Titanic Project 2016 : Storyteller

Professional storyteller, Allison Galbraith, returned to OLHS to help the Titanic Group record their stories. Each pupil chose a different aspect of the Titanic to focus on, from the ‘women and children first’ policy, to the lifeboats, to the role of the wireless operator. Allison had previously visited to introduce herself and build pupils’ confidence in speaking before a stranger at the beginning of the project. Each person was invited to share a little about their name and family background until everyone was at their ease. As a result, although pupils were nervous about recording, they were keen to know when Allison would be returning.

Allison started the group off with some breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups, including tongue twisters and jaw massage, before we settled on the comfy seats to record the pupils’ work. Allison provided additional advice on reading speed, pausing and presentation as we worked through the stories. Despite the dangers of breaking into the giggles, every pupil recorded their own work beautifully.

Titanic Project 2016: Greenock Ocean Terminal and Caribbean Princess

Our interdisciplinary Titanic Project has so far covered science, art, history, geography, engineering, catering and storytelling. However, it’s not easy to give pupils an idea of the sort of luxury enjoyed by 1st class passengers aboard the Titanic.

We headed for Inverclyde to the Greenock Ocean Terminal, docking site for cruise ships in the west of Scotland. We could see the Caribbean Princess rising high above the terminal as we drove along from Port Glasgow, and couldn’t believe how tall it was! On arrival we were greeted by Terminal Manager, Craig Collins, who introduced us to the lovely Bruce and Fraser, our guides for the morning.

As you’ll see from the photos, we had a wonderful tour and couldn’t believe the size of this floating town. One or two of us even suffered a little bit of vertigo from the height! We had brought along our SDS Careers Adviser, Ruth Robertson, who answered pupils’ numerous questions about how they could live and work aboard one of these beauties.

This proved to be a wonderful opportunity for our pupils, who certainly left with their eyes opened to different possibilities available to them in the future. Our thanks to Princess Cruises for allowing us aboard, to Greenock Ocean Terminal manager, Craig Collins, for arranging everything on our behalf, and especially to Bruce and Fraser for being such excellent hosts, providing so much information and answering so many questions from so many enthusiastic teenagers.

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Titanic Project Week 1

Our Titanic Project pupils spent a week investigating facts about the ship and ship-building. They worked with storyteller, Allison Galbraith, to learn what makes a decent story, and visited the Titan Crane at Clydebank and the Denny Tank at Dumbarton, part of the Scottish Maritime Museum. The Science Department demonstrated buoyancy and helped pupils investigate floating (see below) and then pupils built a copy of the Titanic with Social Subjects.

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From Mr Law

The Science Department asked pupils to design a ship so that it wouldn’t sink.

The Groups did very well.  There were some excellent designs and some nervous and excited participants during the second phase of the challenge when designers add mass to the boats to see when they sink.

Results :

  • Johann & Harry: 1,200g
  • Nicole & Natalie: 2,000g
  • Gary & Dean: 2,000g
  • Zac, Shannon & Sammi:  2,800g

Forfeit for the others is that they have to refer to the winners as Captain for the rest of the day.

Reading Trail comes to an end


In the last week of the Reading Trail, pupils in S1 English classes had the opportunity to review and assess each others’ work. Pupils used their checklists to decide whether each mind-map met the required criteria and assigned marks accordingly. Staff reviewed pupil assessments and added ‘Magic Marks’ for outstanding examples of work – and to suggest when pupils were being just a wee bit too strict! Each pupil should have three mind-maps based on work completed in the Library (Tam O’Shanter, picture books and graphic novels), along with the books they read in their own time since January. 2016_0330_9509

BBC School Report 2016

March 10th was BBC Schools Report Day 2016 and OLHS participated for the first time. Our plan was to investigate the steelworks in Lanarkshire and pupils worked hard in the Library over many lunchtimes and after school to collate enough material for the big day.

Our journalists split into two sections: the production team investigated sound recording, video recording, editing, direction and photography; researchers investigated copyright free images, the history of steel-making and collected information. Pupils conducted staff interviews, completed a school survey and practiced using the software in advance of March 10th.

Unfortunately (but very realistically), some of this material was unavailable on the day, so we had to come up with a modified plan. Pupils quickly decided to create ‘A day in the life of Our Lady’s’ and set off to talk to staff and find out what was taking place that Thursday. On their return they set to work to edit the video.

Meanwhile, our other student journalists worked steadily to make the interviews available through transcripts, wrote up their research on steel-making, environmental issues and “The Steelman” statue. Olek created a weather report which was tweeted by the BBC Weather Watchers.

By the end of the school day, we had fourteen extremely tired journalists (and two exhausted staff). We all learned a great deal about the issues and difficulties of making news on a daily basis and have a BBC School Report to be proud of.  Congratulations to everyone involved.

