romans in wales

Mountain Ash visit 25/2/2016

A big thank you to our ineffable volunteers and the awesome pupils and staff today. We went out into the Valleys to Mountain Ash Comprehensive School. There we delivered workshops on Romans in Wales, Medieval Society, Cardiff in World War One to forty-nine pupils in years 7, 8 and 9 respectively.

On the trip were:

Coordinators:

  • Kostas Trimmis
  • Jon Langston
  • Olja Mladjenovic

Also joining them were the staff members:

  • Professor Paul Nicholson
  • Dr Steve Mills
  • Graham Getheridge

Steve and Paul were seeing some new integrations of their Heritage Lottery Fund project Images of an Antique Land with the existing WWI workshop. This involved the creation of a new ‘persona’ to investigate based on genuine research, as well as a new postcards from the front activity based on some gorgeous replicas of real-life postcards.

Most importantly of all, the following volunteers gave up their time and effort to deliver some awesome presentations and workshops:

  • Ben Dillon
  • Gemma Bush
  • Jack Tenniswood
  • Kieran Murphy
  • Chris Parry
  • Clara Freer

Thanks all!

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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.

Medieval session

Guest blog from volunteer Jonathan Gilbert

Jonathan Gilbert

As a Third Year Archaeology and Ancient History BA student I felt I needed to get some serious work experience under my belt before I graduated and joined the struggle of the job hunt. I was always told that I work well with children, and I have always had an interest in teaching, so SHARE with Schools sounded like a great opportunity for me. I must admit that, at first, my reasons for joining the project were selfishly orientated to building up my CV, but this soon changed when I went on my first workshop.

The workshops that I volunteered for included ‘Archaeological Skills’ with pupils in Year 7 – 9 at Fitzalan School, and ‘Romans in Wales’ for a variety of student year groups at Woodlands High School. The idea of working with children in a school environment was not an entirely new concept for me; I have previously worked at an after school club and holiday play scheme, at my local school, working with small groups of children. But this was far less formal than a classroom environment. SHARE with Schools on the other hand gives you the opportunity to work in the classroom, in a variety of challenging yet exciting situations. (more…)

Guest post from volunteer Jon Cook

Jon Cook

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Training sessions were inventive and fun and helped us prepare for what was needed

My name is Jon Cook, a third year Religious Studies student. When I first heard about the program [SHARE with Schools] I knew it would help my future in ways of experience. Even though it was a little daunting at first because I was not doing a degree in archaeology or history but in religion, I took it as an opportunity to learn more myself and also enhance my public speaking skills.

I presented to a wide range of year groups in a few different schools spotted around Cardiff, presenting to different age groups was fun and different every time. I was involved in presenting a wide variety of workshops all teaching the history of Wales, such as The Romans in Wales, History of the Rhondda Cynon Taf and Wales in the First World War.

The training sessions were inventive and fun and helped us prepare for what was needed. The presentation was nerve wracking at first but once I was there helping kids learn about the past all fears diminished and if things went off track or pear shaped the post grad students were there to help as well.

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The presentation was nerve wracking at first but … helping kids learn about the past all fears diminished

All the kids were well mannered and enthusiastic, my favorite memory from the time giving the workshops is when I was at Cathays giving a presentation on the miners in South Wales and I managed to get a student engaged and interested in a subject that he previously was not.

I would recommend these workshops for everyone who wants to enhance their oratory and teaching skills but also for anyone who is interested in learning more about the subjects themselves as they are very informative. The only problem was that there wasn’t a workshop in my degree specific area. I have no doubt that this will help towards my future career plans and would love to thank everyone involved as it really has been a great experience.

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!