The Sea Company

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Well, the Sea Company have finished their big commission and has finally wound down. This moment happened to co-incide with our school open evening. As our school is, very sadly, closing down at the end of this academic year, each class had taken on the theme of a decade from the past. As the children have been so consumed by the work of the company, my class decided to choose the Edwardians and set up the whole classroom around the Titanic project. We dressed up as Edwardians, displayed all our research and information about the dive, invited visitors to fill in details on a giant picture of the Titanic, ran videos of salvages and original footage of the ship, set up the computers with the passenger and crew lists and the interactive CD Rom and ran a Titanic quiz. It was great for the parents and other children in the school to see what we have been doing and to take part in the activities.

The children have loved this Mantle. I've loved it too - it's been fascinating, exciting and full of so many possibilities, many of which we never had time to explore. The ultimate tragedy of the story has produced many moments of real poignancy and depth of thought. It's the people that have been the real hook for the children - they've really cared and this has come through time and time again in their spoken thoughts, their pictures and their writing. I'm so thrilled the parents have been so on board and have really seemed to understand and appreciate the nature of this work and what their children have got out of it.

I've learned so much working through this Mantle - it's been a bit of a roller coaster at times but I think I'm getting better at sequencing, thinking through those all important steps to get to a moment, using the conventions and refining my use of language, particularly questioning, to get to the heart of things with my wonderful team of children. They have been amazing - offering me so many gifts and new pathways through the creativity and freedom of their thoughts and ideas.

Thank you also to all the other people who have supported and inspired me along the way: Michael, Dene, Serena, Lisa, Luke, Brian, Tim, Catrin, Emma, Sal, Julia, Emily to name a few!

What next? Well, it looks like the children are raring to set up a health and fitness club - we've come across this poor guy who really needs our help .............


For this episode we worked in role as the museum staff, organising the exhibition of artefacts from the salvage. We started off by discussing what the exhibition would look like: glass cases containing the artefacts with writeen information about each object; a display about the salvage operation; live interviews with people from the salvage company; videos of the salvage and old footage of the Titanic; a children's area with hands on activities; facilities for disabled people (audio materials for blind people etc). Sombody phoned the salvage company to ask them to prepare display boards about the salvage operation ready for the exhibition.

Advertising: we want people to come from far and wide to this exhibition (it co-incides with the 90th anniversary of the sinking.) We began to plan an advertising campaign, with the team drawing / creating their advertising ideas: posters; TV and radio adverts; internet adverts on related sites; letters to members of the various Titanic societies;hot air balloons and aeroplanes with banners! Lots of great ideas for names for the exhibition 'Hidden Secrets of the Titanic' being the most popular.

At this point we resumed our role as the salvage company, preparing the display boards for the exhibition. The team created photographs with captions, recounts of dramatic moments from the salvage and interviews with members of the team which we stuck onto big display boards ready to send to the museum. While we were doing this we received a letter of thanks from the museum, our payment in full for the salvage and an invitation to the opening ot the exhibition. The letter said that there would also be some sort of presentation to us on the day.

Back at the museum: preparations for the exhibition continue. We planned and made Exhibition guides, giving information and plans showing people the way round the exhibition. We made labels for each of the artefacts to go on display with information about who they belonged to.We then enacted the process of physically setting up the displays, unpacking the artefacts and putting them with their labels into the display cases and placing the display boards around the room. The rest of the museum room was signed by pieces of paper stuck up representing the children's area, entrance area, toilets etc.

The opening day! The class split up into museum staff and salvage company members, with a classroom assistant inrole as the museum curator. I was in role as one of the salvage team, approaching the exhibition full of anticipation. We paused outside the entrance to the museum to say how we were feeling about finally seeing all the artefacts we had salvaged on display. 'Excited - proud - nervous'. We were welcomed to the musuem by the curator and shown round the exhibition by the museum staff. After a while the curator summoned us to a meeting where she thanked us for the great job we'd done and presented us with a plaque.

Back at our HQ in Cromer we put the plaque in pride of place in our newly refurbished reception area and reflected on the whole dive and salvage. The team then began remembering other events from our history - the burglary, the salvage of The Red Flotilla, John Davies ....... I felt things were begining to draw to a natural end. We'd shared some great times together, but maybe it was time to move on ..........

