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

ABCs of Information Literacy

EasyBib are offering a free download of their ABCs of Information Literacy poster if you submit your email address. THe poster is available under a Creative Commons licence.



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Scotland’s War

Scotland’s War aims to be a hub for any Scottish connections to World War I. The initiative is based on Edinburgh’s War and will be launched later this year.

Contributions would be greatly appreciated about all aspects of the war, both on the Home Front and in the trenches, including buildings, school records, people and objects of all kinds.

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Guardian: Decline in children’s non-fiction must stop

Friday 28 September 2012

Decline in children’s non-fiction must stop, say authors

Article in the Guardian regarding the decline of non-fiction titles.

See also,

Children need exciting non-fiction books – and libraries

Categories: Authors, Books, Investigations, Literacy, News, Newspaper articles, Non-fiction, Resources | Leave a comment

Tales of a Motivated Librarian II

Today the Motivated Librarian is assisting pupils with research again. The charming intelligent children are grappling with alien concepts.

Motivated Librarian: So, how are you getting on?
Charming Intelligent Child: I can’t really find anything. What’s the guy’s name again?

ML: What have you got written down on your sheet?  You’re looking for Finn McCool
CIC: Who’s he again?

ML: Well, he’s supposed to have been an Irish warrior, but there are lots of Scottish stories about him as well
CIC: But it says here that he was a giant

ML: Yup! Stories get changed about. Some stories say he’s the biggest and strongest fighter there’s ever been and some actually say he was a giant. Folklore does that.
CIC: So, what’s folklore?

ML: It’s the stories that people tell that get handed down from one generation to the next. A bit like legends.

The CIC sits up in horror and looks at the cover of his book, Scottish folklore
CIC: So this isn’t real?
ML: Um, no.

The CIC now turns to the label showing the book’s class number.
CIC: But this is non-fiction, isn’t it? I thought non-fiction was real?
ML: Actually, non-fiction books are information, remember? Not real, not facts, just information.

The CIC slumped back in his seat, and commented at length that his research into Scottish giants had now turned out to be a load of stories, before fixing the Motivated Librarian with a steely gaze.

CIC: So, if this is folklore and folklore are stories, why aren’t these books in the fiction section?

And the ML decided this was not the time to explain her classification policy regarding this particular volume, but instead suggested that she find the Charming Intelligent Child some alternative information for his research.

But as she moved on to the next table, she pondered why the pupils in her care insisted on the True/False, made-up/real definitions for Fiction and Non-fiction, and more importantly, how she could persuade them to accept alternatives that wouldn’t leave them confused about the realism of giants.

Categories: Daily life, Information Literacy, Investigations, Literacy | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Is this the problem with Wikipedia?

Used with permission

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Tales of a Motivated Librarian

Once upon a time there was a Motivated Librarian who was determined to help a class complete some research for their presentations.

On the first day, she reminded them all about brainstorming and keywords and skimming and scanning in a fun way that made them laugh and share ideas and work well together while simultaneously ensuring that the concepts were well bedded in, and was content that they had understood the benefits.

On the second day, she challenged them to improve their note making abilities with a story of past times that made them ponder and ask questions, before outlining the numerous possibilities that they could choose to research, and was gratified to hear young voices share their enthusiasm for this work and how cool it was. And the class decided who to work with and what they would choose to research.

On the third day, she indicated that the class should brainstorm their choice of topic and think of some useful keywords before beginning their research so that everyone would know what they were supposed to be looking for. And she provided them with paper for this purpose.

And she explained to the class that half of each team could search on the computer, while the other half used the books. And then she asked all the pupils to return from the computer suite to complete those first tasks before beginning their research, like she had asked them to do only seconds before. And then she asked them to retrieve the paper that they had left at the computers.

And then she answered their questions and explained again about keywords.

Then the Motivated Librarian spoke to the pupils using the books and asked them to print out a list of resources from the catalogue to assist in their searching (having previously checked the entire LRC stock for the topics in question, researched and purchased additional useful material and spent hours adding relevant keywords for said investigations onto each catalogue entry).

And that’s where the fun really began, because the children, charming and intelligent as they were, were also determined to gather assistance from the Motivated Librarian, and asked lots and lots and lots of questions.

For example:

Charming Intelligent Child 1: Miss, I don’t think there’s any books on my topic
Motivated Librarian: But there’s five on the screen. What did you type in?

CIC1: I typed in ‘Scottish witches’, but there’s nothing here about witches
ML : But the books wouldn’t have appeared otherwise.

CIC1: But none of the books are called ‘Scottish witches’
ML: But they don’t need to have witches in the title to include information about witches. This one here is called Scottish mysteries. That should include lots of weird stuff, including witches. See,  look at the keywords.

CIC1 (points to the cover image on the screen):  But that picture doesn’t look like it’s about witches. It looks like it’s about ghosts.
ML: But you can’t guess the contents of the book from the front cover.

And eventually the Motivated Librarian persuaded him that the books on the screen were useful, by taking the Charming Intelligent Child to the shelves and showing him the chapter on witches inside the book. And she explained about keywords again and he was happy and went away to read.

Then the Motivated Librarian was approached by a second Charming Intelligent Child.

CIC2: Miss, I just thought you should know there’s a mistake
ML: Where?

CIC2: On the catalogue
ML: What sort of mistake?

CIC2: It’s got two books at the same number
ML: But that’s ok. Remember I explained that the class number refers to the subject, so you can have lots of books at the same number.

CIC2: So you can have lots of books with the same number?
ML: Yes.

And the Charming Intelligent Child was somewhat bemused but accepted the explanation of the Motivated Librarian, who grabbed a second to fix the printer before enquiring if she could assist a third Charming Intelligent Child who was sitting looking glumly at the computer screen before him.

CIC3: There’s nothing on Sawney Bean
ML: Did you get a book list from the catalogue?

CIC3: Yes (and shows it). There’s nothing there.
ML:  What about this one, ‘The cannibal family of Sawney Bean’

CIC3: But I don’t need to know about his family

And the Motivated Librarian reassured him that there would indeed be useful information about Mr Bean Senior in the book and helped him to retrieve it, only to intercept Charming Intelligent Child 4, wandering amongst the shelves. And the CIC sighed that he could not locate any books with numbers on them, so the Motivated Librarian showed him that his book list told him to look in Non-fiction and pointed out the signs saying Non-fiction.

And then Motivated Librarian ushered the Charming Intelligent Child in the correct direction, uniting him with a useful book before bumping into walking pile of twelve books.  The Motivated Librarian suggested to the CIC behind the books that she could only read one book at a time, but the Charming Intelligent Child replied that she had just spent half an hour finding them so could she not look at them now … please?

And the Motivated Librarian allowed her to take three books, which remained firmly closed until the bell went five minutes later.

And the Charming Intelligent Children returned the books to the shelves, as a kindness to the Motivated Librarian, rather than leaving them on the desk as she had requested, which meant another half hour reordering them for the next class who would be expecting to find them in the right places the following day.

And then she retrieved the discarded printouts from the catalogue so that the Charming Intelligent Pupils would not have to recreate them on their next visit.

Finally the weary Motivated Librarian evaluated the lesson, wrote a short report and made some amendments to plans for future research lessons.

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