In praise of learning: Sarah Rickett talks about Salisbury Cathedral's work with schoolchildren
- July 3, 2015
- salisbury cathedral
- sarah ricketts
Walk into Salisbury Cathedral on any day of the school term and it is likely that the peaceful, calm sanctuary you were expecting is in fact a buzz of activity. This would most likely be down to one of the 250 plus different school groups spending a day exploring this fascinating space on one of the specially tailored education programmes. Led by the highly experienced and versatile Cathedral education team and volunteers, primary and secondary schools enjoy taking part here in a huge variety of creative and innovative workshops and hands-on sessions.
From RE to History, to Art, Geography, Philosophy, Tourism, even Maths and Science, all these areas can be brought to life in this wonderful resource. Where else could you come face-to-face with the oldest clock in the world, run your hand under the largest font in the UK, see one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, hear about dead rats and murderous organists, lie on the floor to view the medieval ceiling and ask the deeper questions of life?
Acting the part
The education department at Salisbury Cathedral is known for its extensive choice and professional service with an emphasis on experiential learning. For primary children this is most clear in the programmes that use role play and costume. There is a full set of specially made costumes for a whole class and more for older students to wear when they are harangued by King John or Henry VIII. Then there are murder mysteries to be solved, copes to be worn, incense to be swung, instances of the Golden Section to be found, six-foot Gothic arches to be drawn, gold leaf to be applied, rubbings to be taken... And on it goes.
The very nature and atmosphere of the Cathedral and its sense of being outside of everyday life is what is unique. None of these features and encounters can be reproduced in any way in the classroom. It is the experience of being in those amazing surroundings which stays with individuals and makes this such a memorable learning environment. More than that, the Cathedral offers the opportunity to reflect and take a different view on life, to delve deeper.
The centre now regularly welcomes in the region of 10,000 students of all ages through its doors each year. Some stay for just an hour, some the whole day. Each visit is carefully tailored to the group’s particular needs and requirements and is carefully planned and delivered by experienced teachers and volunteers who are passionate about passing on the glories of this special place. What is heard in the Cathedral then is in fact not just the noise of activity but of active learning, real engagement and memorable encounter.
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