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Episode 24- Titanic artefacts restoration

We need to complete the Museum commission by restoring the researching the objects we have salvaged. We reminded ourselves of the layout of our restoration room (we mapped this out a long time ago), of the equipment in the room and our own restoration kits. we then went to work, carefully restoring the objects, filling in the restoration report forms as we worked. I 'evesdropped' on the restorers, asking about what they were doing / how it was going / what the objects were etc.

We met together at the end to share some of the artefacts we had been restoring. We were particularly interested in a locket with a photo inside that seemed to have 4 diamonds inlaid. The child who had been restoring this could give a clear description of what it looked like, so I began to draw it on the whiteboard. I then asked if she would mind other peole taking a look. She placed the locket on a chair and the others took in in turns to go to the chair, pick it up, sit and look at it carefully and tell the others one thing that they noticed.

The detail that we built up was amazing. One person found a spring that revealed a secret compartmant with another photo inside. Someone else noticed some worn bits of writing engraved into the gold. Somone else thought that the diamonds might not be real. 'I know how to test for real diamonds!' someone said 'you try to cut a piece of glass with them - if it cuts the glass it's a real diamond!'. So he went out with a small team to do tests on the diamonds while we went on discussing the locket. We started speculating on the person who might have owned it. I asked them if they would like to go back in time and meet the person it belonged to and went into role as they asked me questions. I love the way they slip into the conventions so easily now - they're questioning was superb - they wheedled the whole story out of me, however ambigous I tried to be! They would do a superb job as interrogators!!

At this pont the Spring Term was drawing to a close. we had completed our big commission (it had taken two weeksof real time!)/ All that was left was to send the artefacts and reports to the museum and wait for their feedback. We reflected on the whole commission - high points and low points. Had we stuck to our company promises? Had we kept to the rules of the dive? Were we proud of our work? Was there any part of the job we could have done better? The trapped team and the rescue came up as the significant moment of the whole mission. We felt that we should be proud of the fact that we were the sort of people who are willing to risk their own lives to save their friends. 'They would have done the same for us', someone said.

Episode 23 - The big dive!

Letter from museum received - great excitement! The letter says that we have been granted permission to salvage artefacts from The Titanic that belonged to The White Star Line, but we would have to obtain a special licence to salvage personal items from passengers and crew (obtainable from 'The Titanic Relatives Society.) The museum did say that they would be particularly interested if we could get this licence and would pay us substantially more for the salvage!! They would also like us to restore and research the objects found.

We had a long discussion about this, ending in two opposing factions - those who thought we should just salvage WSL objects and those who thought we should try to get the extra license. We had previously watched a video of one of real scientific expeditions to The Titanic, during which an argument ensued about whether the team should pick up a suitcase found on the sea bed. One of the guys had said 'it's not in our contract - it's not ours to touch!" and the children were fascinated by this - it certainly affected the viewpoints of some of the class who agreed with him. They were also adamant that they were not in it for the money! The other side were not just motivated by greed, however - some of them thought it was important for people to see these things 'it's the most interesting bit' someone said. They also believed that it would be ethically sound as long as the relatives society agreed. Eventually, about 2/3 of the class agreed to write to ask for the licence. I contracted the others into still going ahead with the dive but them being responsible for picking up the WSL stuff - they were happy with this.

The next day we received a letter and licence from 'The Titanic Relatives Society'. They said they thought it was important for people to know about what happened and they were happy for us to salvage personal objects - they also thought they might be able to find out more about their relatives from us.

We could now begin to plan for the dive. We worked together to make a list of what we needed to do to prepare. We also talked about potential dangers - we had seen on the video a minor accident where the sub hit part of the wreckage. The team had immediately decided to return to the surface beacsue of presure on the sub's roof. One of the team had also talked about being trapped 'it would take us about 3 days to freeze to death', he said. I asked, at this point, if there was anyone not willing to face the dangers of the dive. About 6 people weren't so they opted to stay at mission control on the salvage ship during the dive.

