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Making School Memories: Victorian Experience

Type: All  |  Category: Making School Memories  |  Date: 12th March 2018

We’re going back in time, back to the 1840s! Many people think it’s wise and easier to host a Victorian experience away from the school – but we’re here to tell you otherwise. This month’s Making School Memories has a host of ideas and reasons why you should transform your classroom and ditch the pens and paper for chalk and a dunce hat.

Lesson plans, ideas and free resources for hosting a victorian experience for students in your school to make school memories

“We’re not scared to scare the children in a safe way” said Fulbridge Academy from Peterborough, as we sat down and spoke to them about teaching the Victorian era at school.

The Victorian era was a period where industrialisation brought about rapid changes in everyday life that affected all classes. Family life, epitomised by the young Queen Victoria, was enthusiastically idealised despite its appalling social conditions. It was a pivotal shift in England’s history and the economics of everyday life – and is therefore considered important to study and understand from a young age.

Whilst you’ve probably already got ‘what you do’ regarding teaching your students about the era locked in, there’s one thing about the experience that we want to stress for change:

Do it at Your School – Don’t Outsource!

Some of the main reasons as to why you should hold a Victorian Experience at your school include:

  • Lots of schools go to venues where they do a Victorian experience for a couple of hours, with well-designed rooms and facilities, however…
  • A big problem for that is that it’s never tailored to your school; and we think that a couple of hours is just too easy and you don’t get into the nitty-gritty that you really can. So we suggest doing at least 2 days – with the experience lasting longer and you can also dip in and out of it if your school schedules requires it
  • You will also save money. There’s no travel involved, and once you purchase your costumes, objects and playground toys, you don’t need to buy them again
  • Most importantly, as you know the children, you can be more ‘strict’ and involved. You know how each individual learns and how to have the experience make an impact with them

It’s a subject that every school eventually tackles, and it can sometimes have the stigma of being a mundane learning experience if it’s just left to textbooks and fact sheets. Be sure your class doesn’t fall victim to that trap.

Example of children / students enjoying a victorian experience at school

What Your Experience Can Include

One of the biggest takeaways we had with Fulbridge Academy when discussing the Victorian experience was a quote: “You’ve got to attach strong emotions to the experience” – which was their subtle way of saying it's got to be poignant and real. In other words, a little bit harsh.

A tip we love to share is a very simple one: as the experience is beginning, whilst you’re teaching your class in the same style as a Victorian class, once they speak out give the dunce hat to one of the smartest kids in your class. As silly as it may seem, it’s a shock, and there’s realism to it - that life isn’t fair and anything can happen. In an odd way, it makes the children take notice.

Little things make a big difference. Re-arranging your classroom and removing technology and posters for a bare, simplistic room heightens the experience and changes the atmosphere. It allows your students to engage with the experience more and feel more involved, suspending the belief. Set your desks into rows and have them all face the front of the class with a big chalkboard, and replace pens and paper with miniature chalkboards for the children too.

Not only should all staff be dressed up in old-time attire, but you should provide the children with outfits to wear to fully immerse themselves into the experience. Are they going to itch? More than likely… but dressing up is all part of the fun.

Whilst also teaching the children about the Victorian era, also teach them things that students would’ve been taught back in the late 1800s too – make it clear that these theories were believed in that time and may not be relevant to today however! Above all, show how far teaching itself has come in 200 years, be harsh, be rude, be strict. The children will be dying to get out to lunch time to play with the old fashioned toys, but may also appreciate you a bit more when they’re suddenly transported back to the modern day.

The main purpose and key point is they evoke emotion. That emotion resonates to trigger a memory later during their educational journey. It’s a wonderful way to make the learning last, and creates an unforgettable memory of their time at schoolPerfect for capturing in your yearbook as a newspaper article!

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