Childhood Through the Eyes of Children

How a local school is using Heritage Open Days to encourage pupils explore childhood from the past

In the final part of our Heritage Open Days series, we spoke to Nettleham Church of England Aided Junior School about their forthcoming exhibition, ‘The Children’s Story’; a presentation of pupils’ view of childhood drawn from research and oral history within their community and families.

As a former Creative Partnerships Change School, Nettleham Church of England Aided Junior School has a long-standing track record in offering creative opportunities for pupils and families at their school. From partnership working with regional cultural organisations such as Sinfonia Viva and Rhubarb Theatre, through to the creation of sonic installations and eco-art, creativity is woven into every aspect of school life. So when local historian, Pearl Wheatley, approached the school about a potential collaboration around Heritage Open Days, headteacher David Gibbons was delighted to explore the idea further.

“When Pearl approached us we jumped at the chance to really focus on children’s development of their understanding of the past and also the development of their skills as historians. Our families have amazed us with how they responded to this project.” David Gibbons, headteacher

All Saints Church in Nettleham regularly opens its doors for the annual Heritage Open Day festival, but to date had not featured the voice or influence of children and young people from the local area. Pearl’s partnership with Nettleham Junior School is set to change this, and as a result the church is now playing host to a creative exhibition of paintings, writings, films and talks from the pupils, all reflecting on their view of childhoods gone by.

Pearl visited the school at the end of the summer term, and spoke to the children about the opportunity. They were then invited to spend time over the holidays exploring an aspect of childhood, which they did in many and varied ways. A vast collection of research was generated by the start of term; PowerPoint and images, stories and transcripts of interviews, covering a period of history from the Romans to present day. Everyone involved found their own unique area of interest to share back with the school.

“Every weekend my grandmother was given a penny. You could get 4 flapjacks for ½ a penny, so you got loads more sweets back then”.

Over the last week, this research has been transformed into exhibition pieces, and displayed in the church for the Heritage Open Day festival. The style, content, and choice of medium has been left entirely to the children’s discretion to chose and create. It is, after all, an exhibition about their view of childhood, and has come to light through their own individual research and interests. It stands to reason that the exhibition itself should be an opportunity to present their views in the most compelling and meaningful way to them.

“When children were 5 or 6, parents would make a decision to sell them as slaves or be adopted into wealthy families. When they were a baby they were given a charm to protect them against evil”
“If you talked in assembly you got whacked with a plimsoll. You had to sort out arguments in the boxing ring”.

To experience the exhibition for yourself, visit All Saints' Church, High St, Nettleham, Lincolnshire, LN2 2PD on Saturday 21st September, and experience this somewhat unique view of childhood through the eyes of children. To see excerpts from the exhibition by the school's Young Journalist Acadmey visit https://vimeo.com/youngjournalistacademy

“I would like visitors to the exhibition to learn that history is a wonderful thing to do and everyone should do it.”