guest blog

Guest blog by volunteer Louise Thomas

My name is Louise Thomas and I am a third year Archaeology and Ancient History student. I first heard of the SHARE With Schools project through my involvement with the CAER Heritage project last summer, a community engagement project based in the Cardiff suburbs of Caerau and Ely. I decided that I would like to get involved with SHARE with Schools because, despite not having ambitions to teach, I enjoy sharing my love of my subject with others and think that it is very important for children to be exposed to topics that might not usually come up in schools, or to have the opportunity to engage with the past in new and exciting ways.

I delivered a variety of workshops, mostly the Romans in Wales, at Pencoed Comprehensive, Cathays High School and Woodlands School, working with ages ranging from year 7 to year 11. Adapting the worskshops to suit a variety of ages and abilities was a fun challenge for the team and it helped us greatly improve our communication skills.

My involvement with SHARE with Schools gave me more than the chance to use and improve key skills such as communication, presentation, and flexibility, it gave me a sense of pride and achievement and many enjoyable memories from the schools.

The children at woodlands school in particular made me happy that I decided to get involved. We worked with pupils right through from year 7 to year 11, who varied in ability but were all equal in the huge amount of enthusiasm they showed for learning about the Romans in Wales, and not just the sword and helmet! All of the pupils seemed to really enjoy the workshop and everybody got involved, asking questions, coming up with ideas of their own, and designing their own legionary standards. Although the teachers were present, the pupils were all very supportive of each other and cared about their classmates and making sure the SHARE with Schools team understood all of their needs which was a wonderful thing to witness. I was lucky enough to meet some of the pupils from woodlands again when they visited Caerau hillfort this summer and they all remembered the day the Cardiff University visited them which makes the visit worthwhile in my opinion.

SHARE with Schools provides so much more than just classroom experience. It helps those who get involved to develop so many important skills which will help them in university life and beyond, it also provided school children with an educational, fun, and memorable experience which anybody would be proud to be a part of.

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Guest blog by volunteer Rachel Pugh

Rachel Pugh

My name is Rachel Pugh. I’m a first year History student at Cardiff University. After my degree I’m hoping to progress into a career in education, so when I heard about the ‘SHARE with Schools’ project I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain some experience and meet new people.

I went along to two schools and helped deliver workshops on the First World War and Museums. The tasks included presenting to the class, answering pupils’ questions about the workshop or the artefacts provided and being on hand to assist with the general layout of the day. Both schools I visited were very different, and both groups of pupils really enjoyed each of the workshops. On the whole, pupils from each school were really engaged with the material and content of the workshops which was a good sign. I also took part in a return visit in which the pupils visited Cardiff University for the day, which was very successful.

I felt very prepared to help with the workshops having previously attended training sessions and being provided with notes beforehand. There is a small amount of preparation to do as the main aim of the school visits is to ensure that the pupils enjoy themselves. The visits are also an excellent way for the pupils to learn something new and interesting. One of the best things about helping out with this project was seeing so many of the pupils become inspired to learn more about certain areas of history.

Additionally, I liked the fact that ‘SHARE with Schools’ aims to encourage the pupils to think about going to university; this was a factor which drew me towards helping out with the project as I think that everyone should have an equal chance to go to university should they decide they want to.

Being a part of this project and getting involved with ‘SHARE with Schools’ has been a valuable experience as I have gained a better understanding of the classroom environment and what to expect if I do decide to pursue a career in teaching after university. Furthermore, participating in the workshops has helped my confidence with public speaking and presenting; there is still a great deal of room for improvement but I now feel assured that I can work on this, and am positive for the future. Finally, getting involved with SHARE with School has been an ideal way to meet likeminded people who are studying, or have studied, the same or similar degrees as myself. I had a great time being part of ‘SHARE with Schools’ this year and I am looking forward to helping out with the project next year.

[Mel’s Guest Post]

Five years ago, a team of postgraduate students were assembled by Dr David Wyatt to develop what would become a flagship impact project for Cardiff University in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion.

I came into the project in its second year, so I missed the first year with all its struggles and excitement as things started to get off the ground. I was taking over from Tom Hunt, who had been in charge of the Year 12 Higher Education workshop. I had to be interviewed for the post: SHARE With Schools had funding, and it was a paid pro rata position. Members of the founding team interviewed me alongside our department’s Workplace Partnerships Officer, and I presented my workshop idea to them and then sold my skills to people I had known for a while already who all very professionally acted as if we were strangers; a very odd experience. It was my first interview since the part-time job I had during my part-time MA.

