Historic Royal Palaces, London

Ceri Fox, David Beach and Alexandra Rowe, 12.12.2014
Three approaches to working with teenagers
Resources for international teenagers
The Historic Royal Palaces learning and engagement team are piloting a new approach to engaging the hundreds of thousands of international teenagers who visit the Tower of London each year.

Their reasons for visiting (and, therefore, their learning needs) are different to those visiting from UK schools, with the prime motivation predominantly cultural rather than educational. They also tend to have little to no background knowledge of the Tower of London or its history.

Our aim is to meet the needs of this large group of young people, who can be disengaged during their visit due to a lack of appropriate interpretation.

We have created a multi-lingual self-guided resource to help them navigate the site, provide a meaningful focus for their visit and help ease operational issues on the ground.

The resource takes the form of a pack of cards, each focussed on a different character (grouped by theme such as rulers, rogues and prisoners) to illustrate stories from the tower’s history.

Users chose their route based on their interests, which gives the young people a greater role in directing their visit and reduces the risk of bottle necks around the site.

The cards have been designed in consultation with visiting groups. They are a striking design to ensure that the resource is visually exciting for young people and the content offers a mix of challenges, questions and quirky facts. Early feedback has been very encouraging, we will continue to pilot and refine the offer in the coming months.

We are working with our travel trade department to promote this offer to more international groups and embed learning into the wider visitor experience.

Ceri Fox is a learning producer, 11-19 explorer team, at Historic Royal Palaces

New history curriculum for key stage 3
The new key stage 3 history national curriculum has been the subject of much discussion and worry both in schools and the museums sector. At Historic Royal Palaces we have used this new curriculum to our advantage and have increased our session bookings by an average of 50%.

The changes in the curriculum presented us with the perfect opportunity to review and re-launch our key stage 3 programmes.

After conducting market research it was clear that there was a need for three different types of sessions: enquiry, in depth and “big event”.

Enquiry sessions are an hour long and enable students to explore some key events of the new history curriculum in the places (and palaces) where they actually happened. For example, using the White Tower at the Tower of London to understand the Norman invasion.

An in-depth session is a longer two-and-a-half- hour study day that encourages a critical examination of primary and secondary source material, including object handling and in the study of the architecture of events of the palaces.

This year, for our big event, we are planning to relive the drama and events of the peasants’ revolt by invading the tower. Hundreds of students join costumed interpreters on an immersive experience.

In the next two academic years, key stages 4 and 5 will have new specifications and after the success of re-launching our key stage 3 programme, we are looking forward to the challenge.

David Beach is a learning producer, 11-19 explorer team, at Historic Royal Palaces

First world war centenary
This year, the moat of the Tower of London was filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies to commemorate the centenary of the start of the first world war.

The installation, entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, provoked massive and unprecedented public engagement, and has resonated internationally as a symbol of remembrance.

Teenage engagement with the installation was a priority, so we worked in partnership with the Arcola Youth Theatre to invite young people to create a piece of site-specific theatre inspired by the poppies.

Sixty young people took part in intensive workshops at the tower, where they learned about remembrance and the tower at war before spending time walking among the poppies and taking part in the nightly remembrance ceremony.
Participants then worked at the Arcola to create a character from the first world war – a personal response based on knowledge gained and their experiences at the tower.

The final performances showed not just the enhanced performance skills but also the deep empathy that the participants had gained in creating characters
The success of the project objectives lay in the passing of creative control to the participants and the establishment of a strong, mutually beneficial, partnership.

Finding a partner who had complementary objectives and the logistical set-up already in place meant that the project was both time and cost-effective and eradicated many of the hurdles we would have faced setting up a group from scratch.

Alexandra Rowe is the events and partnerships manager at Historic Royal Palaces