Archives and education – it doesn’t just have to be about history

Part of an archivist role is to allow access to the archives they care for, one way of doing this is through outreach work. As many of you will know here we run a remote enquiry service and cannot allow the public physical access to our records however we still manage to provide outreach through online educational resources. Over the years I have found that a lot of archive outreach programmes focus on history but if in theory we don’t keep archives for historical purposes why should we only promote them in teaching that subject? Last year we launched the Voices of Volunteering School Resources; they aim to provide learning materials for educators teaching a variety of subjects and skills.

Using our resources can actively help pupils to take part in volunteering and learn how to be good citizens and improve society. Firstly pupils learn about the role of Royal Voluntary Service today caring for older people through the memories of volunteers recorded in oral histories. The other resource discusses how in the 1990s WRVS moved from a Crown Service to a Charity and how volunteers started to fundraise in their local areas. They aim to encourage pupils to raise money for the charity in schools. It also uses some recipes from the Bulletin, volunteers and Civil Defence Cards to inspire ideas. Both resources focus on Citizenship, English and volunteering using archives and teaches skills such as planning, collaboration, problem solving, advocacy, campaigning and evaluation.  

The second set of lesson plans encourages students to get involved in debates surrounding volunteering and citizenship by using oral histories to highlight volunteers opinions and experiences. The debates include:    

  • Why do people volunteer?   
  • What are the benefits of volunteering?      
  • How has it evolved in over 75 years?

You might be thinking these resources just give students basic comprehension skills listen to a few short clips and then answer some questions. However they are more exciting than that; they allow pupils to interpret, discuss and debate helping them to form their own opinions on how we can improve society.

For example we have one resource titled “How does volunteering enhance your life as a volunteer?” This  uses  volunteers'experiences of working in different  WRVS services including Meals on Wheels and Hospital Canteens. Using these archives pupils on the roles of different types of active or potential volunteers:

They then debate the following topic:

Afterwards pupils reflect on the different interpretations of the situation and come to a conclusion about how volunteering can enhance people's lives. Using oral histories in this way teaches:

Citizenship
KS3:To describe the roles played by voluntary groups in society, and the ways in which citizens work together to improve their communities

KS4: To describe the different ways in which a citizen can contribute to the improvement of his or her community

GCSE AQA English

To respond to the questions and views of others, adapting talk appropriately to context and audience.  

As you can see Archives can be used in different ways in outreach programmes in a verity of subjects and not just to answer set questions.  

You can see how we’ve used archives to teach secondary school and further education students about a other topics including: PHSE, drama, volunteering and history on our Voices of Volunteering resource site.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 15 May 2017.

Labels: Archives, Education, Oral history, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Voices of Volunteering

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