Case Study: St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

Date Posted: 05/11/2015

(Photo credit: VisitBritain, Joe Cornish).

Pupils from Marazion School discover everything St Michael’s Mount has to offer.

School: Marazion School, Marazion, Cornwall

Subject: Cross-curricular

KS: Reception, KS1 and KS2

Number of pupils: 121

A certain group of Cornish school pupils never have to travel far for a school trip. This is because Marazion School overlooks St Michael’s Mount, the iconic Cornish landmark and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the south west.

Not surprisingly, classes from the school have visited the mount on many occasions to link in with a variety of curriculum topics. The school’s experiences of visiting the mount demonstrate that it is a fascinating and multi-faceted destination, and well worth the travel time for educational groups from further afield. The most recent trip saw all 121 pupils, staff, parents and families head to the mount for a ‘Come Dine with Us’ school community event.

Abi Squibb, Marazion’s assistant head teacher, said: “Each term we have a social event for our families and this summer we decided to do something different. How many other schools can boast that they have their own island? We can! So we wanted to give our families a community experience in our unique location.

“The children and families were given information for the visit through our newsletter and we rallied the community in the playground and through our Facebook page. We were overwhelmed with the take up.”

marazion School Trip

Pupils from Marazion School regularly discover everything the mount has to offer, including a castle, sub-tropical garden and a close-knit island community comprising members of the St Aubyn family and just 30 island residents. They have climbed the pathway to the island’s summit to learn about the Bronze Age settlers, monks, pilgrims and soldiers who have all left their mark. While the National Trust now ensures the preservation and conservation of the mount, the St Aubyn family continue to manage the island, as they have done since the middle of the 17th century, and the castle is the family home.

Various rooms are open to the public and school pupils always enjoy the map room where they can uncover the whereabouts of mythical Cornish giants in a 16th century picture map and marvel at a model of the mount accurately crafted from Champagne corks by a family butler in the 1930s. They can also be tasked to hunt for a mummified cat, one of the weird and wonderful curiosities bought back from the family’s travels to Egypt, the armour of a samurai warrior and the stone heart of a giant.

Outside, the gardens are full of interest for Science studies. Despite the gales and salty winds, the Gulf Stream tempers the climate so that frosts are a rarity and the rock acts as a gigantic radiator - absorbing heat by day and releasing it at night, creating a micro climate in which all sorts of unlikely and exotic plants flourish.

Standing on the summit of the island, the Priory Church dates back to the 12th century and is still used for Sunday services. Inside there are 500-year-old alabaster carvings of biblical scenes and a 15th century granite cross.

As it’s situated just 400 yards off Mount’s Bay in Marazion, reaching St Michael’s Mount is all part of the adventure. At low tide, the causeway appears from the sea and pupils can reach the mount by foot, following in the footsteps of giants and pilgrims. It takes just minutes to walk across the ancient cobbled causeway. When the tide floods in, local boatmen ferry visitors back and forth.

Abi said: “On the most recent visit we wanted our families and community to get together, have fun and appreciate our unique environment. We wanted to show our pupils that life is fun and that we live in a wonderful world. Our school motto of ‘Living, Learning, Laughing’ is one that we try and celebrate as often as possible.

“As school finished our families walked down to the beach to catch the ferries heading over to St Michael's Mount. The children were so excited by the boat trip, seeing deep down into the bottom of the sea, feeling the waves splash on their faces and giggling with every rise and fall of the boat. As they arrived on the mount they were directed by the ‘mounties’ to the tennis court lawn, where staff had set up strawberries, scones, cream, tea and squash. Our school musicians played alongside our specialist music teacher and entertained the crowd. The children had a game of rounders on the field and looked back over at the mainland, where they live, and realised just how lucky they are to live in such a stunning location.”   

Overlooking the sea

And while Marazion School is fortunate enough to be on the doorstep, Abi says it’s well worth other schools making the journey to get there.

“St Michael’s Mount is a gem,” she said.  “Not only is it an incredibly picturesque location, it inspires children to appreciate nature, history and community. The members of staff are amazing, and are always prepared to be accommodating to school groups. We have visited the mount to inspire art, poetry, historical enquiry and for local geographic studies. We also made bird boxes back in 1999 and it is a wonderful feeling that we, the pupils of Marazion School, had a helping hand in re-establishing the bird community. We would wholeheartedly recommend St Michael's Mount as a destination for other schools.

“On our most recent trip the children learned about the importance of communities and family. The best part of the experience was seeing the happiness and good community spirit that we had through doing a relatively simple visit. The children loved the boat journey, the cream tea and the freedom of playing on St Michael’s Mount.”

Back in the classroom

“We have used the increased community links to enable our parents and families to become more involved in school life,” said Abi. “The links with St Michael’s Mount will continue in the next academic year, when the children study the history, architecture, art, flora and fauna of our unique location.”

An excellent hook for engaging pupils in literacy lessons are tales of the legendary Cornish giant, Cormoran, and his fearless foe, Jack the Giant Killer. Cornish folklore tells of the mythical giant who once lived on the mount, a fearless creature who would wade ashore and steal cows and sheep from villagers to feed his gargantuan appetite.  Lesson plans for older pupils can include studying the history of the mount, from religious roots to times of siege and conflict. 

For further information call 01736-710265 or visit www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk.

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