At this point someone reminded me that we hadn't done any submersible training - our last few dives have all been free diving. So we decided to run a re-training session. we sorted ourselves into sub teams, each with a driver, a robotic arm worker, a viewer, a photographer and a radio operator. I acted as sub trainer and we watched each sub as I asked them to demonstrate moving round underwater; using the robotic arms; reporting a view seen through the monitor; taking a photograph and reporting back to me via the radio. The rest of the group fed back to each sub team 2 examples of good work and an area to improve on.

Huge engagement here - I was so impressed with the way the teams sorted themselves out with the jobs - I dodn't need to intervene at all - their collaboration was something to be seen today. The feedback worked really well too. They had remembered a previous rule we had worked out together that we don't name individuals who need to improve - just using a generic term e.g. 'some people need to ....'.

At this point the teams had decided there should definitely be some specific rules for this dive as it was pretty special. Each team came up with their own set of rules. I thought it might be a good idea to feep a record of each team's mission so I'd made big sugar paper folders to put all the information about t he dive in. I took photos of each team, posing proudly and they wrote their names and jobs on the folders. They then worked together to draw their subs (They all had unique features!) and all the equipment they would need for the dive. There was a big discussion about where the robotic arms actually placed the salvaged artefacts, so we had various ingeneous inventions including airtight compartments and special boxes attached to the top of the sub.

OK - we were ready for the dive. I wanted to start this soon after register - it just seemed like the most important thing on all our minds so we got on with it staright away. We drew the curtains to make it as dark as possible. The teams positioned themsleves in their subs. The room was hushed. One team worked on the salvage ship, sorting equipment and preparing for the objects that would be brought back up. I was on the radio at mission control receiving messages from each sub and asking questions about what was going on. Suddenly someone reported a dim shape in the distance. It was The Titanic. At this point I froze the action. I asked each sub team to agree on which part of the ship they could see. Some said they were above the main deck, some at the bow of the stern, one team near the mast where the reamins of the crows nest could still be seen. (No need to remind anyone of the technical language - it was all there!). Then I asked the photographers to take pictures of what they could see. I also did some thought tracking - asking individuals how they were feeling / what they were thinking. 'I've never felt like this before' said someone.

Then the distress signal came - SOS from the team near the bow - 'some wreckage has fallen on us - we're trapped!' We stopped the action for a moment and I asked the trapped team to come to the middle of the room while the rest of us sat in a circle around them. I then asked them to position themselves as they were just before the accident happened - then to move in slow motion to how they looked just after the accident. (I love this convention - very powerful watching the change - it was all quite subtle actually.) The teams then questioned the trapped team about waht was happening - it transpired that there was a large piece of wreckage on top of the sub. There was still a couple of hours worth of oxygen, but the emergency supply had been damaged. The crew were feeling calm but worried. They were pretty cold too.

We then needed to agree what to do. Each team decided to go off to plan a rescue, including the salvage ship team who decided to send down a remote control sub. Two teams decided to work together on the rescue. Then each rescue was carried out with the rest of the group watching. I asked a member of the trapped team to put up a hand when they felt the rescue had been achieved. It was taking a while with some of the teams so we decided to do a countdown - luckily a hand went up each time - sometimes precariously close to the end - it was pretty tense! The first part of the dive had to stop at this point.

Next day we reviewed what had happened. The teams were pretty proud of the rescue operation - we used the good old blob tree to discuss how we were feeling at different times during the first part of the dive and the rescue. We then recieved a phone call from HQ in Cromer saying that accident and rescue reports needed to be filled in for company records. The session was spent filling in report forms and also drawing the 'photographs' of the first view of The Titanic and adding personal captions (relating to the thought tracking). These were all stored in the team folders.

The dive now needed to continue - time for the actual retrieval of objects. The teams worked busily, picking up objects, taking photos and reporting back on the radio what they were finding. The teams returned to the salvage ship regularly with baskets of objects and the ship teamworked to store them and lable them on board. At the end of this session they drew the artefacts they had found, noting the condition. There were a few mystery objects that could not be identified. They were pleased at the end of this that only a couple of items had been damaged, not through clumsiness, but because the objects were so badly decayed. (Drawing on knowledge here from our salt water test!).

