Birmingham Hippodrome is committed to forging relationships with schools and colleges in the West Midlands and developing the next generation of artists and audiences. Through the Hippodrome Education Network (HEN), the Learning & Participation team at Birmingham Hippodrome bring creativity into the curriculum, connect learning outcomes to exciting opportunities at the Hippodrome, and provide young people with the chance to experience and connect with theatre.

We caught up with Eleanor, one of our Learning & Participation Artists to find out more about the work the HEN team have been doing in schools over the last term.

As a Learning & Participation Artist I work with schools to bring the curriculum to life through drama by supporting learning and developing skills in confidence, teamwork, problem solving and creativity. During lockdown we also created digital content and resources and in the autumn term we were so lucky to be able to work within schools.

During autumn 2020 I worked with Year 3 Students at Holyhead Primary Academy on a project called Prehistoric Planet, a topic that spanned a range of subjects.

Planning is always a collaborative process with our HEN school teachers to ensure the work I do connects to their key learning objectives and outcomes. During this project we had to get creative, where normally we might work towards a performance, with coronavirus restrictions in place, this wasn’t possible, so instead we worked towards a ‘Television Documentary’.

For me it is all about creative play – in my first session with Year 3, I told them I was an archaeologist who had discovered a way to build a real life time machine (we made it with our bodies, using movement and voice). In our ‘Time Machine’ we travelled back in time each week to the following ‘ages’:

  • Palaeolithic
  • Mesolithic
  • Neolithic
  • Bronze Age
  • Iron Age

On our adventures I asked the young people questions, and their answers filled our imagined world with the facts about that time period (using their work from the classroom), reinforcing and bringing together their learning. We met all sorts of animals, from woolly mammoths to tiny mice, and saw humans developing and using lots of tools- first made of stone and then from metals. Through this creative play the young people get excited to share what their knowledge. At Holyhead, the teachers jump in feet first – in this instance the class teacher played a role as a Bronze Age woman, which the children loved.

We ended each workshop with a brainstorming session with the young people recording their ‘research’. This research and the collective ideas we came up with then formed the basis of the script for our television documentary. The children performed for the camera in small groups, with one narrator describing an age and the rest using movement and sound to bring it to life.”

Mrs. Skinner, Year 3 Teacher, added:

“Allowing HEN’s input has enabled our children to experience a different form of learning through their themes, as well as improving self-confidence. Children can articulate how they feel and think, as well as being able to express themselves in a comfortable environment. Children’s mental health and wellbeing is at the forefront, particularly with COVID, and HEN has contributed to improving this.”

The impact of HEN for schools is far-reaching – 93% of teachers involved say that the cultural education we provide helps their students perform better in other academic subjects, which is testament to the importance of this work. Find out more about our HEN Network here.