Expressive Arts

Titanic Project

This is OLHS’ successful submission for North Lanarkshire’s Excellence and Equity Awards 2017: Productive Partnerships – Purposeful Learning.

As a result of changes to SQA exams, staff at Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell, spotted an opportunity to provide an exciting programme of interdisciplinary experiences for some of our National 4 students. Our aim was to help pupils gain additional qualifications while expanding their life experiences and raising awareness of the options available to them on leaving school, all through focusing on the Titanic disaster.

We are now approaching the third year of this vibrant project which runs over three weeks of the SQA diet. The programme coordinators are PT Pupil Support, Lyn Zambonini, and Library Resource Centre Manager, Jennifer Macfadyen, but the project involves staff from across Our Lady’s High School, local businesses, voluntary groups and national organisations.

Following an initial introduction, the programme is split into four broad areas: ship building and design; life aboard the Titanic; the disaster itself; and the rediscovery of the wreck.

We were stunned to discover that the steel plates that built Titanic had actually come from the Colville Steelworks in Motherwell, making a wonderful connection with our local heritage. Pupils were lucky to experience Tata, now Liberty Steel, in the process of rolling the steel plates with a guided tour by staff at the plant, who also provided pupils with many stories of life at the steelworks and a thorough grounding in Health and Safety routines.

Although the Titanic was built in Belfast, we were able to take advantage of the Clyde’s vast experience in ship-building, visiting the Titan Crane at Clydebank, and the Denny Tank Museum at Dumbarton. Titan staff explained how riveting gangs worked, how the shipyards were a part of the community and how dangerous life was while the Denny Flotation Tank demonstrated the engineering expertise involved in designing and testing ships’ hulls. The group also discovered that Denny’s was even involved in testing some of Titanic’s lifeboats. This information became invaluable when learning about buoyancy with Science teachers back at OLHS, and designing their own hulls.

Pupils also learned more about some of the passengers and crew aboard and the different lives they led on a luxury liner depending on their class. English showed the films, A Night to Remember and Titanic, and compared the special effects and factual reliability of each. Our group were able to put their new-found knowledge into practice by working with Lifestyle Development staff to create a shipboard lunch for staff – although staff did not know until the last minute whether they would receive the 1st, 2nd or 3rd class treatment and dining experience.

To bring everything up to date we contacted Greenock Ocean Terminal who kindly arranged for us to have a tour of the Caribbean Princess. We used this experience as a focus on careers, bringing along our Careers Advisor, Miss Ruth Robertson from SDS to provide detailed advice. Seeing aboard a real cruise ship gave pupils a whole new way of looking at the world, and the numerous careers open to them. They were also keen to compare the Caribbean Princess to what they had already learned about ship design. They were definitely impressed by the safety regulations and the numbers of lifeboats.

Turning our attention to the disaster itself, Mr Walter Lee from the RNLI kindly came along to demonstrate what happened with the iceberg and graphically explain what would have happened to the Titanic’s passengers in the water, including the effects of hypothermia – he even brought along his own mini iceberg!

Other activities have included creating a map of the world demonstrating the Titanic’s route (Social Subjects); printing and poster making (Art and Design); trying out Morse code (Science); an afternoon swimming courtesy of NL Leisure (Lifestyle Development); building their own model Titanic (Social Subjects / Art); discussion of moral issues relating to women and children first and the treatment of 3rd class passengers (RE); further moral issues relating to the wreck arose following a screening of Ghosts of the Abyss: should the Titanic be raised? Should material be removed? Should the ship be left to rust to nothing? (English); and multi-lingual newspaper front pages (Modern Languages).

With so many stories being generated from the project, we wanted pupils to be able to record the aspects that were most important to them, from the ‘women and children first’ policy, to the lifeboats, to the role of the wireless operator, so we introduced the group to storyteller, Allison Galbraith, thanks to part-funding from the Scottish Book Trust. Allison demonstrated the art of storytelling, and guided the group through creating and recording their own stories, helping them to record their own voices for posterity. Allison started by introducing herself and just talking with the group, building pupils’ confidence in speaking before a stranger. As a result, although pupils were nervous about recording, they were keen to participate. Allison also demonstrated breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups before recording began, with further advice on presentation as we worked through the stories. Despite occasionally breaking into the giggles, every pupil managed to record their own work beautifully.

Discussion with pupils led to an additional trip which saw us taking the ferry to Rothesay and the stunning Mount Stuart House. This mansion was completed in 1912, the same year as the Titanic disaster and thus pupils were not only able to experience actually travelling across water – a new experience for all of them – but to see luxurious interiors similar to those of the ship they’d been learning all about.

The Titanic Project continues to develop with partnerships emerging as various individuals and groups express an interest in participating. In 2016, our pupils were even able to join with St Brendan’s Primary as part of their anniversary visit to Belfast to see the Titanic Museum for themselves.