I was really pleased with the big dive so far - I really think we've reached obsession mode here - the children are loving every minute of it and takin gthe work so seriously. I'm seriously proud of them!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Museum Visit

Unfortunately I was not able to go to the Museum with the children as I was running an MoE workshop elsewhere. A colleague who is experienced in using MoE took my place and fed back on the fabulous morning the children spent in role as restorers. The museum staff took on their role admirably and looked at our company portfolio and information books about The Titanic - they were suitably impressed.

In the week building up to the visit we had started to discuss materials on the Titanic and had been looking at underwater video footage from expeditions down to the wreck to see how these materials had fared after 75 years at the bottom of the Atlantic. We had also been looking at photographs of restored objects from the Titanic and noting their condition. The children wanted to set up their own investigation looking at how different materials fare over time on salt water so we now have a tub ful of salt water and a range of artefacts which is eagerly examined each day.

The workshop at the museum fitted beautifully in with this as the restorers were presented with a range of genuine artefacts which might or might not have come from Edwardian times. they had to write salvage reports on each artefact, including predictions about how these would survive in sea water. The children were really enthusiastic about the visit and are now waiting to hear whether the museum are going to commission us to dive down to the Titanic. They think they were pretty impressed by our work, but, modestly, reckon we have a 50/50 chance of being chosen for the job. We'll see!!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Navratil Brothers

The children have been eager to find out more about the story of the Navratil brothers, age 2 and 3 who survived the sinking of the Titanic after being kidnapped by their father, boarding the ship with the false name of Hoffman, Their father passed them into the last lifeboat and died in the sinking. I decided to spend two weeks exploring the whole story through drama conventions, with each child making their own ongoing information book about the story of the boys.

Here is the teaching sequence :

1. Mother and Father in France. Choose 3 children to be the mother and the children as they say goodbye to the father. Decide together how the group will look as they leave (frozen image). Father is looking out of a window, watching his children leaving. Rest of class position themselves as father (collective role). Thought track what the father is thinking. The three people leaving are activated to call back a parting message to father (rest can help by going to one of the trio and whispering what to say.)

2. The kidnap. Look at a poster advertising the Titanic’s voyage to a America – remind children that hundreds of people saw this as a start to a new life in a new country. Children in role as father come and stand looking at the poster, saying what they are thinking.

This worked particularly well. Some of the children are now beginning to use ambiguous language as if they are aware of the power of suggestion and uncertainty in the drama e.g. one boy looked at the poster thoughtfully, turned round to the rest of the class and said'It's time .....'

3. How is Michel going to explain to the boys what is going to happen?
Teacher in role as dad – class in role as boys – as Dad tries to explain that he is
going to take them away, the boys ask him questions.

4. Father tells the boys they need to pack just one suitcase, taking only the things they
need. Children go to draw what they pack in their suitcase (in special books). Also
stick in passenger information about the boys and father. (My class to design cover
for book in ICT.)

5. On board the Titanic. Shared drawing of 2nd class cabin (me drawing big picture as the class tell me all the details to include.) Children to draw their own cabins in their books.

I love this convention - it always works really well, with a huge outpouring of ideas - amazing detail.

6. In role as the children (work in threes). Decide together one of the things you were doing on board. Make into photograph with a caption – two as children, one as caption reader. Draw the photograph and add the caption in your book.

7. The sinking : create frame distance by observations concerning the boys and their father coming from different characters on board the ship:

The passenger who helped to dress and carry the boys on deck.
Captain Smith
Molly Brown
Margaret Hays
One of the children on board.

All these people saw something relating to the boys in the confusion. Sit in 5 groups - one for each role. Take it in turns to call out one thing you saw.

This was an exhausting session, but worth it as the children were very engaged and there was a charged atmosphere because we were dealing with the 'big' moment'. I didn't want the action to get panicky or silly, hence the frame distance by them observing what was happening to the boys rather than being the boys. This seemed to work well.I was given a 'gift' when one child said he had climbed up inot the crows nest and was looking down ontoi the deck, so we all took on that role and said what we could see.

