Apple Seed – growing great ideas!


Top tips for heritage education

This image comes from the 'Onions & Bunions' project, Warwick Museum service http://heritage.warwickshire.gov.uk/heritage-education/

This image comes from the ‘Onions & Bunions’ project, Warwick Museum service http://heritage.warwickshire.gov.uk/heritage-education/

As you know, I’m rather fond of heritage work – not least because it’s so much to do with people and their fascinating stories!

I am across this article today via the ‘Creative & Cultural Skills’ newsletter and thought it was worth sharing :)

 

 

Read more here: Tips for heritage education


The Potting Shed – why and how?

Alas my potting shed is still a 'virtual' one, but maybe one day...

Alas my potting shed is still a ‘virtual’ one, but maybe one day…

I have a page on Facebook for my freelance work called The Potting Shed – Home of Apple Seed HQ. It’s not a real shed (although it ‘exists’ as a place on Facebook) but rather it’s a virtual shed. Given that my website is apple-seed and that I’m all abut growing great ideas then it seemed logical that a planting, nurturing, creative growing space should need a shed in which to house all these baby ideas!

I update the Facebook page regularly and its a quick way to link to the various projects I’m involved in, so if you want the latest news, its a good idea to look there: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Potting-Shed-Apple-Seed-HQ/544299518915162

Someone sent me a question via that page recently, and I wondered if some of you might also be interested in the question she asked and the answer I gave.

So here it is. It kinda sums up my raison d’etre – the reason why and how I do what I do.

If you’d like what you read and would like to find out if I can help you out, drop me a line: sharon.court@gmail.com

Sharon, I completely love the sound of everything The Potting Shed does. How did you get into doing that? What is your background? (if you don’t mind me asking!!) xx
Hi!
Thank you very much! I don’t mind you asking at all!
I’d like to say that it’s part of some kind of carefully planned career path…but that would be a complete lie! The reality is entirely more haphazard and accidental.

My background is in youth & children’s work. I’m a qualified teacher and youthworker, but I have a real passion for heritage, arts, communities and storytelling.

This means that I tend to get drawn to projects which touch on those kinds of areas…Children and young people are part of communities and they interact with and affect each other (whether they know it or not!) Heritage is about the story of a place and the people who have, or are currently living in it, and the arts (such as storytelling) is how we can share and explore the locality and community where we live and begin to understand our place in it.

I think my core motivation is around valuing people: I believe everyone has inherent value, because each person is unique. Our DNA, our fingerprints, the combination of character, personality, skills and experience are not to be found anywhere else, or in anyone else.
That makes you uniquely valuable and irreplaceable.

The work I’m involved in – which has come along haphazardly and sometimes almost by accident, doesn’t bring value or worth to the people or places I work with…but perhaps some of what I bring helps to draw out the value of what’s already there?

Does that make sense?

I love what I’m doing, even though at times it feels very stressful (like now when I’ve got two chaplaincy visits this week and an exhibition opening on Friday!!) and I miss being part of a team with other people. Being freelance can feel lonely and isolated at times and I sometimes feel like I bear a heavier responsibility than if I were an employee in a bigger company. There are times when I feel like I’m dangling on a string above a rather cavernous ravine, and it wouldn’t take too much for the string to snap…

But on the other hand it’s a tremendous privilege to be able to work with people and make a big/small difference in their lives! Who can say that they get to do that? I love the variety, the creativity, the opportunity to direct and hold and shape things…And it means I can be very flexible around the needs of my family, which is the most important part.
So that’s kind of it really….!
Got any more questions…do send ‘em my way


How community engagement is like clutch control

One of the trickiest things about learning to drive, is mastering clutch control. service-clutch-650x320

It relies on on a combination of good hearing (attuning your ear to the changing tones of the engine) as well as physical control on the pedals, to create the right balance of just-enough-pressure-on-the-gas with not-too-high-on-the clutch. With mastery of the clutch you can hold the car perfectly still, or allow the beginnings of forward momentum. Get it wrong and the whole thing comes to a abrupt, juddering halt.

The thing that really allows you to master clutch control is not just knowing you have to press certain pedals in a certain way, but understanding why that is and what’s happening under the bonnet. You need to understand that to achieve different speeds, the gears need to mesh successfully, and the clutch helps you do that without damaging those fast-spinning disks. To increase or decrease speed, the correct gear needs to be engaged and getting it wrong at high speeds can be very dangerous, for you and other drivers.

