Learning and Teaching

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

Safer Internet Day 2016

A collection of tweets and links for Safer Internet Day 2016.

As School Librarians, we spend a large proportion of our working lives showing young people how to discover, access and safely make use of information in all formats, so online safety is an integral part of our role. NLC schools might be on holiday, but ideally, our advice and influence continues to keep pupils safe online whether they’re in school or at home.

SQA supports Safer Internet Day 2016 – Courses available for young people in schools

UK Safer Internet Centre coordinate Safer Internet Day in the UK

UK Safer Internet Center – Education Packs contain plenty material including a collection of useful videos, including those below (which are ironically restricted via YouTube but available through Vimeo).

Play your part

Tamanna’s Story

Jessica’s Wish

Online quiz from the Open University: Are you a safe sharer?
Not sure I agree with all of their analyses. Watch before sharing onwards as this is aimed at adults.

Advice on passwords from Get Safe Online

Categories: Developing the Young Workforce, Health and Well-Being, Information Literacy, Learning and Teaching, Resources, Social Media, Technology, Twitter | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

More than 12 million fall into UK digital skills gap

BBC report that More than 12 million fall into UK digital skills gap.

The report, from charity, Go On UK, lists five Basic Digital Skills, all of which involve online safety issues:

  • Managing information: find, manage and store digital information and content
  • Communicating: communicate, interact, collaborate, share and connect with others
  • Transacting: purchase and sell goods and services; organise your finances; register for and use digital government services
  • Problem-solving: increase independence and confidence by solving problems using digital tools and finding solutions
  • Creating: engage with communities and create basic digital content
Categories: Information Literacy, Learning and Teaching, Technologies | 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.



Categories: Creative Commons, Information Literacy, Investigations, Learning and Teaching, Literacy, Posters, Resources | Tags: | Leave a comment

Creative Commons and Public Domain

New pages have been added to the Three Ring Circus.

Creative Commons and Public Domain lists guides to copyright and the various licences in use, along with links to sources of copyright free and creative commons media.

World War I is a list of useful links to all aspects of the First World War.

Both are works in progress, and further links would be welcome.

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Treasures @ Taylor

Recently at Taylor High School, New Stevenston, myself, the Social Subjects Department and S1 pupils were involved in a creative writing workshop that focused the theme of ‘Treasure’.  This was part of the Library’s programme of activities to celebrate Scottish Book Week 2013.

S1 pupils were asked to write and design a postcard from their ‘Most treasured place in Scotland.’   This was inspired by the Scottish Book Trust’s free book called ‘Treasure’.  A similar event was run by both departments last year.  However, this year there was a new twist to the workshop with pupils choosing a member of staff to write their postcard to.

This event was extremely successful with many pupils taking their postcards home to complete. Pupils’ feedback has been very encouraging.  It was also very inspiring to see pupils’ positive view of the world around them.

As a result, I wrote an article to promote the work of staff and pupils, which was posted on the Scottish Book Trust website.

It was also posted on a blog called ‘Storify’.

Well done to all the pupils and staff involved.

Categories: Learning and Teaching, Librarians, Literacy, Social Studies | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

School Librarians: a precious resource by Linda Strachan

Linda Strachan’s passionate defence of school librarians on the Awfully Big Blog Adventure.

Click here to read.

Categories: Learning and Teaching, Librarians, Literacy, PRD / CPD, Websites | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Fred Freeman and Scots

On Tuesday 5th November 2013, Dr Fred Freeman came into Coatbridge High School to deliver a Scots Language workshop to two S1 classes. The event was organised as part of the Scotland IDL Project by the Librarian and the English Department.

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Dr Freeman used songs and poems by Scottish poets and songwriters, such as Robert Tannahill, to help the pupils translate words and phrases and help them realise how much of the ancient language we still use today.

The activities were good fun and it was an enjoyable experience with lots of tasks that allowed pupils to work competitively with their peers.

Categories: Curriculum for Excellence, Events, Languages, Learning and Teaching, Librarians, Literacy | 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

National Poetry Day 2013

How quickly the years do pass!!!!  National Poetry Day again – a great opportunity to get your pupils thinking about poetry.  I tried a couple really quick activities with my book groups this year.  First of all using the poetry match up activity from the NPD website and then using raindrop and cloud/puddle templates, I asked the book groups to think of as many words as they could related to the theme of Water.  On the raindrops they could write one word but on the clouds and puddles they had to think of three linked words, it took a while for some of the pupils to get into it and some only thought of one or two words but others were in their element asking for extra templates as they thought of more and more obscure links! (Sushi – was one!)  The end result was our National Poetry Day Tsunami!


Categories: Arts and Crafts, Creativity, Events, Learning and Teaching, Literacy | Tags: | Leave a comment


For some ideas on how to put software into action to create something spectacular, have a look at Kingdom.

