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Special Collections for Schools: a continuing programme

Helen FBiggs25 January 2019

January is always a good time to reflect on our achievements and look forward to our upcoming plans and projects. Read on to discover some of the Outreach team’s highlights from last year’s Special Collection’s schools programmes – and what to expect from them next…

Teacher CPD with First Story

Helen Biggs from UCL Special Collections and Jay Bhadricha from First Story preparing for the visiting teachers.

Last year we built on our valuable relationship with the charity First Story to devise a CPD event for GCSE English Language teachers.  The event sought to help teachers develop ways of enabling pupils to write creatively on topics they know little, or nothing, about (in response to current GCSE examination expectations), using Special Collection items as examples of prompts.

We’re running this event again (only bigger and better!) on the evening of Tuesday 19 March. If you are a Secondary school English teacher and would like to attend, you can get tickets here.

Curriculum Support for Secondary Schools

Our vision for 2019 is to develop school relationships in a strategic way.  We want to reach as many young people as we can, sharing the incredible collection that we look after, with meaningful, enriching experiences; one way to do this is to develop a ‘menu’ of curriculum relevant workshops that schools can book with us.

We have a team of volunteer researchers helping us to find unique items that are relevant to curriculum areas and once we have made the resources and planned the workshops we will pilot them with the schools with whom we have a close working relationship.

A slide from the PowerPoint for the Year 11 session on Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. It features a section of a Toxicology lecture from UCL (Christison, Robert, 1831, Christison Lecture Notes, MS ADD 316) regarding gentlemen’s recreational experimentation with Cyanide. This was found by a volunteer researcher.

An example is our session for GCSE pupils that explores the context of Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

We recently piloted it with Year 11s at East London Science School.

We have also developed a workshop on the context of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Our vast collections covering British and European medical history have meant the session features unique resources; surprise and intrigue abounds in Year 10 classrooms as they learn about the practice of body-snatching, and just why Carswell’s drawings are so important!

School 21: Real World Learning

For the second year running, we are working with School21 in Newham to participate in their Real World Learning programme. This provides both students and their host workplaces with something that is more meaningful and authentic than a traditional work experience programme. For a term, two Year 12s are spending half a day each week with UCL Special Collections, solving an authentic problem for the department.

Last year’s participants worked to develop a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to conserve and digitise selections from UCL’s collection of student magazines (from the College Archive).  We’re excited to see what their successors Munna and Umar will do this year; we have given them the task of creating welcome resources for a new landing page on our website.

UCL Special Collections Summer School – Protest in Print

After the success of 2018’s UCL Special Collections Summer School, we are happy to announce that we were successful in our bid to Widening Participation to run another programme this summer.

Work produced by students at last year’s Summer School, focussing on an item from the Small Press Collection

This year we are taking inspiration from the Slade Small Press project Visions of Protest, which aims to provide a forum to examine the status of contemporary protest in Small Press Publications. UCL Special Collections’ Summer School, Protest in Print, will be a smaller, more compact and easier to access iteration of this.

Protest in Print will offer participants an opportunity to be creative and hands on, applying what they learn about small press publications (such as those in the Little Magazines and Alternative Press collections) archives and rare books in practical ways.  The result will be a public exhibition of their work alongside a display of examples of collection items that have inspired their work in the South Junction Reading Room – watch this space for dates and times!

Shrouds of the Somme
The biggest achievement of the Autumn Term was also undoubtedly our highest profile project to date: working as partners in the Shrouds of the Somme installation at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, alongside other organisations such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the London Legacy Development Corporation.  We delivered an education programme to schools in the Park’s neighbouring boroughs, reaching almost 1000 pupils.   We wrote a blog about this project as part of our department’s Advent Calendar – to read more, click here.

Text by Helen Biggs and Vicky Price.

An eminent female academic at the IOE: Clotilde von Wyss (1871-1938)

NazlinBhimani10 August 2018

I have been doing some research on some of the women teacher trainers at the IOE  in order to understand their contribution to pedagogical practice in London during the interwar years.   One of the teacher trainers I have been most intrigued with is the relatively unknown Clotilde von Wyss.[1]  Von Wyss  taught at the London Day Training College (which became the Institute of Education, University of London in 1932), from 1903 to 1936. The following presents a mere glimpse into her contributions to pedagogical practice during the early 20th century.

As was typical in the late 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, most women became qualified teachers in order to have a professional career, and many women remained unmarried in order to retain their independence.  Many women teachers progressed in their careers by taking up headships and some, mainly the ‘intellectually gifted women’ from the middle classes, went into teaching in higher education.[2] Von Wyss followed this path and trained as a teacher at Maria Grey College, Brondesbury and gained a distinction in her Cambridge Teachers’ Certificate. Prior to her appointment at the London Day Training College (LDTC), von Wyss taught at various schools including St. George’s High School in Edinburgh from 1894 to 1897.  During this time, she was also an external student at the Heriot-Watt College where she took classes with the distinguished naturalist Sir Arthur Thomson.

