Primary school children explore cob, wattle and ancestral treasure at Dartington’s Deer Park

Visit our brand-new Deer Park project microsite!

First Heritage Revealed schools visit with St Margaret’s Academy from Torbay

The Dartington Hall Trust recently welcomed 57 primary school children, their teachers and volunteers from St Margaret’s Academy in Torbay to its first pilot workshop for primary schools in its Heritage Lottery Fund supported Deer Park project.

A pupil demonstrates the best bit about getting hands-on at the Deer Park
A pupil demonstrates the best bit about getting hands-on at the Deer Park

The children learnt about archaeology, history and historic building methods at the session to test the outdoor learning for primary aged children that the Trust will begin to offer to schools in Torbay and the South Hams from 2017. First off the seven and eight year olds took part in a recreation of an architectural dig. They unearthed flints, coins, buckles, buttons, clay pipes and even a thimble, and then sorted them into time periods from 10,000BC to the 19th century. The items used in the session, led by the Trust’s learning and participation coordinator Lizzie Mee, were all had previously been found on the Dartington estate.

The children went on to build a wattle fence with environmental educator Mark Jefferys and volunteer Vikki Churchill. They wove 1.5 metre cuttings of hazel between evenly spaced poles of hazel and ash: a skill that one teacher had down to a tee having learnt on his grandfather’s farm. The children then sketched what they saw on a walk meandering through the heavily wooded deer park, and finally created an animal sculpture with artist Sam Addison using a wire frame and cob – made of ‘straw, mud or poo, sand and water’ explained one pupil with delight.

Learning and Participation Coordinator Lizzie Mee said: ‘It was a wonderful start to our educational programme. Although it was a risk using our actual archaeological finds, it really paid off as it was really special seeing the children respond so enthusiastically to everything they found. We even included finds from the present day, more commonly known as litter!

Year three teacher, Lucy Worthington, of St Margaret’s Academy, Torbay, said: ‘The day was fantastic from start to finish – creative, fun and educational. I cannot praise the craftspeople enough – they engaged all learners with their infectious enthusiasm.’

A second primary school pilot and three secondary school workshops with King Edward VI Community College are to follow.

Contractors continued to work nearby on repair and conservation of the 18th century grade II listed Deer Park Wall, with the conservation works due for completion at end 2017. Work to improve and extend the pathways around the circumference of the Deer Park to increase accessibility, and interpretation materials to bring this all but lost history to life will be completed by July 2017, after which Heritage Revealed will offer guided heritage tours, family activities and educational workshops for schools.

The programme for young people fits with the Trust’s plans to expand its learning programme, with particular emphasis on ‘learning by doing’, using the estate as a living classroom – an idea that underpinned the creation of Dartington Hall School by the Trust’s founders Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst almost a century earlier.

Visit our brand-new Deer Park project microsite!

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