8. Group of children to form the circle of crew around Collapsible Lifeboat D. Child in role as Margaret Hays in lifeboat. Teacher in role as 2nd officer Charles Lightoller (also controlling / slowing down action.) Father and friend with children approach the lifeboat, step by step – CL will keep calling stop to check the rules are being kept ‘women and children only!’ etc. + asking questions to the two men. Children are handed through to Margaret Hays.

The role of Margaret Hays was taken on by a bright girl who has found it quite hard to engage in the drama and is generally reluctant to speak in a whole class context, though has been happy doing all the other tasks so far. It has taken her this long, but today she was there, speaking her thoughts and totally engaged in this role. The crew, with arms linked created a real tension and, again, the 2nd officer 'controlling' the speed of the action semed to stop it descending into something more chaotic or superficial. Someone suggested at this point that we read out the actual words that the father said to his eldest son as he passed him into the lifeboat, so I found the quote and asked one of the children to read it - it was a hushed and poignant moment.

In the lifeboat, looking at the Titanic sinking. Thought tracking.

10. Back in France. The mother reads the newspaper with the report about 'The orphans of the Titanic. Create a mock up of the newspaper with some headlines, a brief report and a photo of the children. Children to take turns to sit in the chair and read out the headlines and report out loud. Then continue to come to chair, look at the paper and say one thought out loud.

This was very efective. The children said afterwards that they really enjoyed this becasue they wanted to see what was inside the newspaper, especially the photograph. As in the episode of the Dad looking at the poster, their words were carefully chosen and suggestive rather than obvious.

12. The family re-united. 3 children in role (or teacher + 2 children) as mother and sons, posing for photograph for the newspapers. Rest of class in role as journalists asking them questions.

13. Look at the list and pictures of Michel Navratil’s effects, found with his body when it was pulled out of the sea (reveal these one by one). Put each piece into context e.g. coat – bought by his wife for his birthday.

Last of all, reveal the revolver (a loaded revolver was found in his pocket.)

Draw some of the items and write down beside each one the context that you have decided.

This session was incredible! They were fascinated by the very ordinary things that were found on his body - a pocket book, a pipe in a case, a bill for the hotel where he had stayed with his sons in London etc. When the gun was revealed there was a collective gasp! It was interesting that many of the children suddenly decided he was an evil man, even though they had been pretty forgiving about the kidnapping. We got into three groups at this point: those who thought he was bad; those who thought he was good and those who thought he was a mixture of bad and good. Each group took it in turns to present one reason for their case - people were allowed to change groups at any point their mind was changed. This was a huge debate that went on for nearly 20 minutes - why did he have a gun? In what circumstances would he use it? Where did he get it? Who might he fire it at?

At the end of this session several people had changed their minds more than once, but still wanted to know more. One child suggested that we should hot seat Michel and ask him some questions - others wnated to hot seat other people. Great - the children are suggesting their own drama conventions nbow to fit the situation!! We did just that and hot seated Mochel, the passenger who had helped him save the boys and his wife. Powerful stuff - the questions were so focussed beacause they really wanted to find out the truth! What was the truth? Well, even after all their questions there were still many doubts and ambiguities .....

Titanic Reunion. Show photograph of the 85 year old Michel Jr at a Titanic Reunion. In role as survivors from the Titanic, move round the reunion room introducing yourself and asking questions to others.

We actually built on this with a quick technique I thought up to focus the questioning more: the survivors got into groups of three to form a 'question circle' in which a) asks b) a question, b ) answers a) and then asks c) a question and so on in a loop. This worked so well - the groups carried it on for quite a time and the questions were realy focussed and supported - they said afterwards that if anyone got stuck then the other two helped them think of a new question. There wasn't one person in the class who couldn't manage to interact in this way. Some of the 3's said they thought they could have gone on for hours!!

The books they have made are great - they have been using ICT time to create documents such as the hotel bill and the menus on the boat the boys might have eaten. They have found photos from books and the internet which they have stuck in and captioned and have written newspaper headlines and reports. They also all wrote a dramatic account of the sinking from the point of view of one of the people in the story - some engaging and dramatic writing arose, I believe, from the fact they had 'been there' in the drama and explored different perspectives and viewpoints over time.