Clotilde von Wyss (1871-1938)

From 1897 to 1900 she taught biology at her old school, North London Collegiate, after which she took up a lectureship at the Cambridge Training College.  In 1903, she began to work on a part-time basis at the London Day Training College (LDTC) where she taught biology, hygiene, nature study, art and handicraft. She was soon appointed as a full-time member of staff supporting the Mistress of Method and Vice-Principal, Margaret Punnett (another eminent female academic), with the welfare of the women students.[3]

Von Wyss’s pedagogical contributions are significant.  The 1929 issue of the student magazine, The Londinian, reviews the annual biological exhibition which von Wyss organised and provides evidence of novel teaching methods including the use of visual illustrations, objects, story-telling and peer-learning to communicate complex concepts. Her students presented these concepts to other students using the items on display, which included a dissected cat, the digestive organs of a rabbit, and a frog which was used to detect a heartbeat. There was also a section where the students learnt about amoeba and another which focused on genetics or the ‘principles of heredity’ and the role played by chromosomes:

Miss Gascoyne … was demonstrating the principles of heredity by means of charts…[and the] story of the black gentleman cat who married a sandy lady cat was touching in the extreme. How he longed for his little boys to be tortoiseshell, something like him and his dear wife!  But they never could. That distinction was confined to the girls of the family. And all because of a wretched chromosome with a hook in it![4]

She was a progressive educationalist and expected the trainee teachers to demonstrate aspects of child-centred learning in their teaching practice. Her written comments on her observations of student teachers’ classroom teaching practice are held in the IOE’s archive. They give a sense of what she considered to be the necessary characteristics for a teacher and ‘good’ teaching. Of utmost importance was for teachers to understand the world of the child so that they could see things from the child’s perspective.  She was critical of students who derived teaching material from text-books, particularly if they imparted it in a mechanical way.  She wanted the subject to come alive for the child and recommended first-hand observations.[5]

Von Wyss was also known for her innovative use of new technology in the creation of audio-visual learning materials  – two letters from the mid-1930s confirm the arrangements she made for showing the film ‘Wood Ant’ at the Autumn meeting of the School Nature Study Union at County Hall and later at the LDTC in which ‘her ants’ which she had nurtured for the students to observe were featured.[6]Her lessons for the BBC’s Broadcasts to Schools made a profound influence on science teachers throughout the country. Many teachers used her biology and nature studies textbooks which contain her own illustrations.[7]

Von Wyss built up a reputation as a formidable naturalist.  Her editorship of the School Nature Study Journal, in which the educational merits of nature study, a syllabus for the subject and the appropriate teaching methods were discussed. She had  the backing of such influential people as L.C. Miall who was Professor of biology at a Yorkshire College (later part of the University of Leeds), J. Arthur Thompson, the renowned naturalist under whom von Wyss studied in Edinburgh, the writer H. G. Wells, C. W. Kimmins who was the Chief Inspector of the London County Council, and Sir Percy Nunn who was director of the LDTC/IOE during von Wyss’s tenure and who also chaired the Union from 1905 to 1910.[8]

Her contributions to the study of science were acknowledged publicly when in 1914, she was appointed Fellow of the prestigious Linnean Society. [9] She also was a member of the textbook selection Committee at the London County Council Committee and assessed nature study and hygiene courses at other teaching colleges. Her obituary in Nature describes her as a ‘brilliant and inspiring teacher’ whose students ‘went out to teach with a feeling of power and confidence’ and ‘teachers of many years standing still remember her with affection and gratitude’.  She ‘never lost sight of the interdependences of theory and practice’ and ‘like all true teachers, she was also continually a learner’. [10]

Given this, how can we ensure that women academics such as von Wyss (and Margaret Punnett, Susan Isaacs, Marion Richardson, Geraldine Montmorency, etc), do not remain hidden?  One suggestion is to name one of the recently refurbished rooms at the IOE after them.  I can quite easily imagine walking into ‘The Clotilde von Wyss Lecture Theatre’.  Their names would certainly arouse curiosity and may even result in further research.

REFERENCES

[1] Apart from E. W. Jenkins’ work on The Nature Study Movement(1981) in which he introduces von Wyss,  Richard Aldrich’s biographical introduction to her in his  Centenary History of the Institute of Education(2002), and some passing references to von Wyss , there is little of significance with respect to a study of her pedagogical practice.

[2] Fernanda Perrone, ‘Women Academics in England, 1870–1930’, History of Universities12 (1993): 339, 347.

[3] Richard Aldrich, ‘The Training of Teachers and Educational Studies: The London Day Training College, 1902–1932’, Paedagogica Historica40, no. 5–6 (October 2004): 624.

[4] ‘Harold’, ‘The Biological Exhibition’, The Londinian, no. Summer (1929): 15.

[5] Correspondence with Gaumont-British Instructional Ltd dated20thMarch (1935?) and 7thOctober 1935. ‘Von Wyss Staff Records (1909-1949)’.

[6] British Broadcasting Corporation, ‘Notes on the Courses: Nature Study with Clotilde von Wyss’, in Broadcast to Schools (January to June 1929)(London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1929), 17.

[7] Diploma Report dated 29/05/22. In: Clotilde von Wyss, ‘Diploma Reports 1922 Women Students’ (London Day Training College, 1922), IE/STU/A/7, UCL Institute of Education Archives.

[8] E. W. Jenkins, ‘Science, Sentimentalism or Social Control? The Nature Study Movement in England and Wales, 1899‐1914’, History of Education10, no. 1 (March 1981): 39.

[9] ‘Societies’, The Athenaeum, no. 4542 (14 November 1914): 512.

[10] R. F. S., ‘Obituary: Miss Clotilde von Wyss’, Nature142 (26 November 1938): 944–45.