Excellence and Equity Awards 2017

School awards highlight positive initiatives

Excellence and Equity Awards 2017
Productive Partnerships – Purposeful Learning
Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell
Titanic Project

 As a result of changes to SQA exams, staff at Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell, spotted an opportunity to provide an exciting programme of interdisciplinary experiences for some of our National 4 students. Our aim was to help pupils gain additional qualifications while expanding their life experiences and raising awareness of the options available to them on leaving school, all through focusing on the Titanic disaster.

We are now approaching the third year of this vibrant project which runs over three weeks of the SQA diet. The programme coordinators are PT Pupil Support, Lyn Zambonini, and Library Resource Centre Manager, Jennifer Macfadyen and involves staff from across Our Lady’s High School, local businesses, voluntary groups and national organisations.

Following an initial introduction, the programme is split into four broad areas: ship building and design; life aboard the Titanic; the disaster itself; and the rediscovery of the wreck.

We were stunned to discover that the steel plates that built Titanic had actually come from the Colville Steelworks in Motherwell, making a wonderful connection with our local heritage. Pupils were lucky to experience Tata, now Liberty Steel, in the process of rolling the steel plates with a guided tour by staff at the plant, who also provided pupils with many stories of life at the steelworks and a thorough grounding in Health and Safety routines.

Although the Titanic was built in Belfast, we were able to take advantage of the Clyde’s vast experiences in ship-building, visiting the Titan Crane at Clydebank, and the Denny Tank Museum at Dumbarton. Titan staff explained how riveting gangs worked, how the shipyards were a part of the community and how dangerous life was while the Denny Flotation Tank demonstrated the engineering expertise involved in designing and testing ships’ hulls. The group also discovered that Denny’s was even involved in testing some of Titanic’s lifeboats. This information became invaluable when learning about buoyancy with Science teachers back at OLHS, and designing their own hulls.

Pupils also learned more about some of the passengers and crew aboard and the different lives they led on a luxury liner depending on their class. English showed the films, A Night to Remember and Titanic, and compared the special effects and reliability of each. Our group were able to put their new-found knowledge into practice by working with Lifestyle Development staff to create a shipboard lunch for staff – although staff did not know until the last minute whether they would receive the 1st, 2nd or 3rd class treatment and dining experience.

To bring everything up to date we contacted Greenock Ocean Terminal who kindly arranged for us to have a tour of the Caribbean Princess. We used this experience as a focus on careers, bringing along our Careers Advisor, Miss Ruth Robertson from SDS to provide detailed advice. Seeing aboard a real cruise ship gave pupils a whole new way of looking at the world, and the numerous careers open to them. They were also keen to compare the Caribbean Princess to what they had already learned about ship design. They were definitely impressed by the safety regulations and the numbers of lifeboats.

Turning our attention to the disaster itself, Mr Walter Lee from the RNLI kindly came along to demonstrate what happened with the iceberg and graphically explain what would have happened to the Titanic’s passengers in the water, including the effects of hypothermia – he even brought along his own mini iceberg!

Other activities have included creating a map of the world demonstrating the Titanic’s route (Social Subjects); printing and poster making (Art and Design); trying out Morse code (Science); an afternoon swimming courtesy of NL Leisure (Lifestyle Development); building their own model Titanic (Social Subjects / Art); discussion of moral issues relating to women and children first and the treatment of 3rd class passengers (RE); further moral issues relating to the wreck arose following a screening of Ghosts of the Abyss: should the Titanic be raised? Should material be removed? Should the ship be left to rust to nothing? (English); and multi-lingual newspaper front pages (Modern Languages).

With so many stories being generated from the project, we wanted pupils to be able to record the aspects that were most important to them, from the ‘women and children first’ policy, to the lifeboats, to the role of the wireless operator, so we introduced the group to storyteller, Allison Galbraith, thanks to part-funding from the Scottish Book Trust. Allison demonstrated the art of storytelling, and guided the group through creating and recording their own stories, helping them to record their own voices for posterity. Allison started by introducing herself and just talking with the group, building pupils’ confidence in speaking before a stranger. As a result, although pupils were nervous about recording, they were keen to participate. Allison also demonstrated breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups before recording began, with further advice on presentation as we worked through the stories. Despite occasionally breaking into the giggles, every pupil managed to record their own work beautifully.

Discussion with pupils led to an additional trip which saw us taking the ferry to Rothesay and the stunning Mount Stuart House. This mansion was completed in 1912, the same year as the Titanic disaster and thus pupils were not only able to experience actually travelling across water – a new experience for all of them – but to see luxurious interiors similar to those of the ship they’d been learning all about.

The Titanic Project continues to develop with partnerships emerging as various individuals and groups express an interest in participating. In 2016, our pupils were even able to join with St Brendan’s Primary as part of their anniversary visit to Belfast to see the Titanic Museum for themselves.

The Titanic Project has been a huge success over the last two years. We have seen the pupils blossom, gaining in confidence, pulling together as a team, and their ideas of what’s available to them in the future have expanded rapidly. Each year pupils have created an exhibition of their experiences which have been visited by classes from across OLHS and visitors to the school, leading to further discussions and expressions of interest. Last year all of the pupils involved achieved the SQA qualifications. “Local investigations” at SCQF level 4.

Feedback from pupils themselves has been outstanding:

”I thought it would be boring, but it was brilliant!”;

“I liked how we went on adventures and explored all the museums”;

“I seemed to get a better relationship with people that I hadn’t spoken to since primary”;

”I actually wanted to come to school!”

The Project continues to explore new ground and build new partnerships. Staff coordinators continue to collect materials, ideas and contacts and we look forward to its continuing success long into the future.

 

 

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Titanic Project – Shipboard Lunch

The Titanic class organised a lunch for staff, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd class menus. Staff were asked to select a ticket at random, at which point our Titanic stewards appeared and asked to see their ticket, then escorted them to their seats (1st class), showed them the way (2nd) or pointed in the general direction of the right table (3rd).

The entire group also provided a welcome to staff, and explained that profits from the lunch would be donated to the RNLI.

Many thanks to Mrs Stemplis and Miss Carnegy from the Home Economics.

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.

The Titanic Project

On Tuesday 4th May, a group of 4th year pupils will begin working on a three week interdisciplinary project about the RMS Titanic. Pupils will explore the story of the ship through online adventures, quizzes, educational visits, artwork, DVDs, visiting speakers and research, covering topics from ship-building to lunches aboard to the discovery of the wreck. They will investigate the people affected by TItanic’s story and debate ideas raised before creating an exhibition of everything they’ve discovered.

Departments from across OLHS have volunteered their expertise and assistance, including Art, Science, Social Subjects, Home Economics, RE, English, Modern Languages, the Library and our Careers Advisor.

The project is being managed by PT, Mrs Zambonini, DHT, Mrs Mulholland and LRC Manager, Mrs Macfadyen. Please contact any of them if you would like further information.