'Windows of Learning' open in Lanark
Project celebrates Robert Owen's legacy on the 200th anniversary of his Institute
The legacy of Robert Owen, one-time Manager of New Lanark Mills and influential social reformer, is being celebrated by a new project, ‘Robert Owen’s Windows of Learning’.
Five Lanark-based Primary Schools and two Nurseries are embarking on the innovative, multi-layered project that promotes a joy of learning – a central theme of Robert Owen’s philosophies. The project marks the 200th anniversary of the formation of Owen’s Institute for the Formation of Character in 1816 – the first infant school in the world.
The project opens with pupil visits to New Lanark World Heritage Site to find out about Robert Owen and his ethos. Pupils will then create a new piece of history by taking part in stained glass workshops, led by local artist Fiona Foley, and resulting in a large scale installation in New Lanark Primary School in August 2017.
Inspired by Owen’s philosophy of learning for the whole community, adults are invited to join a series of four FREE informal ‘Ways to Nurture a Joy of Learning’ sessions. These start on Friday 3 March and run weekly in Lanark Memorial Hall, 3:30 – 5pm. Sessions include guest facilitators with a background in character development and a talk by Sue Palmer, author of ‘Toxic Childhood’ and ‘Upstart’. They finish with a fun-filled outdoor session bringing adults and children together.
Running at the same time and place are Creative ‘Castaway’ Workshops for children, led by South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Trust. Relating to one of Robert Owen’s favourite books – Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’ – children of Lanark will find themselves cast away down the Clyde to a remote island. Using drama, nature craft, percussion and wild play, they will discover hidden talents to survive and return home safely.
A second round of both adult and child focused workshops will be offered again in April and May for those that can’t make the sessions in March. Book at the Eventbrite page on the right under 'Related Links'.
In a quest to promote Owen’s love of Lanark’s natural assets, Forest School Training for parents, guardians, teachers and childcare workers will also run concurrently to the workshops in March and April, to help support the development of outdoor learning skills.
The project has been developed as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP) programme, with support from Big Lottery Fund, Clydesdale Bank PLC and New Lanark Trust. New Lanark Primary School Parents Association and CAVLP would also like to thank the family and friends of the late George Cullen, who contributed a generous donation of £750. Mr Cullen was a local man, formerly a teacher at Dalzell High School and Biggar High School, and a lover of the Clyde and Avon Valley area.
Tila Morris, New Lanark Primary School Parent Association, explains, “The whole project seeks to engage families in discovering a joy of learning, as the most fitting type of tribute we can make to Robert Owen, especially on the 200th anniversary of his Institute.”
She continues, “The drama workshops have even been inspired by one of Owen’s favourite books, ‘Robinson Crusoe’, and the creation of the stained glass window harks back to the creation of large-scale friezes for the original Institute. By re-examining his principles of kindness in pursuit of happiness, we hope to explore ways to learn and grow together as a community.”
Robert Owen, dedicated to improving the lives of those living and working in New Lanark, believed that education was the key to forming a society free from crime and poverty. As such, the Institute for the Formation of Character was opened in 1816 as a school for the young, as well a venue for evening lectures and concerts for the workers. This was the first attempt at introducing adult education to the working classes. Classrooms were spacious and adorned with wall maps, bright pictures of animals and friezes and the Institute was considered by many who visited New Lanark to be ‘one of the greatest modern wonders’.
Children aged three to six learnt to share and be kind to each other, primarily through play. From the ages of seven to twelve, children were taught a wide range of subjects including history, geography, nature study, art, singing and dancing. No rewards and no punishments were given in the Institute, as Owen believed they were unnecessary where children were interested and enjoyed their lessons.
“’Robert Owen’s Windows of Learning’ sits alongside a number of other family focussed wild play and education projects supported through the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership, such as Growing Up Wild family play sessions and Forest School training for parents and teachers,” says Karen Dobbins, CAVLP Development Officer.
She continues, “CAVLP are delighted to be able to support this large-scale and exciting project that will strengthen family, school and nursery partnerships, and create greater networking and resource sharing amongst schools, whilst building parental skills in outdoor learning and child development.”
For a full list of FREE ‘Ways to Nurture a Joy of Learning’ sessions and Creative Workshops for children, and to book, visit the Eventbrite page on the right under 'Related Links'.