About the Project
The Ancient Greek History Group is a student-led volunteering project that has been running for the past two years. Its main aims are to introduce primary school aged children to ancient Greek culture and language.
The project began last year, and was the brain child of the project founders, Michael Burling, Jessica Ray and Lucy Hanlon. With Michael on a placement this academic year, Lucy and Jess managed to recruit three new student volunteers in Katie Rose Needs, Gemma King and Tamara Morgan, to make sure the project continued its success into its second year.
Ancient Greek history is usually full of key, significant events that are easy to find in most academic textbooks. What this project seeks to do is to allow children to imagine what everyday life was like for the Greeks, including how they dressed, what food they ate, their family and work life, and what school was like for the little ones. Ancient Greece and Rome are key features in primary school curriculums in Coventry, and this project has served as the perfect way for teachers to kick start their teaching agendas.
What have students gained from the project?
Student-led volunteering allows students to take ownership of their own volunteering projects. With V&E support and supervision, the students come up with the idea and lead on the project as a whole. The Ancient Greek Club in particular allowed the five students to get an insight into what it’s like delivering a full day of lessons to 30 primary school children. With four of the group wanting to pursue a teaching career, and the fifth member looking to work with children more generally, this was the ideal way to introduce them to this line of work.
‘’The main skills we have been able to gain from this project are primarily planning and organisational. Seeing all the hard work go into planning the project and then seeing it become a success was really rewarding. We weren’t aware at the beginning how much effort it is to come up with a lesson plan for one day. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the teacher doing it every day!’’
‘’It was great to know what it feels like to be a teacher and try to control a classroom. Most of us want to go into teaching so this was great preparation for that. It was sometimes difficult to keep the children concentrated and focused, but this was mostly because they were excited by the project’s content and worked themselves up a bit’’.
‘’It was also great to understand different learning styles, some of the children were eager to participate, whereas some of the others were quite quiet. We tried to encourage those students in order to boost their confidence a little’’.
In addition to classroom experience, student-led projects give students the chance to gain employability skills more generally. By being in control of their own monitoring and development, these skills are more likely to stick with students for the long term.
‘’We also gained valuable team working skills. The makeup of the group is different this year, but we all got on straight away and supported each other. Each team member was given a specific area to focus on, which helped the day run smoothly’’.
‘’Public speaking was also a key skill we were able to develop. Getting over nerves and adjusting our tone of voice was really important. We decided to act more like teachers than visiting students in order to gain the respect of the children. We introduced ourselves as ‘Miss’ and developed a clapping technique designed to settle the group down when they got too chatty’’.
What impact did the project have on the children?
It’s always fun for children to experience a different approach to their learning and to have outsiders come in for the day. With Ancient Greece being a part of their curriculum, the immediate benefits speak for themselves. But student-led volunteering brings with it some added advantages that aren’t always so easy to spot.
‘’ In addition to the skills we learnt as students, the children also gained skills of their own, such as team working and being able to approach tasks in a logical way. A lot of the children suffered from self-doubt, which made it important to encourage everyone to speak and have their say’’.
‘’Competition was something we found that really motivated them. We held a quiz at the end of the day and separated the class into groups. Everyone got involved, and even the quiet ones spoke up more than usual’’.
‘’We knew the children enjoyed their time with us as they were constantly asking when we were coming back. The children weren’t told until the previous day that we were coming, and when we asked one of the children if it was a nice surprise, they said it was the ‘best surprise’, which was really nice to hear’’.
‘’We were pleased that the teachers allowed us to get on with the day ourselves and didn’t interfere too much.
Any piece of advice for those looking to start a student-led project in schools?
‘’The more enthusiastic you are about your project, the more enthusiastic the children will be. It’s important to gain their respect, but also not to take yourself too seriously when you’re doing fun activities’’.
From the school…
‘’The children really enjoyed the experience and were very excited by their learning. The concepts they covered will make a good introduction to the topic when we start it fully after Easter. All the students were well organised, worked really hard and were lovely with the children’’. – Evelyn Baxter, school teacher at Henley Green Primary.