It occurred to me recently that successful university-community engagement is a lot like using clutch control. In order to help the different worlds of academia and community mesh together, there needs to be an understanding of both groups of people and what governs them. There needs to be an understanding not only of what needs to mesh together (aims, priorities, communication, resources etc) but why.

Successful engagement understands the different perspectives and needs of each group. It takes account of the history, demography, economics , geography and social capital within a local community, and weighs those factors up against the national and local drivers for the university, its funding, strategic plan, student population and research focii. And then, using time, patience, clear communication, collaborative planning and resource sharing, it gently and purposefully attempts to mesh these two very different worlds together – this is clutch control.

Done well, it allows for positive, forward motion on a project or piece of research work. It can empower residents, encourage staff and develop students.

Done badly, it can cause projects to come to an abrupt, juddering halt and almost everyone involved can feel hurt and disappointed by the results and probably less likely to want to engage in similar work in the future.

Of course, you could replace the word ‘university’ with almost any other institution or organisation: health, faith, government…The key element is remembering that when attempting to mesh two worlds together, it needs to be done, carefully, thoughtfully and with enough sensitivity to know that it’s not just what needs to be meshed, but why it’s important to get it right.

 


Chillin’

hammock_relaxing-summer_living-etcThe latest newsletter and blog update has been released from the Portsmouth Deanery’s FE Chaplaincy project. Read it here: http://fechaplaincy.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/the-value-of-quiet/

One of my tasks over the summer was to do some research into how prayer rooms and quiet rooms are set up, used and managed. The use of quiet rooms and spaces (both indoors and outdoors) is a visible, tangible way in which a chaplaincy service can offer support to staff and students and acknowledge their inner ‘spiritual’ needs, as well as their external ones. People may explore and express their spirituality in a variety of ways, but everyone needs some peace and quiet from time to time!

Read more here: http://fechaplaincy.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/the-value-of-quiet/


CUExpo – a digital reflection

Norris Point Marine Centre, Newfoundland

Norris Point Marine Centre, Newfoundland

A rather nice digital reflection on the CUExpo conference, which took place in Newfoundland, Canada, in June this year.

I was delighted to be invited to attend as a community partner, and to have the chance to talk about the emerging UK Community Partner Network, in the context of international work around university and community research partnerships.

This is an exciting area of work with more and more people seeing the benefits of collaborative research projects.

Watch here: http://research.library.mun.ca/1939/


Soran’s Flight (a prequel to The Secret of Barak Lea)

montain_in_boliviaAs some of you will already know, one of my areas of practice is around storytelling, and for a number of years I’ve told stories at summer playschemes – most recently at North End Playscheme.

Modern technology offers us so many more options, and so I’ve decided to make the most of what’s on offer by recording a prequel to the story I’m going to tell at North End Playscheme this year. This is something I’ve never done before, and I hope it will help children and adults get excited about the week to come!

The theme at this year’s playscheme is Narnia, so I have devised an entirely original piece, based on the world that CS Lewis created, but set in-between the end of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and before Prince Caspian. This allows me a huge amount of creative scope, whilst still anchoring the story in a recognisable world.

So here it is: Soran’s Flight. I hope you enjoy it!

 


Education – getting the balance right

balance chairEducation is a gift. It is a privilege, both to the teacher and the student. Education has the power to change individuals lives and by extension whole families…swathes of communities…an entire nation.

But such power wielded wrongly can be a dangerous thing. It can damage and restrict people, limit them and their potential and instill a fear of failure and a sense of ‘not being good enough’.

I was abruptly reminded of this fact this evening, when putting my daughter to bed. She turned six just a month ago and will be moving into Year 2 in the autumn. Tonight she said she wanted to talk to me about ‘her worries’ and the things she was concerned about.

“I’m worried about going into Year 2,” she explained. “I’m worried because I’m going to have tests and I’ve never done a number test in my life and what happens if I get it wrong and I get bad marks?”

She is six.

Now, I should make it clear that I’ve never spoken to her about SATs, and the only notion she has about testing might be from her older brother, who will be going into Year 4 in the autumn and has already had his SATs and a series of QCA tests. And yet, she is keenly aware of – and worried about, the tests that she knows are coming in Year 2, and more importantly, she is worried about failing.

I’m not worried about how she’ll do in these tests, not least because she’s in an excellent school and she’s in the top Maths group. But the point is she’s SIX. She shouldn’t have to worry about tests or what might happen is she fails. She shouldn’t be concerned about not doing well enough or ‘getting bad marks’. She should be in an environment where learning is a joy, and failure is a accepted and more importantly valued part of that process.