The Titanic Project has been a huge success over the last two years. We have seen the pupils blossom, gaining in confidence, pulling together as a team, and their ideas of what’s available to them in the future have expanded rapidly. Each year pupils have created an exhibition of their experiences which have been visited by classes from across OLHS and visitors to the school, leading to further discussions and expressions of interest. Last year all of the pupils involved achieved the SQA qualifications. “Local investigations” at SCQF level 4.

Feedback from pupils themselves has been outstanding:

”I thought it would be boring, but it was brilliant!”;

“I liked how we went on adventures and explored all the museums”;

“I seemed to get a better relationship with people that I hadn’t spoken to since primary”;

”I actually wanted to come to school!”

The Project continues to explore new ground and build new partnerships. Staff coordinators continue to collect materials, ideas and contacts and we look forward to its continuing success long into the future.

Categories: Books, Communication, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Developing the Young Workforce, Expressive Arts, Health and Well-Being, Interdisciplinary Learning, Investigations, Languages, Learning and Teaching, Literacy, Maps, Mathematics, Numeracy, Outdoor education, Posters, RE / Religious and Moral Education, Resources, Sciences, Social Studies, Storytelling | Tags: | Leave a comment

El Dia de los Muertos 2013

You know when you reply to e-mails that start, “Would anyone be interested in …”. You never know what you’re going to get involved in, but it’s usually a lot of hard work, a fair bit of stress and a great big dollop of mixed relief and pride at the end!

That just about sums up El Dia de los Muertos – Our Lady’s style. This interdisciplinary project was the brainwave of Mr Pegard from the Modern Languages Department and run between Art, RE, Modern Languages and myself.

Day of the Dead is a cheerful festival remembering those who have died, and inviting them along to a massive party. In Mexico, people create ofrendas, or altars, covered in flowers and the deceased’s favourite things, dress up as Catrinas, or skeletons in costumes from the 1900s, and eat sugar skulls and pan de muertos or special bread, along with the usual party food. Celebrations are often held in cemeteries, and last for two days with bands playing and even parades.

So how do you transfer all of that into an afternoon for 2nd year pupils?

Well, RE took care of the altar, with pupils bringing photos and mementos of loved ones, and colouring crosses; Art made clay skulls and decorations; Modern Languages explained the background to the festival, and then there was me. What’s the role for a Librarian in all this?

Well, as usual, a bit of everything: ideas for activities (e.g. making hats for Catrina, after Rhona Skea pointed her out to me); identifying problems (if you hang out with Home Economics teachers, you’ll learn a lot about hygiene rules); identifying solutions (go and talk to the Home Economics Department, guys!); my personal favourites of taking photographs, researching, writing the quiz, and reporting everything afterwards; and of course being the go-to girl for the fiddly but necessary team lists. Well, I suppose when you insist on doing lots of investigations involving teams, it’s not surprising other people notice.

The whole event was a blast and the pupils loved it. They decorated cakes with fondant icing skulls, designed and made hats for Catrina, said prayers in Spanish and completed a Dia de los Muertos / Hallowe’en / All Saints Day quiz. The two hours flew past, ran like clockwork and the classes disappeared with their cakes and their photos, leaving us to tidy up, review what we did, think about what we should do differently, and put it all away for the next ten months.

Categories: Events, Expressive Arts, Health and Well-Being, Interdisciplinary Learning, Languages, Learning and Teaching, Literacy, RE / Religious and Moral Education, School Librarians | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Christmas pinatas

The life of a school librarian is never dull, but some days stick in your mind, like the day I was asked to dress a skeleton for the Day of the Dead.

They were pleased with the result and the event, which included a mariachi band, was a great success. The PT Modern Languages and I then wondered what we could develop as a rich task for S1.

The result? The Cardinal Newman Christmas Pinata Competition! (also known as 200 1st years, a blindfold and baseball bat).

Following extensive research, we purchased nine large balloons, glue, lots of tissue paper, and millions of nice things for the contents.

The making of the pinatas turned into a whole school obsession. The Art Department and LRC turned into papier mache factories and any passing person was welcome to stick layers of paper on the balloons.

By 1st December, we had nine huge papier mache balloons just waiting for decoration. Enter the S5 Int I Spanish class! The LRC became awash with glitter, tissue paper and assorted shiny bits as the S5s competed to create the most complicated pinatas.  They took a real pride in their work (even becoming rather possessive).

Back in Spanish, the S1s were studying pinatas in Mexico and learning a poem in Spanish called ‘Dale, Dale, Dale’ which you recite while attempting to ‘break’ the pinata.

On the day, the tallest 6th year boy was responsible for hanging the pinatas in the LRC and manoevering them out of harms way as frustrated S1s atempted to destroy it.

