Mountain Ash

Guest blog by volunteer Kelsey Clarke

Kelsey Clarke

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What if these children knew more than me? What if they asked me a question and I couldn’t answer? What if I mess up?

During my first year at Cardiff I wanted to sign up to volunteer with SHARE with Schools, but I convinced myself that I did not have enough knowledge to go out and deliver the workshops. What if these children knew more than me? What if they asked me a question and I couldn’t answer? What if I mess up? – All these questions flew around my mind, and I didn’t sign up. I immediately regretted this after talking to Jodie, a SHARE with Schools volunteer in 2013/14, who reassured me that it would be completely fine. She was right.

As a second year Religious Studies student, I was still nervous that I wouldn’t know enough but I signed up. I then signed up to numerous training sessions and was pleasantly surprised that not only did I know more than what I thought, but almost everyone was having the same thoughts as me about delivering the workshops. Catherine and numerous other co-ordinators made me feel at ease during the training sessions. They explained everything with clarity and ensured everybody was on the same wavelength for every single workshop.

Every time I signed up to go on a visit, Cath would send out all of the crib sheets as soon as possible. This was brilliant for preparation purposes, and it also enabled everyone to edit the crib notes to suit themselves.

Mountain Ash school with snowy peaks behind

Mountain Ash Comprehensive School

My first SHARE with Schools visit was to Mountain Ash Comprehensive School. I’m from the Cynon Valley area and it was amazing to go into a local school. On the morning of the visit I had so many nervous butterflies, but I decided these were a good sign. It showed that I genuinely cared about what I was doing. Throughout the day we delivered 2 x ‘Romans in Wales’ ‘The Three Orders of Medieval Society’ and ‘Life in the 19th Century Cynon Valley’, and the group grew more confident with each workshop, and although my butterflies were there throughout the visit, it was just a constant reminder to me that I wanted to do a good job with all of the workshops and really make an impression on the pupils. We delivered the workshops to pupils from years 7-9 but with varying academic abilities, including SEN [Special Educational Needs] pupils. All of the pupils engaged so well with everything, they loved the ‘hands-on’ parts of the workshop and this also drew out the best in them. The objects brought to life what we had previously spoken to them about, enabling their understanding more.

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SHARE with Schools has definitely been one of the highlights of my second year, and I can’t wait to see what next year holds!

My second SHARE with Schools visit was to Pencoed Comprehensive School. We delivered 2 x ‘Who wants to be a museum curator?’ here and it worked so well with the pupils. I was genuinely surprised at how much some of the children knew about museums and how enthusiastic they were about the idea of creating their own display. I believe this worked well because although the pupils had to create their display and find out about objects, they had free reign in doing so. The results of their work were amazing.

I can honestly say that I did not see anyone not doing what they were supposed to do or messing around in any of the visits. All of the pupils were polite and treated both the objects and the SHARE with Schools volunteers with the utmost respect. They were a credit to their schools.

SHARE with Schools has provided me with a plethora of transferable skills which I can use in the future. The whole SHARE with Schools experience has reassured me that I definitely want to apply for a Secondary Education PGCE in RE, and that it is well worth pursuing a career in teaching. SHARE with Schools has definitely been one of the highlights of my second year, and I can’t wait to see what next year holds!

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Volunteers talk about visiting Mountain Ash Comprehensive School

New volunteers Ben Dillon and Jacob Deacon talk to camera on the way to and from their first workshop deliveries at Mountain Ash Comprehensive School, Abercynon.

Both are students at the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University, and this is their first year participating in the SHARE with Schools outreach project. They discuss what they anticipate it will be like and then how they found their classroom experience.

Hit the CC button for subtitles if you find the audio a bit difficult.

Return visits 11-13 June 2014

We had a very exciting and busy week last week, hosting return visits by pupils from Mountain Ash Comprehensive, Blaengwawr High and Cathays High. In a packed schedule they had tours of the department’s archaeology and conservation labs, of the special historic book collection SCOLAR, and interactive Medieval, Roman and Nineteenth Century sessions, as well as academic roadshows. In addition, each school also got a fantastic interactive talk from a different member of the faculty: our great thanks to Drs. Kate Gilliver, Jenny Benham and Muhammad Mansour Ali who lectured on decimation in the Roman army, Medieval outlawry and Qur’anic studies.

