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Anais Vanian-Cooper is a Fellow of the Audience Diversity Academy and has devised an ‘experiment’ that brings young people into her organisation to experience something new and hopefully long-lasting.  In this blog, Anais shares some of her starting points.

We at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust are holding immersive days as part of The Arts Council England’s Museums and Schools initiative.  Working with our education department we at Hall’s Croft, and across two other sites, are holding twice weekly sessions where children from across the Midlands come and be a guide for the day.

I wanted to find out initially how these children felt when they were told they have the opportunity to go to a heritage property and guide visitors round the property. I began to look to see how the children felt coming to the house and what their expectation was. I asked them how nervous they felt and whether this was an impossible task for them to fulfil? Did they feel that this was a challenge they could rise to?

The experience starts with our team going over to the schools – telling the class what will happen and distributing the information that they will need to become guides.  The Talk is written in collaboration with the Education Department and the House Manager, so that it is tailored to the needs of the children.  The school then has the chance to have a familiarisation session before they embark on the journey of self-discovery (as for many this is what it is).

Most children reported that they felt very nervous when they were told that they were expected to give talks to strangers and get feedback from the house manager. I have to compliment the children for embracing this opportunity and giving it their all, the quiet ones were the ones that came out of their shell and the really confident ones decided that History is a subject they would pursue because they liked the experience so much.

So how do we know what the children experienced and what they thought about it? We set up a questionnaire from the beginning asking how they felt before the visit and after.

You can see from these comments what the outcome was.

(If you require more information about this and the schools please contact Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Education department).

As you can see from the comments below this programme has been an empowering event in the lives of these children and the confidence it has given them.

How did you feel beforehand?

  • very nervous
  • anxious
  • worried
  • excited
  • scared and nervous
  • happy because I was going to be a guide
  • special – not every school gets this opportunity
  • incredible – being a leader
  • felt like a VIP
  • not sure if I could do it

How did you feel afterwards?

  • brave
  • happy now I can talk to people
  • relieved
  • confident and professional
  • excited
  • happy to tour guide for the first time
  • scared then confident
  • lovely day
  • nervous then happy and excited, now confident
  • scared at first but now proud of myself
  • stand up for myself more
  • confident that I can do it
  • will be able to do talks in the future
  • uncomfortable in the beginning but now much more confident
  • want to bring my family and guide them through the houses
  • joyful
  • fabulous
  • fantastic
  • stupendous
  • tremendous
  • We were nervous with the small groups to begin with but got more confident.
  • I was nervous at the beginning and then reading the script I felt better
  • I got the attention of the people and then the others started listening.
  • I understand how my teacher feels – you have to repeat every single thing!
  • I felt appreciated and people were grateful.
  • like I’d accomplished it
  • very happy – people doing their part
  • felt successful
  • It felt good to know people were listening.

How did the visitors react to you?

  • They were asking us questions because we were so informative.
  • Someone said that we’re stars.
  • Someone said ‘You’re amazing!’
  • People were happy – they said they have learnt something and will pass it on
  • (The visitors were really positive and said how much they enjoyed the kids being at the house)

How do we follow it up?

We have questionnaires that are sent to the schools to see what the experience was like for the children and teachers.  We take the information to use for the following year to gain more knowledge and improve what we offer.  This has been for Hall’s Croft a learning experience and we are loving every minute of it.

Image courtesy of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust © Megan Taylor.