our heritage. This section took us from more recent history straight through to the modern day. It helped me personally to understand where we had come from in perspective to where we are currently and how we as a nation have evolved over time. I feel to fully understand where we are, we must understand our heritage which in my own opinion is key in the rationale for teaching history.

As we ventured down the stairs into Industry and Empire, the 19th century section, we began to quickly get bored.

 

Whilst in the Industry and Empire section and even further down the Scottish history timeline and sections, although we did still feel there was a lot of information to take in and we did not see the significance to our lives as learners and questioned the relevance to children in our potential classes. We felt if we ourselves as learners were bored, we would struggle to engage children in a lesson in this section. Therefore, personally, if I were to take a class, unless it was specific to the topic they were learning about at the time, I would perhaps limit the Scotland section to only Scotland: A Changing Nation and the more modern history which children could relate to.

As I stated at the beginning, there were a variety of different sections and we unfortunately did not get to visit them all. However, we did have a quick look at the Art, Design and Fashion section. Katie had a class who were designing hats as part of a project with the V&A Dundee in her placement school last year and she felt they would have thoroughly enjoyed looking at the exhibits in this section. Katie felt this would have inspired their designs and inspired the children to be as creative as they liked with their hats. On the other hand, to myself, I wouldn’t have thought to take a class to this section as a teacher as although I thought the dresses and hats were pretty to look at, I did not feel myself gaining anything as a learner. Therefore, it shows, given the right topic this could be a great stimulus for learning and thus we must remain open minded to different sections of the museums for different topics and not just continue to use the same section or exhibits.

We also had brief look at the Age of Oil special exhibit. The Age of Oil exhibit was looking at the Oil industry mainly with the focus on Aberdeen. The Oil industry is a significant part of my life. I grew up spending my weekends playing at the Harbour with my grandparents. Both my dad, sister and at least one of my best friends, Findlay, currently work in the oil industry. It is hugely significant in Aberdeen. It is a big employer and has many jobs, to the point my dad, sister and Findlay all work in oil but neither work in the same company and neither of them even have similar jobs. However, neither of them work off shore either. Baring this in mind, here are my thoughts of the exhibit.

So far, I feel I enjoyed this trip the most out of all of the previous trips. There is so much that can be done in the museum and we couldn’t have possibly looked in depth at everything in the short amount of time we went so we did focus on Technology and Science and Scotland: A Changing Nation. We chose to do that as we felt those sections were most relevant to ourselves as learners and felt they would be most relevant to the children in our future classes.

 

Overall, here are our thoughts from the trip:

 

It was a very educational but fun day out! I had a great time embracing my inner child. Definitely recommend a visit!

Discovering a Preserved City.

Although I said in a previous post, Aberdeen and the Shire is a quickly changing city, so much so that I sometimes barely know my own local surroundings. However, ‘up North’ we do have some national treasures that are preserved in the town and surrounding areas history. As I had said previously, I was adamant to discover something different about my local area when I came to visit this weekend after failing to notice the beauty of everything surrounding me last weekend. Therefore, this morning I headed off on a little trip further North onto the Visit Scotland (2016) Castle Trail. I headed towards Dunecht to Castle Fraser.

Last weekend on my drive home from Inverurie, I had spotted the Castle Trail tourist information sign. After researching this trail when I got home, it turns out the castle it could have been directing me towards was Castle Fraser, therefore that was the one from the trail I choose to visit today.

Before leaving, I had chosen to do no research into Castle Fraser apart from the little snippet of information that was on the Castle Trail booklet. This was so when I arrived at the Castle I would have the same experience children would most likely have if I was to use this as a class trip.

(The little snippet of information I had before the trip (left) and part of the Castle Trail (right) (Visit Scotland, 2016) in Aberdeenshire.)

Much to my surprise, when I arrived there, the car park was quite full. Normally whenever I head to Dunnottar Castle, excluding once in the peak of summer, the car park is always empty. The castle was very busy with at least two other visitors in every room I went in. There were castle guides in 3 of the rooms as well who were very knowledgeable not only about the castle and the artefacts in the castle but also about the Victorian period in general. The majority of the visitors in the castle were older ladies and there was only one family with children. There were other families on the castle grounds doing the walking trails and in the play park.