Journalists: Rahel Agyiwaah (S4), Fatemeh Assar (S2), Alicja Balanda (S1), Louise Dynes (S2), Piroska Horvath (S4), Holly Irving (S1), Erin Keating (S1), Olek Kyc (S1), Dominic Leary (S1), Suzanne Ntambwe (S4), David Nugent (S2), Finn Ross (S1), Mary-Kate Ross (S4), Angela Sewell (S4), Wiktor Witkowski (S2).

Thanks to Mr Kerr (English) and Mrs Macfadyen (Librarian) for all their support.

You can peruse our BBC School Report material here.

S2 Great Writing Challenge

S2 pupils working on the Great Writing Challenge have been hit by the latest element of chaos: to use the SCRAN website to find a face with a story behind it. Pupils had to imagine what the story behind the face was and use it to add a new character into their on-going story.

SCRAN is a database of material from museums and archives across Scotland and the UK providing access to almost half a million resources.

Great Writing Challenge – Yay YA+


Yay! YA+ is a teen fiction book festival, organised and managed by Kirkland Ciccone. It was held for the first time last year at Cumbernauld Theatre (see our report here), and now it’s back for a second helping!

Yay 2016 will take place on 21st April 2016, and Mrs Macfadyen managed to bag 15 places for OLHS.

Trying to decide who gets to go was impossible, so we have decided to use our Yay! YA+ tickets as prizes for our S2 Great Writing Challenge. All of 2nd year are participating in this creative writing / research challenge as part of their English work with the Library.

Winners will be selected for their attention to detail, imagination, vocabulary, and the effort they put into their writing and research. Nominees will be suggested by English Department staff and final seelction of the lucky 15 will be by Librarian, Mrs Macfadyen, PT English, Mrs Millar and a guest judge.

The Best Worst Christmas Jokes Ever


The Best Worst Christmas Jokes Ever competition was held in the days leading up to Christmas, with prizes awarded by Mrs Macfadyen for the best/worst entries.

The stunning banner was designed by Emilia, Maja, and Sara over a week of lunchtimes in the Library.

Congratulations to the two winners, Louise and Keryn for their groan-out-loud jokes:

What’s green, covered in tinsel and goes “ribbit, ribbit”?
A Mistle Toad


How does a penguin build its house?
Igloos it together!

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Literacy across the curriculum

Literacy is an integral part of the Curriculum for Excellence and one of the responsibilities of all staff in schools along with Numeracy and Health and Well-being. Our Literacy Group, involving staff from departments across the school, met on the in-service day to discuss ways to help pupils learn commonly misspelt words.

Over the coming months we will highlight common spelling mistakes and grammar issues through posters, the bulletin, and a variety of memorable activities. We aim to have a school full of experts by the summer!

Ghosts of War – Armistice Day Poetry 1

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On Monday 9th, S3 pupils and staff headed for Edinburgh Castle for a workshop entitled “Ghosts of War: Armistice Day Poetry

Our workshop leaders, Lorna and Ken, met us on the Esplanade to introduce themselves and explain the plan for today, before leading us round to the Scottish National War Memorial. Photography is not allowed in the memorial so no pictures.

The frieze in the Memorial is by Gertrude Alice Meredith Williams and was based on drawings by her husband in the trenches. Pupils noticed bagpipes, kilts, bunnets, snowshoes, animals, rope, shovel, boots, weapons and different uniforms. Lorna read a poem leading into in a minute’s silence, with pupils standing shoulder to shoulder. 

During our silence, a clock chimed 11 o’clock; according to Lorna and Ken, that hadn’t happened before. Very moving, and a little eerie.

We move through to the Education Room, formerly known as the Devil’s Elbow, previously used as a dungeon and barracks (not at the same time though). Most appropriate. This takes us out onto a wee walkway very high above Edinburgh

Ken and Lorna explain that we’re going to be writing poems in three parts, and the first stanza is based on the Memorial, so pupils are asked to write down who and what they saw in the frieze. After a little shyness, suggestions include cavalry; cold weather soldier with fur collar; someone with a camel; a pilot with a biplane; animals including dogs, camels, horses, pigeons; weapons including rifles, pistols, machine guns and shells; and the words on the memorial itself: their name liveth; God holds their souls in their hands. 

The first verse is based around pupils’ own experience of being in the memorial, sharing ideas and moving lines about to make the best impact.  

Now Lorna asks for some helpers, but everyone is feeling a bit shy so staff try to volunteer one or two bodies, and then some brave souls step up. Lorna asks why they volunteered and their answers are fascinating:

  • because I was being made to
  • because I thought it might be fun
  • because no-one else was.

