Experiencing history most horrid

30th October 2009 at 00:00

After reading your article "Horrible Histories author sticks knife in on 'dinosaur' politicians" (October 2) I felt compelled to respond. Effective history teaching enthuses pupils, while giving them solid facts and chronologies on which to hang their understanding of why we are where we are.

This may include "horrible facts", but once you have children's attention by talking about historical figures such as a "gong farmer"* you can put such figures into the context of their time and what was happening around them.

At English Heritage we believe that visiting a historic property helps cement both facts and skills of historical understanding, which is why access to our properties is free for educational groups.

At some properties we also run Discovery Visits, where the emphasis is on learning by doing. Children dance, handle objects, march, lay tables for sumptuous meals, create artwork, listen, and learn facts by having fun.

*The term used during Tudor England for a person who removed human excrement from towns and cities.

Pippa Smith, Deputy head of education, English Heritage, Cambridge.

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