What do you know about SHARE with Schools?

If you were successful, how would you balance your workload with your PhD?

What do you think is the most important thing SHARE with Schools does?

I left the room honestly not knowing how I’d done, but really appreciating the whole experience of applying and being shortlisted. It was a great feeling to get the post and join the team, and the feedback from the interview left me feeling hugely positive. I owe a huge debt of thanks to the team: Dr Sarah Doherty, Dr James Jenkins, Dr Cath Horler-Underwood, Dr David Wyatt and our awesome Workplace Partnership Officer Graham Getheridge for that first chance to be a part of it, and the confidence it inspired in me. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!

What SHARE with Schools Does For The Team

Not only do SHARE With Schools offer PGRs (postgraduate researchers) the chance to go through a proper application and interview process (everyone who applies usually gets an interview, just for the practice) it gives the team opportunity to be on the interview panel. That gives you a really good insight into what interviewers are looking for, and what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk. Being involved in that selection process really helps shape your own CV and makes you more aware of your own interview performance, too!

Last academic year (2014/15) the, mostly Undergraduate, volunteers got presented with the first batch of official certificates at Graduation. Those who fulfilled all the criteria – completed all the training, delivered at least the set minimum number of workshops and written a blog post for us – got an official certificate listing the many transferable employability skills they had gained through working with us.

The list of workshops we deliver has increased, and so has the variety. The PGR coordinators train up the UG volunteers in all of them, and are currently running another recruitment event.

Before we even get into how SHARE with Schools is enhancing the school curriculum, building long-lasting relationships with its partner schools, promoting widening access and breaking down barriers between our partners’ pupils and Higher Education, this project is already hugely rewarding and worthwhile from a student’s perspective, whether PGR or UG.

As a Coordinator, you get a crack at interview process practice; Undergrad recruitment and training (which means marketing, advertising, organising sessions and leading talks and demonstrations); project leading; working as a team with fellow Coordinators and UG volunteers; maintaining contact with schools (organising and time-tabling visits to schools and their return visits to the University throughout the academic year); and developing impact projects in the form of workshops for a range of age groups and academic abilities. There’s also opportunity to co-author papers for peer-reviewed journals about our impact activities, research transmission, and our qualitative success: essentially, what we do and how we do it.

As an Undergraduate volunteer, you get a crack at active classroom experience in which you deliver presentations and work closely with small groups of pupils in a workshop situation; learn to adapt to accommodate different learning types and abilities among the pupils you work with; complete reflective practice exercises including a blog post for the website; teamwork skills development, and project development as they take an active role in developing workshops themselves.

For those of us looking for jobs in the Heritage sector or academia, this 4* rated project opens doors. One of the original team got a job with the Heritage Lottery Fund after graduating, another currently works at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, coordinating their outreach events; I also was shortlisted for a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) position in London on the strength of my SHARE with Schools experience and work with the CAER Heritage Project. Otherwise: think REF points.

It gives you an edge with your PGCE applications, but also provides transferable skills that various businesses and industries are looking for. Presentations, adaptability,  project development, teamwork, reflective practice, anything an interviewer might ask you to give an example of, SHARE with Schools experience can help with that.

And did I mention the bit about enhancing the school curriculum, building long-lasting relationships with its partner schools, promoting widening access and breaking down barriers between our partners’ pupils and Higher Education? I think I did. What about inspiring pupils to achieve more, and to consider the Humanities as serious options? Showing the relevance of the Humanities and transmitting cutting edge research in an approachable manner?

No matter what your priorities are, being part of SHARE with Schools is something to consider. It is going from strength to strength, and as it enters its fifth year, has a number of exciting developments in the works. We are hoping to develop new workshops – we have eight academics (so far) expressing an interest in having their research and externally funded projects being turned into new impact case studies to be delivered through SHARE with School’s existing infrastructure – and the prospect of the co-authored paper to keep us busy.

While I have handed over my workshops – Year 12 and Medieval Society – I am still active as an Early Career Researcher (ECR), recruiting academics in the department to add their weight to the project and create new workshops, promoting the project on social media and being one of the current paper’s co-authors. I am immensely privileged to have been and still be a part of this, and delighted to be celebrating its fifth year.

Happy birthday, SHARE With Schools! May you have many more of them.

You can find out more about Dr. Melissa Julian-Jones on her blog or on her academia profile.

