Grange Primary School, Falkirk Council
Grange Primary School in the Scottish town of Bo’ness is celebrating its centenary this year. To enable pupils to appreciate and participate in this event more fully, from September 2006 until June 2007, they worked on a special project using the Storyline method. This project was co-ordinated by Falkirk Council Creativity Support Teacher Yvonne McBlain who supported the staff through co-operative planning and delivery. The main character in the storyline is a little boy called James who actually attended Grange Primary on the day it opened in August 1907. To reflect the industrial heritage of Bo’ness, James came from a coal-mining family and lived very close to the school. The whole project was orchestrated to allow pupils to discover and explore their own community past and present through James and his family. This involved a wide range of activities including many opportunities to go out into their local area to study the changes 100 years have made.
The pupils of primary 4/3 took James and Janet out for a wee walk around Bo’ness
This highly successful project ended with a whole school celebration day during which most staff and pupils dressed in Edwardian style and took part in a range of Edwardian school activities.
On Celebration Day the pupils each invited a guest and gave them a tour of the whole school storyline display.
This adaptation of the storyline approach used real characters and the historic setting to pose key questions about everyday life past and present. It enabled pupils to collaborate across all stages in the school by passing their research and discoveries about the characters from one stage to the next.
The Highlights in Photos
The project began when a parcel was delivered to primary 7. It contained a flat cap (bunnet), marbles, a little slip of paper with a name & address on, a very old photograph and a letter from Mr W S Andrews, the first headmaster of Grange Primary.
The pupils realised that the connection between the objects in the parcel was the name James Muir. They found his address, and discovered that this place was a coal-mining community which no longer exists. We managed to locate a former pupil of the school who took us to where the miner’s rows used to be.
“Mr Andrews” came to visit primary 7 – so that they could experience how an Edwardian headmaster would deal with his “scholars”.
Primary 7 chose to use drama and games to pass on their knowledge of James and Mr Andrews to primary 1.
Primary 1 helped to make Mr Andrews and explored coal-mining using free and structured play with cloth as well as language work.
Primary 1 worked on the figure of James started by primary 7 and then used drama “hot-seating” to ask him about his life.
Primary 1 made and modelled their own “bunnets” like James’s. They also explored toys from long ago.
They shared their storyline facts with primary 2 verbally.
Primary 2 got a note from James’s wee sister Janet. She asked them to find her toy “bogey” which James had hidden in their classroom. This wooden bogey was a miniature version of those used to transport coal in the local coal mines.
Primary 2 made Janet and researched life 100 years ago using books and language work.
They painted watercolour pictures of how people dressed 100 years ago.
Primary 2 passed the storyline on to the primary 6 class.
Primary 6 painted collaborative portraits of the Muir family and began to explore their lives 100 years ago using drama scenarios.
Map tasks linked to significant places for the Muir family were used to highlight changes to local housing and industry.
A letter from James appeared in the class computer file. It told of his favourite places to play which coincidentally were places rich in local folklore and history – naturally we had to pay a visit.
Making a wish at the “Witches’ Stone” and touching a Celtic burial cross in the old Carriden graveyard.
Primary 6 shared their knowledge with primary 5 using methods devised and organised by themselves.
Primary 5 toured their school building looking for the oldest fixtures and fittings.
Muir family photos were delivered to primary 5 to enable further investigation of James’s real life family and descendants. This class took a few weeks to discover that one of its members was James’s great, great granddaughter!
Primary 5 visited the Registrar’s Office to research James’s family history.
They also got a letter from James’s wee sister asking them to visit her favourite picnic spot on the shores of the River Forth.
As you can see, Janet came too! The class did some watercolour painting of the views while they were on the beach.
The next class were primary 3/2 who were set a challenge by Mr Andrews. They were given maps which had tasks marked in specific locations for them to tackle when they reached these. The tasks were designed to lead the children to a study of Bo’ness as a former port and centre of trade.
This class researched the goods exported by Bo’ness merchants.
They made harbours and boats in a variety of media.
They listened to sea shanties and danced a sailor’s hornpipe.
Primary 4 had to go around the school gathering information about the storyline for themselves and piecing together the facts so far.
They received a letter from James’s older sister asking them to help her decide whether to take a job in a Bo’ness pottery. This device was designed to guide pupils towards learning about this aspect of their local industrial heritage.
On the beach close to the site of the demolished pottery primary 4 found many shards and pieces of kiln furniture. Back in the classroom they devised ways to classify and display their collections.
We also managed to get the pupils’ clay work fired at the local secondary school and have the local archaeologist come to work on a mini-dig with the children.
Primary 4 passed on all of their knowledge and experiences to the primary 4/3 who were the last class to participate in the project.
This class really enjoyed meeting Janet and James and using role play with them.
Primary 4/3 compared the physical changes in the immediate surroundings of their school on a walk and followed this with some functional language work.
The pupils discovered a letter in Mr Andrews’s pocket one afternoon. This device was our way of inspiring the children to summarize the whole school knowledge gathered and find ways to make it accessible to everyone.
The children had questions about James – they wrote to his descendants who kindly came in to be interviewed.
These pupils wanted to end our project by visiting the real James’s graveside.
To offset the solemnity of the graveside visit, it was followed by a picnic and play at the local park for the primary 4/3 pupils – and Janet and James of course!
Selected children from classes throughout the school prepared activities to share with the nursery children within the school.
They chose to tell the sad story of how James’s dad died in a mining accident – 4 months before Janet was born.
They helped the nursery children make James’s favourite snack – “pieces on jam” (an old Scots term for a jam sandwich).
They worked with the nursery children to make charcoal drawings of James, his family and his dad down the coal mine.
Janet was swiftly adopted and taken outside to be turned into a mermaid!
Yvonne McBlain offered families the chance to participate in a storyline art activity evening. This event allowed parents and children to work together in a range of drawing and painting media within the storyline context. The families had a chance to practice with each media before producing an image linked to the Storyline.
Then two of the girls discovered that James had a note in his pocket asking the families to show him and Janet what they liked to do together to relax.
The collaborative working atmosphere was wonderful when the families were busy depicting their favourite ways to have fun together.
When the work was finished the children took it to let James and Janet see it!
This event was very successful – evaluations received were all very positive about the value of storyline as a teaching method as well as the content of the evening and its value to the families themselves.
The Celebration Event
The format of this event was:
- Formal whole school assembly with “Mr Andrews” appearing to receive the knowledge gained by the scholars. He offered his farewell and admiration as a conclusion to the story.
- Whole school drill lesson by “drill sergeant”.
- Party with Edwardian games
- Old-fashioned snack and games at play-time and lunchtime – pupils segregated into boys and girls playgrounds.
- Storyline display around whole school – children each invited guests and showed them around.
- Teachers devised and delivered an Edwardian lesson for their class.
- Everyone invited to dress in Edwardian costume or “bunnets” that day.
Some of the children in Edwardian dress.
The whole school assembly – addressed by “Mr Andrews”.
The Grange School song performed by the choir.
All boys together in the boys’ playground.
Whole school “Drill” lesson.
The Grand Old Duke of York – played by 200 children!
Edwardian games in the girls’ playground at lunchtime.
Pupils take their guests around the whole school display.
Sitting up straight in rows…and enjoying an old-fashioned bun and a banana.
Wall frieze showing the Muir family standing near their home at Miller Pit Cottages.