History in objects project brought to classrooms

Primary schools to get interactive lessons on emigrant’s teapot and Tara brooch

Presley Ogedegbe and Caitlin Whelan from 6th Class at the Model School on Marlborough Street launching new  lesson plans for primary schools with Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and Fintan O’Toole, author of a History of Ireland in 100 Objects. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Presley Ogedegbe and Caitlin Whelan from 6th Class at the Model School on Marlborough Street launching new lesson plans for primary schools with Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and Fintan O’Toole, author of a History of Ireland in 100 Objects. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 11:51

An elegant black Georgian tea-pot used by one boy’s great-grandparents was one contribution by pupils at a Dublin school to the emigrant’s teapot lesson which is being made available to all primary schools.

The late 19th to mid-20th century artefacts is one of 14 chosen from the ’History of Ireland in 100 Objects’ project for a series of interactive lesson plans launched today.

The objects are a “creative entry point into a lesson” said Kathryn Russell, a teacher at the Central Model School on Dublin’s Marlborough Street.

Teaching ideas and activities for fifth and sixth class pupils accompany each object. Her students, with roots ranging from Georgia, Poland, Nigeria, Mauritius and Ireland, had brought in their own family teapots or listed five things they would bring with them if they were emigrating. Answers were sensible rather than fanciful ranging from food and water to passports and birth certificates.

The lesson plans are supported by a wide range of audio and visual material Some children in the classroom today watched archive footage on their tablet computers of a tinsmith crafting a teapot while others looked up at the white board to see ceramicist Derek Wilson’s artistic reaction to the teapot.

“Museums helped out by allowing schools to access videos and other materials for free,” said Ruth Hegarty of the Royal Irish Academy which collaborated on the 100 objects project with National Museum of Ireland and The Irish Times.

The plans have been piloted in five schools and each lesson has been academically peer reviewed, Ms Hegarty said. Feedback from teachers were that children found the use of the object “engaging” she said

The other objects chosen for the lesson plan include a Viking slave chain, the Tara brooch, Daniel O’Connell’s chariot and an Eileen Gray chair.

Lesson plan author Fionnuala Ward said she picked the 14 items to span across time (5,000 BC to 1926) and to fit the curriculum. She adapted the original accompanying pieces written by Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole to make them more suitable for children.

She wanted to ensure they were based in museums both inside and outside the Capital to encourage schools everwhere to visit.

The project was introduced under the Government’s new arts in education charter which promotes visits by school children to cultural institutions. The initiative received funding from the Department of Education and support from Educate Together.

“These lesson plans are an excellent example of integrating our heritage and the arts into the classroom,” Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said today. Former history teacher Mr Deenihan, quoting philosopher Cicero, told pupils, “not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever.”

“These lesson plans will help to bring history to life for our primary school children and will stimulate them to look into their own family and local history,” Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said.

For more information: 100objects.ie/education