Lorna points out that these three responses can sum up most soldiers’ reasons for enlisting. She also explains that there was a tradition for Scots to volunteer, and far larger ratios of Scots volunteered than other countries of the UK. Soldiers had to be at least 5’3″, with 34″ chest, and 18 years old, or 19 for moving out to France. However, the records show many, many recruits who did not match these criteria.  

Mark volunteers to get dressed in typical soldier gear including a jacket, greatcoat, goatskin, webbing pack with pockets, balaclava, helmet, gas mask. It was believed the helmet could stop bullets, but it didn’t. The goatskin smelled as it was smoked for preservation.

National Poetry Day 2015

Staff displayed their favourite poems for National Poetry Day 2015. Ms Steinert also offered staff the chance to create a poster for their poems using Illustrator software.

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All images copyright free or used with permission at Mrs Macfadyen’s insistence.

Scottish Schools’ Young Writer of the Year 2015

Newly-former pupil, Gemma Grier, has just been named the Scottish Schools’ Young Writer of the Year 2015.


The competition was open to 15-18 year old pupils writing a non-fiction piece of 1,000 words which commented on experiences, events or people. The judges were Kenneth Roy, Chair of the Institute of Contemporary Scotland and editor of the Scottish Review; Rose Galt, former president of the Educational Institute of Scotland; Katie Grant, novelist, journalist and Royal Literary Fund consultant fellow; and Professor Walter Humes, visiting professor of education at the University of Stirling.

Gemma’s work, Hannah, described her thoughts following a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the Holocaust Educational Trust, beginning with a single name noticed on a suitcase. Working with Principal Teacher of English, Mrs Elaine Millar, as editor, a heart-breaking and lovely original was transformed into a beautiful piece of writing, worthy of the award. The audience were moved to tears when it was read aloud at the ceremony in Glasgow on June 12th. A report and photos from the event are available on the Scottish Review website.

Congratulations to Gemma on her well-deserved success. And of course, thanks to Hannah.

Titanic Project – Titan Crane visit

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As part of our interdiscplinary project on Titanic, ten 4th years accompanied by Mrs Mulholland and Mrs Macfadyen, headed for the Titan Crane at Clydebank, to learn more about shipbuilding processes and working conditions. We were worried that the winds would prevent us being able to climb up the crane, but it was much calmer in Clydebank, and after a safety warning, we headed up in the lift.

The first thing that caught everyone’s eyes was the fantastic views from the crane. Despite the weather, we could see for miles in all directions, including downwards as the solid mesh provides excellent and somewhat stomach churning glimpses of the concrete below. However, the views of the Rivers Clyde and Cart, the Erskine Bridge, Glasgow and Lanarkshire were far more interesting, as were the constant planes flying into Glasgow airport.

Not surprisingly, some of the group were a little nervous; others were more fascinated by how the original crane drivers managed to work without any of the essential safety equipment used nowadays. Staff explained that the drivers would often climb up the structure for speed and wandered around on the girders quite fearlessly. The drivers had to climb carrying their lunch and a bucket because they couldn’t come back down until the end of their shift.

The safety discussion started questions about how many people had died from the crane; perhaps surprisingly there are no records of any deaths at all, although, the guide added, that may be because they weren’t recorded. Then the group remembered that people go bungee jumping off the crane and begged for details. Bungee jumpers squeeze through a small door in the mesh fence around the platform and walk around to the end of the crane, a thought which turned most of our group off immediately.

The view allowed the pupils to see how large John Brown’s shipyard had been before it closed, a closure which hit Clydebank as badly as Motherwell was affected by the closure of Ravenscraig. The Titan Crane is the last remaining part of the yard, but was originally only one of several.

Back on land, Titan staff provided some background on the crane. It was built by William Arrol and Co, who also built the giant gantry for Titanic at Harland and Wolff. They showed us a photo of some of the men and boys who built the crane. Like the Titanic, the Titan was held together by rivets. Rivet squads were paid as a team: the heater passed white hot rivets to the boy, who would catch the rivets in a bucket of sand or leather gloves, or even long tongs, and pass them onto the holder-up; the holder-up passed the rivet through a hole in the steel plate for the riveter to batter.

Inside the visitor centre, the staff provided some history of the yard, discussing some of ships built there: the Lusitania, the Queen Mary, and the QE2. The following day was the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania by U-boat during World War I, a reminder that the Titanic wasn’t the only disaster at sea. The team also noted that the shipyards mainly escaped the Clydebank Blitz during World War II, possibly because the bombers mistook rain shining on the long winding Dumbarton Road as the River Clyde.

It was a fascinating visit: we discovered a great deal about the life of a shipbuilder, made some further unexpected ties to Titanic, and found out a lot more about Scottish industry.

Our thanks to the team at the Titan Crane for their warm welcome and for sharing their knowledge.

