Find your way around historic sites

If you can't tell your Bannockburn from your Culloden, then a new educational initiative could be the answer.

Historic Scotland, which manages 345 historic sites across the country, has launched a new series of free booklets and online information to encourage teachers to take pupils to sites which support their learning.

The project has been specially designed after focus groups were set up to find out what teachers wanted.

"We have a free educational visit scheme and what we are trying to do is develop these resources to help teachers on teacher-led visits around our sites. And they are all free resources; we don't charge for them," says Sue Mitchell, Historic Scotland's education manager.

"This is support material for teachers to integrate a site visit into their classroom work. We have chosen themes which are popular in schools, such as Mary, Queen of Scots, and highlighted the properties we have that would support learning about her. The idea is that a teacher can take a Mary, Queen of Scots publication and if they were going to Linlithgow palace, download the site resource about the palace."

Historic Scotland is particularly keen to encourage teachers to use historic sites on their own doorstep, which could support their learning programme in school. "Everybody knows about Edinburgh and Stirling castles, but we've got some other fantastic sites around the country that can support learning. Sometimes it's just a matter of raising awareness of these and the potential they've got to support learning about particular themes."

The organisation felt it needed to update its resources to support changes in the curriculum. Focus groups had shown teachers didn't want tomes with hundreds of pages of information, but succinct publications they could collect and dip into.

Five booklets now available focus on Investigating Castles, Investigating Wars of Independence, Investigating Mary Queen of Scots, Investigating Edinburgh Castle and Investigating Prisons of War.

Information about historic sites is available on the organisation's website and all the booklets will be available as downloads.

"Investigating Prisons of War uses the historical context of the Prisons of War exhibition at Edinburgh castle to look at human rights, crime and punishment and the role of the media and propaganda in a war situation.

We've developed it to support education for citizenship to look at these three themes in the context of education for citizenship," says Ms Mitchell.

The publications focus on six themes: places, people, events, sites, special themes and homework helpers. Teachers can choose material best suited to their pupils' studies, which has local relevance, and collate it in an Investigating Historic Sites ring-binder. The six themes support a variety of curriculum studies.

"Places" features prehistoric and archeological sites, castles and fortifications, places of worship, royal palaces and industrial buildings.

"People" looks at the relevance of Historic Scotland sites to the Romans and Vikings, and individuals such as Mary, Queen of Scots.

"Events" highlights major episodes in Scotland's past and "Sites" features important heritage attractions such as Edinburgh castle, Elgin cathedral, Urquhart castle, Whithorn priory and Melrose abbey.

"Special Themes" focus on topics such as prisons of war, and "Homework Helpers" gives information and activity sheets for pupils.

Jean McLeish

Booklets, tel 0131 668 8793

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