History comes alive for 350 pupils
A partnership between the Department of Education and the Bermuda National Trust helped bring history alive for over 350 primary school students during the Covid-19 pandemic. The closure of schools and all Trust museums and historic houses as a result of the pandemic forced a switch to online learning. In-person classes and field trips were replaced by instruction delivered by Zoom and online visits to Verdmont, the Trust’s historic house in Smith’s. Dr. Dörte Horsfield, the Trust’s Director of Education, said the Trust had to adapt to the new situation and were able to customise online instruction to the Department’s needs.
Each Learning Journey consists of three lessons, which are linked to the social studies curriculum. P4 students undertook two Learning Journeys – ‘From Shipwreck Survivor to Settler Society’ and ‘Follow the Money: Agriculture’. Students learned about Bermuda’s earliest history, and how the economy and governance of the island developed under the Somer’s Isle Company. P5 students also undertook two Learning Journeys – ‘From Slavery to Emancipation’ and ‘Follow the Money: Maritime’. They learned about early migration, how slavery developed in Bermuda, and how Black Bermudians contributed to the development of Bermuda’s economy.
Students were given the opportunity to virtually meet historical figures, including Rachael, an enslaved woman with the Smith family at Verdmont. They were also able to ask Sir Thomas Gates, a survivor of the Sea Venture wreck who was on his way to serve as Governor of Jamestown, and Captain Nathaniel Butler, the third Governor of Bermuda, about shipbuilding and privateering. Thank you to veteran actor and educator Ruth Thomas, who played Rachael, and St. George’s Foundation General Manager Peter Frith, who played the parts of Gates and Butler.
The classes, which took place in May and June, were created, written and taught by Museums Manager Anna Ridgeway, who is also a qualified teacher. She said: “An opportunity arose to support the Department of Education and teachers at a critical time. It was a very rewarding experience and it gave me a greater appreciation of how challenging these times are for teachers in adapting to the current climate.”
The Department of Education sought comments from students and teachers. A Prospect Primary teacher said: “I am finding the BNT presentations very informative and the students have shared that the lessons are engaging and enjoyable as well.”
A parent who observed the lessons said: “The activities were interactive, the presenter’s energy was great, and I was happy to see my daughter learning things I didn’t when I was in school. “
A student at Elliott Primary wrote: “Mrs. Ridgeway makes history fun. I like playing the games and that she invites people so that we can ask them questions.”
Commissioner of Education Kalmar Richards said that as a result of the partnership “students gained greater historical empathy and interest in Bermuda’s people diversity and culture”.
She added: “The Bermuda National Trust has shared resources of great value, aligned to the Bermuda Public School Social Studies Curriculum. We appreciate the value of the partnership with BNT and look forward to continued collaboration in the near future.”
Nicole Grant, Education Officer, Social Studies, said: “The BNT did an incredible job of turning the students into junior economic historians, explaining how Bermuda’s settlers gained their wealth and taking the students back in history, allowing them to think like junior anthropologists. Students applied critical thinking skills by analysing primary sources in order to better understand the experience of enslaved persons, shipwreck survivors and the settlers.
• Press release from the Bermuda National Trust
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