Titanic Project – Scottish Maritime Museum – Denny Tank Visit

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Following the visit to the Titan Crane, the Titanic group headed for the Denny Experimental Tank at Dumbarton, part of the Scottish Maritime Museum.

The experimental tank was built by the Denny Brothers, the shipbuilding company famous for the Cutty Sark. The tank allowed the company to test hull designs before building the full size versions, giving them competitive advantage over other businesses. There’s even a direct connection with Titanic as the collapsible lifeboats were designed and tested at Dennys!

Museum staff explained how the tank worked, and demonstrated the towing equipment. The tank itself is 100m long and extremely deep. Emptying the tank took over a week! Pupils tried out the minitank which demonstrates how differently shaped hulls travel at slightly different speeds and are affected differently by waves.

Pupils learned how the paraffin wax hulls were created, before having a go at carving for themselves, although we had a bit of a weird moment when a certain nameless pupil compared the wax shavings to skin! You known who you are.

Heading upstairs, the group explored the drawing office, a wee treasure trove of tools used by the designers, equipment, including the graph paper making machine, and box after box of records, all beautifully handwritten. The 1887 advert for apprentices was quite someting, requiring applicants to sit exams for Maths, Theoretical Mechanics, Practical Plane and Solid Geometry and Mechanical Drawing.

We also learned some of the social history of the shipbuilders, including the fact that their wages were docked for spending too long in the toilet, or even for having too much tea! They had football teams and company events, and were a major part of life in Dumbarton. Their closure affected the town in the same way as the closure of Ravenscraig affected Motherwell.

Perhaps weirdest of all, we discovered that the company emblem was a blue elephant, which comes from Dumbarton’s coat of arms. Apparently, Dumbarton’s coat of arms features an elephant because Dumbarton Rock looks like an elephant. Apparently.

Sam Hepburn

2nd year pupils enjoyed a visit from author, Sam Hepburn, on her tour with the Scottish Book Trust.

Sam shared fascinating stories from her research, including Ukrainian prison tattoos, escape from flash floods, and Afghan warlords working in London pizza parlours. Throughout, she encouraged pupils to read as much as they could, from all genres and from real life.

She also discussed her love of crime stories, and how the authors can fool readers with misdirection, even explaining why red herrings are called red herrings!

Pupils asked all sorts of questions, about inspiration, characters and Sam’s work at the BBC, and queued up for photos and autographs.

Scottish Book Trust works to inspire readers and writers in Scotland, through Book Week Scotland, Authors Live, awards and author visits in schools.

Yay YA+ 2015

Thirty pupils from 3rd year took part in the inaugural YAY YA+ event at Cumbernauld Theatre, which celebrated Young Adult authors living and working in Scotland. Organised by author, Kirkland Ciccone, pupils had the opportunity to meet with authors, Cathy MacPhail, Theresa Breslin, Barry Hutchison, Linda Strachan, Lari Don, Alex Nye, Matt Cartney, Roy Gill and Victoria Campbell.

Pupils found the discussions between authors fascinating, especially since they often didn’t agree with each other, and provided a range of views on how to write, what to read and whether to read the book before seeing a film! The selfie station was well used and there were plenty of photos and autographs collected.

Further reports will appear on the Library blog.

Sam Hepburn

Author, Sam Hepburn, will be visiting OLHS on Wednesday 29th April to speak to S2 pupils, as part of a Scottish Book Trust tour.

After the talk, Sam will sign copies of her books. If any pupils already own copies they can bring them along to be signed. Alternatively, you can also buy copies of Sam’s books on the day at the reduced price of £5. No-one is under any obligation to buy books but if you would like to, the organisers are able to accept cash and cheques (please make them out to Scottish Book Trust).

In addition, the Library has two sparkly new copies of Sam’s latest novel, If you were me, which will be won (and signed by Sam) by the pupils with the best questions on the day.

If you were me by Sam Hepburn

If you were me” tells the story of Aliya, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, and Dan, a British boy.

Aliya’s family escape to the UK after her brother, Behrouz, was put on a death list by the Taliban for acting as an interpreter for the British army in Afghanistan. Far from the ideal life she imagines, Aliya discovers life as an asylum seeker in Britain is very difficult, and struggles to cope with racism and horrible living conditions. Then her brother is caught up in an explosion and the police say he was a terrorist who accidentally set off one of his own bombs.

Meanwhile, Dan has been helping his Dad, a plumber who’s been working on the estate where Aliya lives. He’s seen a gun in Aliya’s house, but he’s also witnessed Behrouz being beaten up and knocked unconscious, and knows there’s more to the story than what’s on the news. But he’s also discovered that his Dad’s plumbing business is involved in some way. So when Aliya asks for help, he joins her attempts to clear Behrouz’s name, in the hope that he can clear his Dad too, and before the police find out.

Sam Hepburn website