The members of the Year 9 Athenaeum have just returned from their residential scholarship visit to West Yorkshire. The aim of the scholarship programme is to think across subjects and hopefully beyond them and to stimulate the student’s curiosity and imagination; this visit certainly did that. Beginning at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park they not only examined the works of well-known artists such as Moore, Hepworth Caro and Ai Weiwei, but also the work of sculptors such as Kimsooja and Marialuisa Tadei, the latter who began working in the 1990s and whose mosaic octopus was most thought provoking. Reeling with ideas about what materials, previously unconsidered by many, could in fact be used to sculpt, such as air, light and water the pupils turned their hands to practical activities, using both clay, twigs, earth and grass.
The next very full day involved a morning in the Royal Armouries in Leeds with a viewing of an adjacent lock and then on to Wakefield, to the National Mining Museum and the chance to go underground. The tours led by ex-miners provided so many insights for the students into the technical and physical challenges of mining, the issues around child labour, the importance of the coal and above ground a most informative exhibition told of the social history of mining and its relatively recent demise. Banners, galas, and Trade Unionism were important topics for the students to explore.
In the afternoon sunshine the group explored the model village of Saltaire and looked at the wide variety of provision laid on for the mill workers by Sir Titus Salt: houses, educational institutes, a dining hall, a Church, a village Hall and a Park! They thought about philanthropy, paternalism and examining Sir Titus’ statue, how things are commemorated. The main mill building now contains a gallery housing on of the biggest collections of David Hockney’s work which the students much enjoyed.
On our last day a morning exploring the Bronte Parsonage was followed by a guided tour of Howarth and a walk onto the moors, with views across the Worth Valley. Our guide expertly explained the importance of the landscape and read from the works of the Bronte sisters as we stood on the windswept hills. Building on work done about the importance of landscape in the novels of the Bronte sisters, the students also considered the importance, or not, of understanding the biographies of authors in order to appreciate their work.
So much was included in a short visit and much of its success was due to the work done by teachers in preparatory sessions before the visit. Hopefully the visit provided interesting insights and experiences but even more opened minds to the possibility of exploration and investigation into things for its own sake and to see how many themes in one subject area are echoed in another.