Parent Responses

Questionnaires were sent out to Year 2 parents after 1 ½ terms of their children working in role as a shipwreck salvage company.

Here are some quotes from the returned questionnaires - I was stunned by these responses and their understanding of the depth and range of learning in MoE:

‘ She has often talked about the company work she is involved in – she shows me the pictures and work relating to this during the morning before class begins.’

‘He will talk about what he has learned without prompting which isn’t normal. He is excited about the way you are teaching him which is brilliant!’

‘She seems very engrossed in the team effort this work involves and has told us all about the different roles. She’s the bones expert! ‘

‘She’s definitely motivated by this type of learning – there’s obviously a great deal of enthusiasm for this project, not to mention the excitement factor. She is always pleased to tell us she will be doing company work today. It’s almost role reversal and she’s become the adult!’

‘It extends and challenges her way beyond the classroom, e.g. when we were at the beach she will be beach combing for objects to include in her company work or asking us questions or looking in books we have at home.’

‘It‘s very important for her, as an only child, to learn to work in a team situation. It has stimulated her to ask various questions she might not have asked about before.’

‘It’s a great way of holding onto children’s attention and interest rather than the obvious teaching formats.’

‘She talks about it all vividly.’

‘He’s been consumed by it!’

‘She really enjoys working in the salvage company. She’s told us everyone has a role and is involved.’

‘He’s completely motivated – I believe it’s because it’s so different – personal and intriguing – he takes it to heart.

‘She is motivated - it’s the only thing she’s come home from school talking about. The role play helps her to get involved.’

‘I think it’s crucial as it covers all learning styles and needs.’

‘Carry on educating others about the importance of this exciting and much needed approach to teaching. I only wish that we could guarantee that Year 2 children will get more chances in the future to experience this imaginative work.’

‘He is coming to terms with life and death through this work together with with the archeological fascination of being involved with salvaging this historic monument.’

‘It’s a fantastic and exciting way of learning. I really like the way it has taken away some of the routine ways of learning and basics.’

‘Lots of chat about the unfolding story of the company – especially the passengers’ personal stories (i.e. The Titanic).

‘There are lots of exciting things to do – we’ve heard all about who is doing what in the company, about diving – looking at the real gear - and about the history of the Titanic . We’ve taped TV documentaries and looked up things in books to feed the interest developed.’

‘Working with the group and with partners is fun. It’s memorable and interesting. The children use their imagination to lose themselves in the drama – they’re really living these experiences rather than just learning about them in a more traditionally passive way.’

‘ He is definitely being extended. He is really keen to learn more. He’s been to the library to find books on this topic and searches on the internet.’

(An EAL parent): ‘ She said many things about the Salvage Company. She told about under the sea and the cylinder help the breath and they have special camera and clothes. The children learn lots of general education and they know real problems and solve problems.’

‘It seems to give school work a purpose.’

‘It encourages imagination and broadens their horizons – most 7 year olds would probably never give any thought to the considerations of running a company.’

‘The Titanic has completely captured his imagination. He gets very into the role play and scenarios. He was particularly interested in the lives of the people on board.’

‘I like the way that one subject can cover all sorts of curriculum areas. It makes learning more relevant and cohesive.’

‘He tells us all about it! Various jobs – he thinks he has an important job as a restorer. ‘

‘It teaches various topics in a practical sense, like entrepreneurship, research, team-work and other jobs and responsibilities.’

‘I like the way they work in a team with a focus, communicating with peers, bringing various talents and understanding.’

‘This is a creative way of teaching. They have goals and responsibilities – it is definitely a good way to learn.’

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Children of the Titanic

While we have been researching The Titanic the children have become particularly interested in the children on board ship. Using the brilliant passenger lists and information from the Encyclopedia Titanica website I created a table showing brief details of about 10 children / families of children on board i.e. names, ages, class of cabin. The children then had to choose one child or family andthink up 5 questions they would like to find out about them. Of course the main interest was whether they had died or survived, but they came up with a real range of pertinent questions.They took the questions home to research on the internet with the web address provided. Children not on the Internet did their research at school.