When I first got to the castle, I took a wonder around the grounds. Castle Fraser is surrounded by copious green space: there are trails to walk around the grounds, the walled garden, play park, cafe and a visitor shop. At the shop, prior to going into the castle, I bought a Castle Fraser booklet. The information booklet would be fantastic for a teacher before going on the trip as it gives a wealth of information about the castle in general, each room in the castle, the Fraser families who occupied the castle and general Scottish history surrounding the castle. The castle dates back to first being built in 1454, around the time of the Scottish reformation, when the Fraser family was granted the land in exchange for Thomas Fraser’s land at Cornton (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, Pp. 3-6). The castle has since been renovated several times and is preserved, in the second to last renovation, in the early eighteenth century layout and decoration (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.8). The last renovation was in the nineteenth century but no inventory for how the castle looked then has been discovered (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.8).

(The Walled Garden in the grounds surrounding the castle (above).)

The booklet gives an in depth information of the tour around the castle. There are also information cards in each room going into more depth about the room and all the artefacts you can see in the room including the paintings and wallpaper. These go alongside, as previously mentioned, the fantastic castle guides. With the artefacts being the Fraser families’s belongings, it is a great way to show people, especially children who may never have had the chance to see these artefacts, primary sources from this time period. The artefacts have been incredibly well maintained over the years, which gives a more realistic understanding of these possessions than looking at photographs in my opinion.

 

(The Great Hall (above) and some artefacts, of the Fraser families’ belongings, from inside the castle (above and below))

I feel Castle Fraser would lend itself nicely to topics of Victorians or the Jacobites as it is maintained in the 18th and 19th century renovations with artefacts from the Fraser family dating back to those periods (National Trust for Scotland, 2016). The Dining Room in the castle, for example, has a Victorian table with the Fraser family silverware, glass and china on the table (National Trust for Scotland, 2016, p.14). Due to the wealth of information, the fantastic green space and the surrounding grounds, I feel this would be a suitable place for a school trip for those topics.

(The information cards that can be found in each room).

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the castle, I feel it helped me discover something about Aberdeenshire in my bid to develop my local knowledge. The visit has made me more interested in local history and where possible, I want to carry on the Castle Trail (Visit Scotland, 2016) as there are still many more castles in Aberdeenshire to discover. When I was in the castle, I spoke to a lady, who was also visiting the castle, she was so enthusiastic and passionate about the fantastic history and castles we have in Aberdeenshire that it inspired me to visit more soon!

(The view of the castle grounds from the castle tower.)

References:

National Trust for Scotland (2016) Castle Fraser, Garden and Estate Scotland: GPS

Visit Scotland (2016) Scotland’s Castle Trail: Explore Aberdeenshire Available at: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/media/10248/scotlandscastletrail.pdf (Accessed on: 30/9/17)

Tales Twisted in Time

On Thursday evening, myself and my two friends (Katie and Katy, just to confuse things) ventured on a Dark Dundee walking tour.

We had chosen to go on their least dark tour Twisted in Time as we wanted to know more information about Dundee’s history that we could use in our classes (and social studies assignment) and if this would be a suitable thing to use as a class trip. The Dark Dundee tour guides said whilst we were walking they had only worked with secondary school pupils before, giving them not only the tales and facts they know about Dundee’s history but also knowledge about travel and tourism and running a business. They showed great interdisciplinary learning ideas but sadly they had never worked with primary schools. However, before we were even half way round the tour, the three of us had decided this would be a fantastic trip to do with children, if the tour guides would have a younger class and miss some parts of the stories out to keep it PG. We felt as a group, children would be much more engaged in this than going round a museum. Katie and I had previously already said, that although there would be a lot you could do, we would find a trip to the McManus Galleries (Rennie, 2017) hard to plan for and managed therefore at our stage of development we would not take a class there. On the other hand, we definitely felt we could take a class easily on a Dark Dundee walking tour.

Why did we decide this? To the tour, we go.

The Twisted in Time tour took us on a walking tour around things: statues, plaques, streets, in Dundee which I knew nothing about, things that I have never even

noticed in Dundee before but are all critical in the history of Dundee. As we walked around these different spots, the Dark Dundee tour guides, told us the famous tales that had been slightly twisted over time but took those tales back to what they could prove to be true.

