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History now!

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By Robert WattsProgramme Convener for the MA Art, Craft and Design Education at Roehampton University

History doesn’t just mean things that happened in the distant past. It can also be about capturing the here and now

Child Education January -  history now

As teachers we’re used to using books, videos and the internet to bring the past to life. But have you ever considered challenging your class to create their own historical resources? This might seem to be a peculiar task to set children, but it’s a great way of reminding them that history is happening here and now. Children often perceive that history is concerned with important events that shape the lives of millions. Few will recognise that sometimes it is the evidence of familiar activities that can really bring the subject to life.

This project is all about recording and celebrating the everyday moments of school life that are often overlooked and easily forgotten. Through drawing and painting their own personal plaques, children will create a unique record of their experiences in school. And who knows, one day they might be looked back upon as valuable evidence of school life in the 2000s!

Getting started

Begin by asking the children to suggest some of the ways that we are able to find out about life in schools 100 years ago. Photographs of Victorian and Edwardian classrooms are widely available through the internet, and children love comparing their own classroom with those featured in the images. Prompt the children to consider what the images don’t tell us: what conversations went on between those children? What were they excited about or anxious about? What did they have for lunch?

Explain to the class that you are going to ask them to reflect on one detail of their own life in school. This will then be preserved in the form of a plaque that can be displayed in the classroom or around the school. Images of existing plaques are easy to locate and share – many record the lives of the famous, but a little searching will reveal some interesting records of events and places.

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