They were really hooked by this - the morning after they took the questions home they were running in waving information and photographs they had downloaded - and read (I hasten to add!!) with their parents' help. They were fascinated by the stories of each child which we shared with the class as they wer revealed. They were also shocked to find out that only one out of all the 1st and 2nd class children died, whereas 53 out of 75 3rd class children died. (Many questions were asked about this and we need to explore this further).

Over the next two weeks everyone in the class had found out valuable information which we made into a 'Children of The Titanic' folder. The parents had also become really involved - there is a real feeling of productive obsession in the class right now, with me poring over Titanic books at weekends and parents and children working together to find out more and bring in books,photographs, magazine articles and other information. We even have a replica of the Daily Mirror the day after the wreck, reporting everyone on board safe!

I have been getting so many positive comments from parents that I have sent out a questionnaire about how they view our MoE work - three back already, absolutely wowed by the comments - will put some of them on my next post!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The museum have asked us to bring a portfolio about our company when we visit them so they can examine our credentials! I asked the company members what we might put in a portfolio and we began to recall al the things that we were proud of in the history of the company as well as information like training certificates, job descriptions, ohotographs etc. They were full of lots of ideas and soon began to talk about dives, restorations and other events from our company history. I showed them the folders from the filing cabinet that contained a wide range of information and asked if a group of office workers if they could sort these out and give the appropriate information to the teams concerned. A child who is often on the sidelines has established himself as an important member of the office team - his role being the supervisor of the office noticeboard! His job is to remove or pin up items as he thinks necessary - nobody is allowed to put things onto the noticeboard until he has looked at the information and given them permission - he has really blossomed within this role and takes his job very seriously. At this moment he proudly volunteered to help oraganise and distribute the information.

We also talked about how we would present our information - plastic wallets were chosen to put in papers which would then be presented in a special folder. We then organised ourselves into different teams who discussed the information they would put into the portfolio. The ofice workers gave out relevant documents from which the teams chose samples to present and they also began to produce their own pieces of information, focussing on events that they were really proud about from the past.

The finished portfolio was impressive, containing a range of information about the company ready to present to the museum.

Our next job was to beginto research information about the Titanic so that we can show the museum that we have background knowledge for when we begin to look at the artefacts.
The company members chose to make thier own books of facts. We had some great resources to help us: a great CDRom especially produced for MoE work (given free to all conference delegates!): some excellent websites, particularly which has complete paseenger and crew listings with information about each person: some good children's inofrmation books; excerpts from the feature film (carefully censored!) and an interacive CD Rom where the children can dive down in the Nautile to explorea virtual Titanic wreck.

The children are fascinated by the story, particularly the human element, so we will use the passenger and crew list to get into some really deep explorations of the tragedy at a later point. This commission is huge and will definitely take us to the end of the academic year! In the meantime they have put together some great information books to take to the museum and are busy at home doing extra pieces of research. Parents are reporting frenzied Titanic interest! I'm sure that the depth (ha ha!) of their involvement and understanding has been greatly increased by the whole build up of the Salvage Company and all the drama and related tasks that have preceded what is going to be our first commission since we formed the company in September. I'm glad we didn't launch into a commission nearer the beginning of the work as the whole background we have explored together has created such a powerful context from which to begin this new phase of our work. I would really recommend the frame of a Salvage Company / The Titanic to anyone wnting to engage and motivate the children - beats Florence Nightingale hands down!!! (Sorry Florence - nothing personal.)

Sunday, January 07, 2007


After a lot of thought and advice from a colleague I tackled the situation of the child who wanted to quit the company. His initial reasons were 'because it sounds boring - just looking at a lot of old stuff'. He is also a child who likes to be the centre of attention and often 'plays up' to a situation for effect, so I wasn't sure how serious he was about it all. Two more important things - he is a bright, motivated child who has really enjoyed the work so far - and he was the one who emerged as the leader of our reknowned 'bones team' and took this role very seriously - all things in our favour I felt!!