The 1st years came along by class, with one pinata per class. With Spnaish music playing the background, pupils were called out one at a time to have a go. Unfortunately, the pinatas were rock hard and despite the best efforts of S1, resisted all attempts to fulfill their purpose in life.

Ultimately, they were done in with a baseball bat from PE, wielded by the S6 pupil to allow the pupils to claim their prizes.

Fortunately, the pupils then went on to enjoy their ceilidh, and did not have to go to their next classes full of Spanish glee.

Categories: Arts and Crafts, Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Expressive Arts, Languages | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

National Poetry Day 2012

Work produced by Higher English pupils as part of Library and English Literacy activities for NPD 2012.

Categories: Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Expressive Arts, Literacy | Tags: , | Leave a comment

National Poetry Day at Greenfaulds

To celebrate National Poetry Day last Thursday (4th October) we invited a group of six teachers to the LRC to read their favourite poems. Around 40 kids came along from across the school and were welcomed with cakes and snacks prepared by Mrs Mullaney and myself.

The winner was Mr A McDonald, with Dear Friends, We Surely All Agree, by the one and only Roald Dahl.  Thanks to all the speakers and pupils, of course, who voted!

With the support of the Literacy Committee, I managed to propose a number of other LRC/departmental activities that would be undertaken to celebrate and promote the event, using the theme of “stars”. A few departments were involved.

For s1,I selected some poems including Escape at Bedtime by R. L Stevenson and Stars and Planets by Norman McCaig for the pupils of Ms Armstrong’s Art class to illustrate. Ms K Armstrong and I were delighted with the results. Mod Languages teacher Miss Deans had s4 pupils translate, in Spanish, the poem Riding a Rainbow by Ken Nesbitt.

I’m not finished yet! At the moment Ms Russell’s s4 English class and I are doing some poetry analysis including  some of the Star themed poems from the  Scottish Poetry Library’s collection. They are working on some attractive displays to go with it. Later, we’ll come on to a research/information literacy unit on the Hubble Telescope!  It’s all go at Greenfaulds!

Photos to follow (tomorrow – left camera in fleece).

They dreamed no dreams

as the stars kept their endless watch

Iain Crichton Smith

Categories: Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Expressive Arts, Literacy, Stuff and things | Tags: , | Leave a comment

National Poetry Day 2012

Here is a look at the star wall we created.

It has been ages since my last post!  I thought, however, that my book group’s National Poetry Day efforts merited a mention.  I should also admit that I stole (or maybe “copied” is a better description) the idea from Jen at OLHS.

As the theme for NPD this year is “Stars”, Jen thought it would be a good idea to create characters based on some of the named stars in the galaxy with her creative writing group.  (I hope that is a proper brief description of the activity you related to me, Jen!) While Jen has managed to develop the idea in to an Inter-disciplinary project I decided to keep it as a simple task that would fit into the lunchtime book group’s remit for the day.

Jen sent me a huge list of all the named stars, which I divided up amongst the book group – asking them to choose a star and create a one line description of the character they thought the star would be if it was a real person.  We had a lot of fun, with male and female characters emerging, prince and princesses – we even had star marriages!

Thanks, Jen!  Good luck with your expanded NPD project.

Categories: Creativity, Curriculum for Excellence, Events, Expressive Arts, Literacy | Tags: , | 2 Comments


The following article was sent to SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, who published it in their Summer 2012 Newsletter.

The Modern Languages Department and the Librarian at Taylor High, New Stevenston, have been celebrating languages, particularly Spanish, in a number of ways over the last year.

Both departments have created a Spanish Dictionary Mission for all S1s. Pupils learn how to use a bilingual dictionary, learn new words in Spanish as well as using words they have been learning in class, and learn how to create a Mind-Map. A variety of different questions are asked in both Spanish and English to enable pupils to use both sections of the dictionary. Once pupils have completed this activity they get an opportunity to decorate their Mind-Map and the most creative are then displayed in the Modern Languages corridor.

Together with the class teacher, the Librarian helps pupils use a Spanish Dictionary. This gives S1s one of their first opportunities to use a Spanish Dictionary. This exercise increases pupils’ confidence when using a bilingual dictionary and in the Spanish language.

The S1 Euro Club also runs every Thursday at lunchtime from 1pm – 1:45pm and we explore a variety of topics such as European foods and leisure activities. Exploring various leisure activities has been an enjoyable experience for pupils as they have learned how to play boules, table football and games on the Wii, particularly a Maracas game. Pupils have to keep time with the music by pretending to play these musical instruments. By researching different leisure activities pupils have learned to build resilience and confidence by participating in a wide range of activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and contribute to the wider community.

Categories: Curriculum for Excellence, Expressive Arts, Languages | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at