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On 14 March 2013 we held a workshop in St Leonard’s Church of England Primary School in Exeter. We were invited by Ms Ruth Milankovic, Mr Sam Jones and Ms Wendy Daurge to work with two Year 5 classes (Year 5 RM and Year 5 SJ). This workshop was part of the early research and development for Moor Stories, providing us with feedback which, as was the case with St David’s Church of England Primary School, is likely to impact on the development and design of the Moor Stories app.

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This time the workshop took place between two classes, though the children were all brought together at the beginning of the workshop into Mr Jones’ class to listen to Tom Cadbury’s introduction to the objects we brought from RAMM. Helen Burbage subsequently introduced the Moor Stories website. As in the previous workshop, we positioned a number of objects on each table, Bronze Age flints and arrowheads, as well as Medieval pottery, together with some contemporary illustrations to give a sense of what Dartmoor may have looked like at the times these objects were used. The children really appreciated the tactile experience, and I think that this played an important factor in inspiring the children to write a story.

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The task for the children was to write a story about the object or to include the object into a story. This was part of the school’s Just Write exercise, which gives the children regular extended writing opportunities. More specifically, the children were asked by Ms Daurge to play historical detectives and work out: ‘When, Where, Why, What and Who’ in relation to each object. With these questions in mind, Ms Daurge noted, the children could analyse the objects, produce a map and then use the map to write a longer story at a subsequent point in time. This reminded me of my earlier blog in which I mentioned Michael Shanks’ comment on the similarities between the figures of the archaeologist and the detective, both piecing ‘together clues in order to reconstruct the past’ (1987: 7). Will and I agree now that the detective theme should run across the Moor Stories app.

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There were then subtle differences in the approaches taken by the two teachers. While Ms Daurge asked the children to imagine the person they were and think of how they were going to work with each object in their daily life, Mr Jones, in the other room, encouraged the children to think of a problem that their story could hinge on. In the end, all children had slightly different takes on their instructions, with Ted, for example, asking if he could write his Moor Story as a diary and Libby preferring to focus on identifying important details about the artefact itself, almost regardless of plot constrictions.

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As you can see (above and below) the maps look absolutely brilliant and we are all very much looking forward to reading the Moor Stories written for us by the children of St Leonard’s Primary School (I will do a new blog all about hem when I finally get to see them).

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We learnt many things from the workshop and are hugely grateful to the very dedicated teachers and all the children. Observing the interaction with the website which was projected on their interactive white boards, we could see that Moor Stories could operate both as a learning tool and a creative writing tool. The teachers suggested the inclusion of video clips to describe the environment in which the objects were found and offer feedback about the historical period in which the objects were used.

Reference

Shanks, M. (1987) Social Theory and Archaeology, Polity Press: Cambridge.

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