We had our first ever visit to Nansen Primary School in Birmingham this week. The school is named after Fridtjof Nansen, the famous Norwegian Arctic explorer. I was fascinated to see this as I’ve always had an interest in polar history, particularly Ernest Shackleton.
It’s a really big school with 120 children per year group so our visit was spread over two days. It was so big that it had a separate hall just for our use. This was great as it meant that we did not need to pack down for lunch then reset. It felt like a great mixture of the old and the new.
The school was really strict on security, a good thing to see, and there were lots of checks and security features. They were also very well organised and for the first time I can recall in a primary school, we had a detailed timetable for the workshops supplied to us.
The first workshops started about 9.20 each day and we had lots of teacher help in each workshop with putting on aprons, medieval clothes (one teacher even wore a dress herself!). They also helped children with trying on armour and making butter in the churns.
The butter making was one of the most popular areas of the workshop, with children and teachers alike. There were several cries of “It’s magic!” from the children as they saw the simple wonder of cream transforming into butter and buttermilk. Many people couldn’t believe that just by churning cream that you could make butter. There was great curiosity about what buttermilk was used for, in my experience I believe it’s good for making scones & cakes in modern times. I believe it was given to invalids in medieval times to help them recover. We also talked about how butter & ghee were different (ghee is heated butter to remove all the liquid and is 100% fat). I believe ghee was favoured in hot countries as it would be less likely to go off in the heat.
It was noticed by one of the children that the medieval bread oven was similar to ones that he had seen in Turkey. We discussed how similar they were to pizza ovens.
We spent lots of time looking at the different materials that the clothes were made from such as linen, wool and silk. Then everyone tried some on.
We looked at the knights armour and how one would become a knight, through the various stages of page boy and squire and what they might have to learn and do. We talked about why armour was worn and what it was made from, then we looked at where to put the armour on the body and then everyone tried some on. We then rebuilt the knight to see if we could remember where the armour went. Everyone then got to hold a blunt sword.
We gave some posters to the teachers, said our goodbyes then set off on our merry way back to Essex.