We started at the tour at the Dragon statue in the city centre. The tour began here as this statue is actually Twisted in Time itself. The Dragon came to be here after the tale of the nine daughters of a Dundonian farmer. The farmer had sent one of his daughters to the well to get water one evening, after a while when the daughter never came back, he sent another of his daughters to find out what was going on, this continued until all nine daughters never came back. The farmer then went down to the well to see a serpent at the well and all nine of his daughter dead. The farmer, alongside one of his daughter’s lover, Martin and the rest of the town, went to find and kill the serpent. The town tried to drown the serpent but this did not harm the serpent eventually the crowd yelled for Martin to slay the serpent with the club he had. This apparently took place on Strathmartine Road in Dundee and it has been named after Martin striking the ‘dragon’ which killed his lover and her sisters.

The tour continued down to Castlehill. Yes there is no Castle or Hill in Dundee city centre, you are right. However, well before the city centre was what it is today, there was apparently a castle situated on a very high hill which was incredibly difficult to attack. The castle was eventually ordered to be torn down by the old town mayor. The rubble and remnants created Castle Street. Along Castle street, the site of the first known pub in Dundee, The Lion Tavren, was situated along one Dundee’s old, narrow, windy streets – the layout of old Dundee was vaguely shown on a very old plaque on the side.

 

 

 

The plaque showing the old and current streets of Dundee on the old Castlehill, now known as Castle Street.

 

 

Listening intently at the site of Dundee’s first known Pub.

 

 

 

 

Further down Shore Terrace, which was where the River Tay used to flow to, we learnt about Greasy Johnny and the Whale. A humpback whale once was spotted in Scotland, many people tried to kill and claim the whale but eventually the whale was auctioned off. Greasy Johnny outbid an Aberdeen University Professor, John Wood who wanted to dissect the whale, to have the whale. Johnny, made a business out of the Whale by keeping it in a warehouse, selling tickets to people, at least 10,000 on the first day alone, to view the whale. After the whale was clearly dead, Johnny invited Professor John Wood to Dundee to dissect the whale as he could sell more tickets for people to view the dissection of the whale. After the whale was dissected and all that was left was the whale skin, Greasy Johnny took the skin on a trailer around the country, getting yet more money for people to see the skin of the humpback whale. 

 

We were lead up to St Paul’s Cathedral in the city centre were the tour unpicked the plaque that states William Wallace started the battle for Independence here. The guides said it was an over exaggerated claim. What is supposed to have happened is Wallace stabbed and murdered a governor’s son, Selby, after an argument at school. Wallace left Dundee and hid out in Perth before he was returned to Siege of Dundee, hailed a hero as he got rid of King Edward and his troops from Scotland. 

A final memorable tale, was about the witch, Grissell Jaffery, who was supposedly burnt alive at the Seagate on this cross. There are two mosaics down one of the closes where the memorial plaque is, one of fire and one of water to symbolise that they tried to drown Grissell which did not work and then burnt her as the last known witch in Dundee.

The plaque and fire mosaic at the close remember Grissell Jaffery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tour ended with Grissell’s death. Both the tour guides gave fantastic accounts of historic Dundonian tales. This was a highly engaging way to learn about different stories of Dundee. I think older primary classes, perhaps primary 6 or 7, would thoroughly enjoy this experience compared to a museum or learning from textbooks. This can meet a lot of the experiences and outcomes in People, Past Events and Society, particularly SOC 2-03a and SOC 2-10a in People, Place and Environment (Scottish Government, 2009). Being able to walk around and physically be at the sites, see the plaques, mosaics and statues made the tales far more interesting in my opinion than seeing photographs or reading the stories. The three of us felt that children would take a lot more in from being on a Dark Dundee tour than being in a museum or the guides coming into the class to do a talk about the history of Dundee. This allows them, through active learning, to see different kinds of sources regarding Dundee’s history to build a picture and story of Dundee from the earliest years (the guides suggested the earliest story they knew they could place between the year 0 and 1000) to bring this back to the what they know as the present, for example from Castlehill to Castle Street. Again, this can help them meet different social studies outcomes such as SOC 2-01a.

After the Twisted in Time tour, the three of us decided we would definitely go on another and recommend the Dark Dundee tours. The guides were fantastics, the stories were entertaining and the whole evening was engaging and interesting to learn about the history in different way. This post has merely been a brief overview of the tour and if you wanted to hear the full stories, more tales and learn about Dundee’s history I would recommend going on one of their tours. We are considering their special event in Claypotts Castle next!

A video of my experience of the walking tour!

References: 

Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence: Social Studies Experiences and Outcomes Available at: https://www.education.gov.scot/Documents/social-studies-eo.pdf (Accessed on: 06/10/17)