Paul Benneworth, at the GUNI (Global University Network for Innovation) conference in Barcelona earlier this year, reminded us of an old but timely saying: ‘you don’t fatten the lamb by continually weighing it’. I’ve been working in the field of youth and children’s work for over twenty years, and I don’t object to assessment. I understand the need to evaluate and assess the effectiveness of learning. But it seems to me the pendulum has swung far too far in the wrong direction, and those holding that wonderful and terrible power over education find themselves falling foul of McNamara’s fallacy: we only value what we can easily measure, rather than finding ways to measure what we truly value.

My daughter has developed an anxiety about tests and a fear of failure from an education culture that says: ‘you’re only valuable if you achieve the right scores and pass all the tests’ and as a practitioner and as a parent, this is heartbreaking. Surely we want our learners of all ages to know that they have value beyond the score sheets? Surely we want to encourage them, and invest in them, and enable them to have the self-confidence and resilience to take the risks in order that they might achieve and fulfill all their untapped potential?

Education is a balancing act, and it has always been. It is a balance between the need to develop innovative ways of conveying information, and finding appropriate ways to understand how effective this conveyance has been. But people are more than the sum of their test results and metrics and assessments only shed light on a small part of the whole person.

Surely someone, somewhere, must be able to raise a shout that challenges this awful, seemingly inexorable slide towards a factory model of education, where only the ‘good ones’ are kept and the rest are thrown on the rubbish heap? Otherwise I fear this warped notion of ‘value’ will leech further and wider across society, and we’ll end up with a generation too fearful and constrained to take the risks we need to meet the challenges that lie ahead.


Chaplaincy work gets carried away!

Well, not exactly carried away…but a group of us will be taking some time out on Monday 1st July, to take part at the Chaplaincy Away Day, hosted by Hopeweavers (you can see some photos of the venue below)

I’m really looking forward to this day and hopeful for some thoughtful and constructive discussion and debate about how the chaplaincy service could shape up. Find out more here:

http://fechaplaincy.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/getting-away-from-it-all/


Making maps…CUExpo


Happy Birthday to School!

An aerial view of the M275 before the flyover was built. You can see the large outline of St John's church by the newly formed Rudmore roundabout.

An aerial view of the M275 before the flyover was built. You can see the large outline of St John’s church by the newly formed Rudmore roundabout.

You’ve probably noticed, that I have a bit of a thing for heritage and history. Whenever I’m in a place, I just notice things about it – architectural features, signs, alterations and it starts my brain whirring…I wonder about the people who lived there, or the chain of events which may have sparked change…and I wonder about what was there before…

 

For me it’s all about the story.

And so it is that I appear to have sparked off another history-hunt, this time in Stamshaw, which is in the north-west section of Portsea island. The local Infant school building was built in 1899 and will be 115 years old next year, so I proposed a local heritage project, using this event s a catalyst to explore the local history of the area. The school were really supportive an I’ve been working with the Headteacher and key staff to develop a new community project which launches on 19th June. 

We’ve already been provided with some amazing archive maps and found some great photos in the City Archives, but what

The section comes from a larger map, dated 1952. It shows the outdoor swimming pool, which is located roughly where Stamshaw Park is now.

The section comes from a larger map, dated 1952. It shows the outdoor swimming pool, which is located roughly where Stamshaw Park is now.

we really need are photos and stories from local people to make it come alive.

To this end we’ve sent out press releases to local news groups and through social media, to promote the work and invite local people to take part to, by sharing their stories and memories.

The project will run over the course of a year, with three focused ‘Detective Days’, the first of which takes place in two weeks time. The children will begin by exploring clues to the past which can be found in their own school building. In the autumn term they’ll be going out and about in the local area, to find evidence of the past from present day buildings and sites and in the Spring term 2014 the school hopes to invite in local people, former pupils and staff from the school who can share with the children their own memories of Stamshaw. The project will culminate in a birthday party celebration, where the children can share the journey of learning that they’ve been on over the previous year.

The school has already been awarded a small grant towards the project from the Nelson Community Panel, and this will help pay for materials and resources which will be used during the project.

If you know anything about Stamshaw’s history (either the school or the area) that you think might be useful to the project, please can you drop me a line in the first instance: sharon.court@gmail.com

The school will be setting up a dedicated webpage and email address shortly, and they also hope to have a ‘postbox’ in the school office, where local people could drop things in.