Guest blog by volunteer Thomas Snook

Thomas Snook

Archaeology Trowel

I am a first year undergraduate reading Archaeology. I assisted with the Archaeological Science workshop presented to years 7, 8 and 9 at Fitzalan School. The pupils were given different graves and from completing several activities gained enough information to build up a picture of the life of the individual buried in their grave. At the end, the pupils were given a set of trump cards from which they had guess who they thought their individual was. It was my responsibility to present the answers and encourage discussion about their individual to the rest of the group something that I felt ill prepared for. The first time was awful (or so I thought) but I soon grew in confidence and was able to perform my role much more effectively by the end. The archaeological science workshop is a great way of introducing and teaching archaeology to anybody, which is evident from the active engagement from pupils and teachers alike, and is an opportunity I envy not having at school.

Guest Post from coordinator Stephanie Saunders

Having joined SHARE with Schools as a coordinator at the start of my master’s degree in ancient history, I’ve helped deliver several of our workshops at different schools. However, it was a completely different ball game adapting and expanding one of them to deliver at the university’s Step-Up Plus Summer School.

The Summer School is part of the widening access initiative ‘University for All’ and is designed to encourage talented year 12 pupils from disadvantaged areas to apply to university. The scheme gives them a taste of university life – they live in halls with student ambassadors, go on trips around the local area, and attend sessions on academic subjects that aren’t always offered in schools.

So when the opportunity to deliver a SHARE with Schools workshop and represent the School of History, Archaeology, and Religion at one of the sessions came up, I jumped at the chance.

After exchanging a few emails with the widening access officer, I decided to deliver our Romans in Wales workshop. We normally deliver this to year 7 and 8 pupils in one hour lessons so I had to adapt and extend it to make it suitable for a 2 hour session with 17 year olds. I did this by changing the language used in the presentation, altering activities that had been colouring-based, and introducing a section on curse tablets based on the example found in the nearby town of Caerleon.

When it came to delivering the workshop, I have to admit that I was rather nervous – I’d never done one by myself so I was in unknown territory. But the pupils were all polite and attentive and I soon settled into it.

After running through the presentation on the Romans in Wales and the Iron Age Welsh, we started on the first activity of the day – making curses. I showed them the Caerleon Curse and explained the basics of curse making, deities, and Roman cursive and then handed out the worksheets.

The worksheets had the basic structure of curse tablets, a list of gods and goddesses often invoked in British curses, and an example of the Roman cursive alphabet. I had considered making them do it in some simple Latin and having them fill in the blanks in a template curse but as it was the last day of the school year and none knew any Latin, I decided to go easy on them and do it in English.

The pupils were quickly engaged with the work, asking questions about Latin and pointing out some of the seemingly unconnected roles that certain gods held. Nearly all of them decided to write their curses in the Roman cursive, often calling out for alternative letters to use, as there are a number that we use today that were missing. The majority also had a go at writing backwards, which was thought to increase the potency of the magic. After finishing their curses several rolled up their sheets so that only the deity invoked could see them.

We then had a quick discussion about what archaeology is and how it can be used before I handed out the artefacts.

Although the replica Roman sword and helmet – normally a huge hit at our workshops – were away with another project, the students quickly set about interacting with the objects and trying to work out what they were.

While they worked with the items, I went around the room helping them decide what each one was and talking to individual pupils about ancient history, archaeology, and university in general. We even got onto the subject of Roman loos after one student asked if Roman flagon fragment, originally part of a vessel used to serve wine, might have been used for more unsavoury purposes.

The group soon worked out what each object was and discussed them amongst themselves. Noticing a pause in activity, I went around the tables asking them which were their favourite artefacts. Most said the wax writing tablet, which they had all had a go using. I took the opportunity then to talk to them about the wood and ink based tablets found at Vindolanda.

Several other students said that they preferred the various animal bones and expressed an interest in studying archaeology at university. We discussed the type of information bones can give us, which seemed to only further their interest in the subject.

Once everyone had finished with the artefacts, I asked if anyone had any questions about university and university life and encouraged them to stay behind if they didn’t want to ask in front of everyone before sending them off to their next activity. A couple of pupils stayed behind to ask about the career prospects of doing a history degree and with the help of a student ambassador I put their minds to rest that you can do much more with history than you might think.

After the session the student ambassadors, who had been with the group for the entirety of the summer school, told me that the students had really enjoyed the session and that they hadn’t said that after all of them. Coupled with the fact that one pupil had told me that they intend to apply for ancient history here at Cardiff, I think the workshop went really well! I look forward to working with SHARE with Schools and delivering more workshops in the future.