This is an outstanding piece of work by a teacher and a group of pupils at Porchester Junior School using a variety of online tools to create a whole world, its people, history and geography.

Categories: Creativity, Interdisciplinary Learning, Learning and Teaching, Resources, Storytelling, Websites | Tags: | Leave a comment

SLIC – School Library research

From the SLIC website

SLIC has commissioned Robert Gordon University (RGU) to undertake research into the impact of school libraries, which was launched at the Scottish Learning Festival 2013. Download the flyer (PDF) showing a summary of findings. Full details of this project, including the RGU final report, will be available here soon. If you would like notification of publication, please contact info@scottishlibraries.org.

Impact of School Libraries. Used with permission SLIC

Impact of School Libraries. Used with permission SLIC. Click for larger size.

Categories: Learning and Teaching, Libraries, LIS reading | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Advanced Higher English go to Glasgow

This year at Our Lady’s we have a large Advanced Higher English class. The Principal Teacher of English and I worked with the students before the holidays to help them identify possible dissertation topics. A lot of fun and really stretching the biblio-brain, coming up with titles that match their ideas.

Meanwhile, I also contacted Glasgow University Library (GUL) to arrange access for the group. The University offers reference access for Advanced Higher students, providing them with a ticket that admits them for a year, and extending the opportunity to browse the Library’s book and journal collections, which are just a wee bit bigger than a standard school library (7,000 vs 2.8 million). We also offered to organise tickets for other pupils studying Advanced Highers in school – they chose not to come along so early in the term.

We spent a couple of periods with the class to talk to them about what to expect: the importance of proper searching, note-making, the resources available to them, the classification system and how useful references can be. The AH tickets do not include a GUL computer password, so abstracts and online journals were unavailable, and resources had to be searched in advance. However, it did encourage the pupils to get to grips with the OPAC for themselves, which led to lots of questions:

What’s this book got to do with my topic?

Why does this catalogue number say Politics, not Literature?

How do I choose which ones to go for?

And of course,

I can’t find anything.

We hit the express bus on a beautiful autumn morning, and an hour or so later, collected the tickets waiting for us at the information desk, and headed for the lifts.

The pupils took a while to get the hang of the different classification system, so there was a fair bit of work required to point out the classification boards at the end of the stacks and demonstrate how the system worked, but everyone got something they were interested in, and sat down to read.

Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Having pupils spread across so many floors was a bit disconcerting, and I was a bit put out when a librarian asked if we had a problem – whispered conversations on the clearly marked SILENT floor are obviously not encouraged :oops:. Reading an academic writing style is obviously something that needs a bit of practice, and some pupils were a bit taken aback by the sheer number of resources available.

In retrospect we should have organised a whole day out of school, but we’ll definitely be back. In fact, we had to drag the pupils away with the lure of lunch, but we felt that perhaps a couple of hours was enough for a first visit. We’ll see if the students continue to use their tickets in their own time.

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Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Training

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend an extremely useful course,  Automated External Defibrillator Training.  I wasn’t even sure I had applied to go on the course but was assured that as I had responded to an e-mail asking which staff in the school had completed previous HeartStart training, I had been selected to attend this extended training session. Not something you would normally associate with the LRC.

Just to give a little bit of background to the reason for the course – North Lanarkshire, in conjunction with NHS Scotland and partner agency Amey, aims to install Automated External Defibrillators (AED) in each of its 24 High Schools, by March 2014, at a cost of £70,000. Given that the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest increase from 2% with limited CPR to around 40% with CPR, defibrillation within 4 minutes and paramedic response within 8 minutes, this seems a small price to pay to save lives.

The course was delivered by a paramedic, along with members of the St. Andrew’s Ambulance Volunteers, who reminded us of the DRs ABC (Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, Circulation) and the recovery position, before practising our basic CPR on Resus Annie, finally progressing to the AED units. The defribrillators are designed to be used by untrained members of the public and the instructions are clear and easy to follow, you really just have to know basic CPR.

Having attended the course and listened to the paramedic’s statistics on the likelihood of surviving a cardiac arrest on the streets of Britain (less than 5%) in comparison to that of Norway (50%), where First Aid education is taught to school children aged 6-16, I feel that all of our children (ideally everyone) should know at least some basic first aid. Even if it is only how to put a friend, who collapses, into the recovery position while they get help. I went home to give my 15 year old daughter and her friend a quick first aid refresher – just in case! I just hope that I never have to use these vital skills but am more confident now that I can if the need arises.

That’s one e-mail I’m glad I responded to!

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SLG Blog Update

I have added an example of good practice into the Information Literacy section of the blog. It is a task that I run with S1 Geography and always seems to get good results and feedback so thought I would share it with you all.


Categories: Information Literacy, Learning and Teaching, Social Studies | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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