JORVIK Festival Project 2020 | JORVIK Viking Centre

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As part of the 36th JORVIK Viking Festival in 2020, Year 4 pupils from Scarcroft Primary School in York explored the festival theme of ‘Voyages of the Vikings’ and took on the role of Viking explorers and storytellers.

Members of the JORVIK Group learning team visited the school for three days of outreach in which the pupils learned about Viking travel, settlement, stories and language, including learning how to speak in Old Norse. The project made use of the work of the Gersum Project in researching the influence of Scandinavian languages on English vocabulary.

The pupils began by getting involved in everyday life in the Viking Age, handling replicas of the JORVIK artefacts and role-playing different jobs that the Viking inhabitants of Jorvik would have carried out over a thousand years ago. They also spoke some of the languages that would have been heard in the Viking city.

Children dressed up for education project 2020

children dressed up as Vikings

Joined by our skalds, the pupils re-enacted the story of Eirik the Red’s settlement of Greenland and his son Leif the Lucky’s journey to North America and learned about the challenges that Viking explorers would face at sea.
They discovered the Viking roots for many place names in Britain, Scandinavia and beyond- even learning about the mythological realms the Vikings believed lay beyond our own. As they discovered this unique Viking geography of the world and cosmos, every pupil created a way sign, pointing to a different destination. The children designed their directions with Old Norse names, runes and illustrations that might help a lost Viking identify it by its landmarks, animals or goods to buy and sell!

Children completing worksheets in the classroom

pupils enjoying JORVIK schools project

JORVIK schools project activities

Pupil filling out worksheet

Viking helps pupil with worksheet

School child filling completing worksheet

After sketching their designs, both classes then painted their way-signs onto wooden arrows. These finished signs were displayed at Barley Hall over the nine days of the JORVIK Viking Festival in February 2020 as part of the Seafaring Sagas and Spells exhibition.

Finished artwork on the wall

On the final day of outreach, the Year 4 pupils imagined themselves as Vikings and set off on a journey from Jorvik to Greenland, encountering various challenges and perils along the way. First, the children chose Viking names for themselves, selecting both parts of their names based on the Old Norse meanings. Names included Ragnulf (wolf god), Ormar (snake warrior), Sighild (battle victory) and Soldis (sun goddess).

In groups, they embarked on their journeys, stopping at Scotland, Shetland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland, with opportunities to trade along the way, whilst also encountering storms and whirlpools. These crews of fearless explorers were also challenged to converse in Old Norse in order to purchase a boat and essential supplies of spare rope, sails and dried fish for the journey to Greenland.

This ‘Viking Exploration’ activity was devised by the JORVIK Group learning team with the help of Aimee Gibbins, an Education Studies student from York St John University who undertook a placement with the learning team. Aimee put her knowledge of working with primary school children to excellent use in planning this activity, and also widened her understanding of how the JORVIK Group offers cross-curricular learning on outreach visits to schools.

map activity

Aimee Gibbins creating map activity as part of placement

The pupils at Scarcroft Primary wrote the stories of their journey to Greenland as a creative writing exercise, challenging them to think how real Viking sailors would have felt crossing the seas a thousand years ago. Some of the pupils read and recorded extracts of their stories, which were recorded and combined into one saga, which you can listen to below. Listen out for the Old Norse conversations – do any of the words sound the same as their modern English equivalents?


Góthan dag. Ek kann norrǿnu – Good day. I speak Norse
Ek skil – I understand
Selr thú fiskr? – Do you sell fish?
Ja. Ek veithi fiska. – Yes. I catch fish.
Takk. Farvel. – Thanks. Farewell.
Farvel – Farewell

Ek em kold! – I am cold!
That er land – That is land
Ek sé jokull – I see a glacier
Vér skulum bua i Grœnland – We will live in Greenland