Historia – one term in…

Back in June my colleagues and I set up a lunchtime lecture club for Post-16 (see my earlier blog on this). Well we are a term in so I thought I would write an update so that I can reflect on what has worked and what could be better.

Here’s the Term 1 programme:

  • Week 1: Professor Ronald Hutton – The English Civil War
  • Week 2: Dr Evan Jones – The Cabot Project
  • Week 3: Me – Jasper Maskelyne, the war magician
  • Week 4: My colleague Ben – Dylan goes electric, a turning point in music history
  • Week 4 special visit: Michael Wood doing one of the M-Shed lectures
  • Week 5: My colleague Alex – The witchcraft craze in Europe
  • Week 6: A student led lecture on the History of Halloween

What has gone well?

We have been able to arrange a very varied programme of history; from medieval to current day, from cultural to political and most importantly some topical history. The aim of the club was to highlight some narratives we never get to cover in class and we’ve certainly done that. Thanks to the generosity of the academics at Bristol University we’ve had two lectures that have shown the wonder and depth of history at university. Ronald Hutton, of tv and radio fame (is he ever off Radio 4?) is quite simply amazing and his encyclopedic knowledge of the 17th century is quite astounding delivering a narrative of the civil war in depth we teachers will never achieve. Evan Jones, who leads the Cabot Project gave his lecture on the historical process involved in this weird and wonderful project that truly highlighted what historians actually do. In addition to this staff stepped up to the plate again revealing to the kids some of the more curious parts of the past we find particularly enjoyable. Ben’s ridiculously passionate 20 minute lecture (rant!) about Dylan going electric had the kids enthralled  as did Alex’s description of Satanic sexual acts that witches were accused of. But the real highlight for me was that one of the students agreed to do a lecture. She was unsure what to do it on so I gave her the topic of Halloween as it was the week before. I bought stupid witch finger biscuits and then staff and students were presented with a thesis on whether Halloween actually has historical origins which was passionate, engaging and full of learning.

What do we need to work on?

1.) I’d like more student led lectures and brilliantly since the success of the first I’ve had two more students offer for next term which is great as this is a fab opportunity for them to learn about a niche topic and present in front of their peers. Hopefully if these go as well as the first more will sign up.

2.) Attendance of Year 12. We regularly have 15 kids attending but only one Year 12 student. I’ve been selling it to my class and they claim they will start coming but I think I need to do more which is tricky. Any ideas?

3.) Ways to build upon the learning done in the club. Or in other words how can I ensure that learning continues beyond the Tuesday lunchtime? I have set up a reading wall but I think I could do more.

So that’s Term 1. In Term 2 we have one of the editors from BBC History Magazine talking about history and the media, a return from some more academics from Bristol University, one who is talking about Bristol’s American Revolution which sounds proper interesting and then I am doing a turn to chat about my favourite topic Christmas and especially Christmas traditions in the West Country. sounds like it should be fun.

p.s. If this interests you I have done some podcasts for Dave Martin who is using this as one of his case studies for his online course for the HA on bringing historians into the classroom.  http://www.history.org.uk/shop/product_5585_43.html

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