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Our interdisciplinary research on Mary, Queen of Scots continues this year, with a repeat visit to Stirling Castle fast approaching. Stirling is an absolute godsend for anyone studying the later Stuarts; the recreation of the palace just brings the whole era to life, especially the staff recreating personalities of the time.

Last year, we had a guided tour before being hauled off to play with some period costumes, and jolly good fun it was as well. After that, our group wandered around the palace, with me telling historical stories and Art teacher colleague encouraging sketches, and bumped into 16th century gentlemen with large pooches. Other groups discovered that Mary was into football and spoke little French before leaving for France. It was a fabulous visit, but it didn’t quite meet the needs of our three interdisciplinary subjects (Modern Languages, Art and Social Subjects).

So one of the French teachers (M) and I sat down and went through all of last year’s photographs to identify possible items for a treasure hunt. M translated the words into French and I pulled the whole lot together to create I Spy Stirling Castle. We tried to choose objects that were relevant to all three subjects; we were particularly pleased with chandelier and trompe l’oeil which are French words identical to their English counterparts, as well as the comparable aigle (eagle), armure (armour), and licorne (unicorn), rather sweetly demonstrating the connections between the two languages. We asked pupils to identify the location and purpose of each object, provided an alphabetical glossary from French into English and left space for notes and sketches.

From the point of view of information / critical literacy, it challenges pupils to actually see what’s there and try to make sense of it. They have to actively seek information and understand that answers can come from a multitude of sources:  people (tour guides, re-enactors, school staff), AV, artefacts and written material. They have to identify where their existing knowledge is lacking and know when to ask for help (and spontaneously create a suitable question!) And they’ll have to synthesize a lot of data, including evidence from different times in the day,

I Spy Stirling Castle should hopefully provide a focus for for the visit, pull together the two halves of the day and encourage pupils to see their experiences at Stirling Castle as an integral part of the IDL class.

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