We had a company meeting to discuss what should happen in the case of somebody quitting. They wanted to know how it would work in a real job, so I explained about my job: interviews, contracts, giving notice etc.They quickly decided that this member's contract would stipulate notice - ! month to be exact! Someone also mentioned that he might find it hard to get another job if he had just quit another one - someone else said he would be letting down the team. This atmosphere of condemnation, though, soon changed as other people began to say things like 'you're our bones expert - we need you'. At this point I thought it might be politic to go round the circle giving everyone a chance to say something to him about how they felt. Everybody had their say - a couple who passed first time asked me to come back to them - and every person int he circle asked hiom not to quit because: 'you're great at your job', 'we won't be able to find another bones expert like you', 'you're a good friend', we'll miss you', 'we've got so many discoveries and adventures ahead of us', 'we stick together in our team' etc etc - very moving actually - I asked C how he felt at the end, but I knew from the expression on his face as his colleagues were saying their bit. 'I feel special' - he said. (At this point, coming out of the drama, I also reminded him that if he did quit, we would have to find a whole load of alternative work for him to do for the rest of the year!!!)

Then something very interesting happened. He explained that there was a bigger reason for him wanting to go. It was his disappointment last term when we agreed to let Alison Davies have her Great Grandfather's bones. I suddenly remembered that. as head of the bones team, he had been adamant that we should hold onto the bones. He now said that he had been very upset about this - when reminded that we had voted on our decision and gone with the vast majority he was still unhappy, saying that voting is not a fair way of coming to a decision. I waqs amazed that he had been holing onto this for all this time. I said that it was a very serious issue and promised to have a full discussion of it if he decided to stay. We all decided, at theis point to let him go off to think about it and let us know later. At this point we stopped the session and began our Golden Time. After about 5 minutes C came quietly up to me and said that he'd changed his mind and would like to stay. I asked him if it was OK to tell the class and he said yes - of course a huge cheer went up at the news!!!

I think it was OK the way we handled it - with another, less robust character I might have chosen a different tack. It also shows how important it is to listen and give time to issues - if I had just dismissed it all or handled it differently I might never have heard his strong opinions and feelings about the bones dilemma. If anyone has had a similar situation, I would love to hear what you did!!

We decided to give him some time


The company have recieved a letter from the local museum asking for their help. (Our local museum service are very keen to support MoE and we have liased with them to create this scenario). The museum have recieved some objects salvaged from a shipwreck in the North Atlantic Ocean. They would like our salvage company to come and examone them as they believe they might come from The Titanic, but are not sure. If we are interested in helping them we will need to bring a portfolio about our company and some background information about The Titanic to show we are equipped for the job. ( When we visit the museum the children will handle the 'salvaged' Edwardian artefacts and write up reports on what they have discovered from them. The museum will then commission them to go to the Atlantic to finish the salvage operation.)

The class were pretty excited about this - some of them had already been talking about the Titanic and some had seen the recent film. The problem here was sorting out the real world from the drama world. I had to explain that we would really visit the museum and we would really handle the old artefacts, but they would not really be from the Titanic. Again I used the phrase 'I think it will feel real' - which they seem to relate to and understand. I also needed to explain that the museum staff will be in role in our drama and they will be behaing as if these are reall Titanic objects. Further confusions happened when the children talked about the film, so we discussed how most of the events depicted actually happened, but the love story was imaginary. We talked about how the film director would have re-created how he imagined it would all look using sets and actors.. As the children have already been working with British Film Institute materials I felt this really helped with their understanding of how films are made. I really want to use footage from the film over the next few weeks so we can discuss more of these issues, particularly interpretation - also so the children begin to get a feeling for atmosphere, personal stories of those on board and the emotional impact of the disaster.

HOWEVER - at this point one of the children declared they were not interested in the museum's request and was going to quit the company. This came out of the blue and I was a bit taken aback, as were the rest of the class! I didn't want to detract from the interest the others were showing so I asked him to just keep that on hold for the moment and we would discuss it properly a bit later - i.e. a bit of stalling so I could think through how to deal with this!!

The rest of the company agreed that they would spend the next few weeks researching information about the Titanic and working on a company Portfolio to present to the museum. we will use information books, the internet, an excellent CD Rom produced specifically in relation to MoE work , the feature film and a brilliant interactive CD Rom where the children can operate a submersible to look at real footage of the wreck, examine artefacts etc.