Thanks also to Chris Parry, Anna Field, Maria Healy and Luca Hoare for your fantastic help assisting with sessions and leading groups of school children around. A special well done for not losing any of them!

Postgraduate coordinator Melissa Julian-Jones has a great write up, concentrating on her development of the Medieval session. She has some great images of stuff produced by the visiting school pupils and information about a great game that you can play at home or with your friends (or frenemies) based on a genuine Medieval game.

I’ll get some more images up as soon as some permissions are sorted out. We have just one more return visit, with pupils from Fitzalan High School, next month to round out a fantastic year. Our side jobs (the project is run entirely by students at Cardiff University with fulltime work to be getting on with) won’t end there though as you can see us getting involved with various public and schools engagement projects throughout the summer. Information on these will be posted nearer the time.

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Interview with student volunteer Jodie McGoldrick

Postgraduate Coordinator Cath recently caught up with one of our undergraduate student volunteers, Jodie McGoldrick. Jodie is a first year student in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University and so is new to the SHARE with Schools volunteer team. She isn’t, however, new to the SHARE with Schools project, having experienced the workshops from the other side at Mountain Ash when she was a sixth form pupil nearly 2 years ago.

Recently, as part of SHARE with Schools, Jodie delivered all four workshops to pupils from her home turf; this included her presenting sections on Cynon Valley history to the entire class. She did this in front of her, very obviously proud, former A-Level History teacher.

In the interview, Cath asks Jodie a few questions about her motivation to go to university and her impressions of SHARE with Schools from when she was at school.

Cath: When did you first decide that you wanted to go to university?
Jodie: I’d always really wanted and been encouraged to go, but it became realistic when I got good GCSE results.

What made you decide that you wanted to go to university?
I wanted to get a good job. It sounds silly but when your surrounded by people on benefits in the valley or people struggling to live of minimum wage you want to do better for yourself, so that you never have to struggle. Plus, everyone I spoke to said the experience was amazing.

How did you decide which universities to apply to?
I used the UCAS site a lot, because it listed all the universities that do history, the entry requirements and the course details. But I was drawn to the Welsh universities and the high ranking English ones.

Why did you decide to come to Cardiff University?
Firstly, it has a great reputation in Wales as it is, with it being a Russell Group university also. It was also far enough away from home for me to experience freedom, but close enough to not feel isolated. Mainly though the decision was influenced by the interaction and support I received from Cardiff University throughout the applying process. My insurance university didn’t email me once, whereas I had members of your university sending me emails and letters, offering me to come to applicant’s Open Days and coming into my school. Cardiff made the whole process seem less daunting and so I felt much happier coming here than the other ones I’d applied to. There was just much more support.

Did you ever feel that university wasn’t achievable?
I had really great teachers and a lot of support so I wouldn’t say so

How do your friends (excluding those you have met at Cardiff) and family view university? Were you encouraged or discouraged to apply?
Well a few of my friends go to different universities in Wales and they have a pretty similar opinion to me, so they encouraged me. But some of my friends are still at home, in part-time jobs or college and they consider university to be a waste of money and something that just isn’t attainable to them. They didn’t so much discourage me because they knew I could get fairly good grades, but they didn’t encourage me either. My family are really supportive and there will be three of us in university education by next year.

You have mentioned that you attended a SHARE with Schools workshop in Mountain Ash Comprehensive School when you were in the Sixth Form. Did you find the workshop to be informative and/or helpful?
I found it really helpful when the sixth form discussion was held. It gave me a chance to speak to an actual student and find out about their experiences in uni, especially with things such as time management and budgeting. It was great to hear of someone who was actually going through it as it reassured a lot of us. We usually only have our teachers to speak to and whilst they could say ‘you’ll be fine’ they couldn’t give us any real examples. So speaking to someone else really helped. It was also good to speak to someone who was only really two or three years older than myself, it made uni seem a more realistic aim as I could relate to them and what they were saying.

Did the workshop help answer any questions that you had about university life?
Yes, especially about the budgeting and the accommodation. The ‘leaders’ of the group also talked about jobs after uni which was really helpful; the MI5 one particularly stands out.

Did the workshop help you decide to go to university?
I had already decided by that point because I was doing my A Levels, but it did really reassure me that is was a possible and realistic aim, despite coming from Aberdare.

Did the workshop help you choose Cardiff University?
Yes, definitely. The staff were helpful and fun and they made me feel like I would be welcome if I came to Cardiff.