Rachel Bailey speaks to learning manager Sally Stratton about the educational opportunities available at Strawberry Hill House in London.
Q. Is there an educational department at Strawberry Hill House and what does it do?
A. Our education department provides curriculum-linked tours and workshops for schoolchildren and students from Early Years to Key Stage 5, as well as course-related tours and activities for undergraduate and postgraduate students studying a wide range of subjects from English to Architecture.
Q. What does a school trip to Strawberry Hill House involve?
A. We have a range of half and full-day visit options, and there are many things to do at the house. For example, school groups can take a themed tour of the castle with one of our specialist education guides and be inspired by the fascinating history of Strawberry Hill and its creator Horace Walpole.
Young visitors and their teachers will often dress up in hand-made 18th century replica costumes and explore the rooms of this unique building to learn what life was like 250 years ago.
Additionally, students can participate in a creative workshop, perhaps making their own miniature self-portrait or a fairy-tale book, or creating a Gothic comic on iPads.
There are also opportunities for outdoor learning, and story-time sessions for younger students in our woodland glade. Schools are welcome to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the gardens.
Q. What are the main highlights of an educational visit?
A. Our school groups have exclusive access to the house and so have the freedom to discover the magical atmosphere of this Gothic gem without the distraction of other visitors or indeed other schools.
The rooms are spectacular and largely empty so there is space to move around, lie on the floor to admire the ceiling or perhaps dress up and create a Gothic drama.
Q. Do you have any tie-ins with the National Curriculum?
A. Strawberry Hill House lends itself to a wide range of cross-curricular activities. This is the ‘must go to’ venue to explore the Gothic genre, as we specialise in curriculum-linked What Is Gothic? workshops for Key Stage 3 to 5 English students.
These workshops include activities that explore the context of Gothic writing which is an element of the new GCSE curriculum.
The What is Gothic? sessions use the novel The Castle of Otranto as inspiration in preparation for GSCE and A Level learning. This novel was written by Horace Walpole who created and lived in the house, and was one of the first Gothic novels written.
Q. What other workshops do you offer?
A. Teachers can opt for their students to take part in a Gothic Comics workshop. This session is suitable for Key Stage 2 and 3 students, and has links to Art and Architecture studies, as well as Drama and History. This starts with a tour highlighting the atmosphere and architectural features of the building as a setting for a Gothic drama.
Students then storyboard their idea and bring it to life in the historic rooms using costumes and props. Using iPads, they take photos and with easily accessible software create a personalised Gothic comic to take back to school.
In addition, Marvellous Miniatures allows pupils to make and take home a replica 18th century miniature portrait, while The Fairytale Castle is a workshop that includes a tour of the woodland grove.
Q. What resources do you offer to students?
A. A Level students can take home study materials based around the text of The Castle of Otranto and Gothic tropes, and on site, students of all ages have access to a range of historic costumes and iPads.
We also have a specially designed learning programme and resources for the house and garden for children and teenagers with severe learning disabilities.
Additionally, we run tours led by specially trained guides and offer appropriate resources for visually impaired children.
Q. What resources do you offer to teachers?
A. We run a teacher training programme offering BEd and PGCE students the opportunity to learn how to use a historic house and garden as a teaching resource within the curriculum, specialising in Maths, History and English.
Q. How can a trip to Strawberry Hill House be linked to lessons when the class is back at school?
A. Many teachers like to use a visit to Strawberry Hill House as initial inspiration for Creative Writing or a Local History project. However, a visit can be tied in to Art and Design, DT, Drama, Textiles, Film-making and Gothic studies back at school.
Q. What ambitions do you have for the future of educational visits?
A. We are planning to roll out more GCSE workshops that link with both the English Literature and English Language syllabus.
We are expanding our programme for children with severe and moderate learning disabilities to make it available all year round.
We are also planning to update our website and make more resources available online in time for a 2017 exhibition marking 300 years since the birth of Horace Walpole.