For the past four years, West Rise Junior School has leased 120 acres of marshland, including two large lakes, from the local council. The school manages the land with grazing and other land management activities. The school and marsh are located on the second largest Bronze Age settlement in Europe and the school leases the land, partly to explore this theme. In addition to this, the children are taught a number of outdoor learning activities, including fishing, boating and bird watching. The school has a number of different farm animals which the children help to look after. Most notably is the herd of water buffalo which are resident on the marsh and which have become the subject matter of much of the children’s work. Exploring the Bronze Age theme on the marsh has also lead the teachers and children at the school to begin to build a roundhouse on the marsh and to engage with a number of activities linked to this period in their history, including pot making and cooking over open fires.
Below are just a few examples of the many and varied projects that have been carried out in, or inspired by this fantastic location.
Bronze Age Pottery Activity Recount
by Dominic Beams, Year 5
When Eli, Kerri, Layla and I heard we were chosen for the project we were delighted. We couldn't wait to go!
When the afternoon finally came, we jumped into our wellie boots and listened like hawks to Joe Seaman, an archaeologist from Eastbourne Museum. He showed us a piece of Bronze Age pot dug up from the Shinewater marsh, with a fingerprint from a Bronze Age resident living on the site.
We walked over to the marsh and we were given our instructions. We had about twenty minutes of digging up clay from the marsh with spades. Once we had finished, we put our clay in a trailer and came back to school.
After the excitement of our first visit, we returned a week later eager to continue our project.
Upon arrival at the marsh, Joe explained to us how Bronze Age people would have lit fires by sparking flints which would ignite wood and grass. We used rocks to grind flint into smaller pieces, and then mixed these pieces with the clay to use later for building pots. This was done to make the clay more stable when it was fired.
Joe also showed us how Bronze Age people boiled water using burnt flint. This boiling water would then have been used for cooking and washing. It was fascinating to see how these things were done by our ancestors.
Today we were disappointed when we saw it was raining and we were unable to go to the marsh. However, we were able to go into Room 13 instead to continue our project. The next stage was to create some Bronze Age pottery.
Joe demonstrated how to construct the pots. After rolling the clay into a ball, he showed us how to use our thumbs to start shaping the base. Then we rolled some clay into long strips and these were used to build up the layers of the pot.
We all had the chance to build our own pots, and once we had got used to the techniques involved, we managed to create some good pottery. Joe explained to us that during the Bronze Age, this would have been done as a communal event.
This was our last week, but never the less, we went to the marsh with high hopes.
On arrival at the marsh, we saw a huge fire that Alex and Joe had built in the morning. As we got closer, we could see the pots we had made the previous week, inside the fire.
We watched as Joe took the pots out of the fire with metal tongs, and we were delighted to see that none of them had cracked. We had to leave them at the marsh when we went back to school, to allow them to cool down.
The whole experience has been fantastic, and we all throughly enjoyed seeing how people in the Bronze Age would have lived.
Here is the latest update from the marshes - http://westrisejunior.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Bronze Age v2.pdf
The Yurt Project
This was a week at West Rise, where we saw the start of our exciting Yurt project. A yurt was built in the centre of our school, which quickly became the heartbeat of the school. From this unusual and dynamic space, the whole school community were involved in creative workshops, to celebrate the school marsh and the building of the round house.
It was an amazing week where the children spent time in the outdoor classroom: on the marsh and in the yurt. They had a variety of opportunities to respond to these experiences; through creating land art sculptures, writing and textiles.
The photos show different classes harvesting reeds for weaving mats, back at the yurt.
Experiencing the marsh through an 'Earth Window' and recording their ideas, thoughts and feelings onto paper, for use later in the week with the dream flags.
Back at the yurt the children learnt how to weave a mat, using recycled magazine paper and the marsh reeds, with stunning results.
The woven, reed matting was then incorporated into a land art sculpture. Each group created their own 'Dream House' from the natural resources.
Listen to pupils of 5M explaining their experience of the week and the organiser, Helen Stringfellow, outlining the purpose of the event.