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Camelford School Outreach Project – That JORVIK Viking Thing 2021

This academic year the JORVIK Group’s schools outreach programme has introduced new opportunities for digital learning with our expanded Virtual Outreach offer allowing schools to video call a Viking character from their classroom. As part of That JORVIK Viking Thing our annual Festival Schools Project was also delivered remotely to Camelford Primary School in Cornwall.

In the autumn term three classes of Year 5 and 6 pupils from Camelford completed a 12- week project on the Vikings. The key question for the school’s topic on Vikings is ‘how should we remember the Vikings?’ and whether they should be remembered only in terms of the violence for which they are well-known today. The children explored topics of raiding and warfare, but after learning that raids were mostly a summer-time activity for the Vikings, they were interested to learn how the Vikings would spend their winters.

To help the children learn more about what else the Vikings did aside from raiding, they had a video call with Oddny, one of the JORVIK Viking Centre’s Vikings. Calling from her
residence on Coppergate in the year 960, Oddny explained that the long nights and chilly days mean that Vikings spent more time doing inside activities during winter, rather than outdoor pursuits of crafting, trading and raiding. The children got to see replicas of objects associated with indoor pastimes on display at the JORVIK Viking Centre including bone dice
and a hnefatafl gaming board and pieces. The children also helped identify a mystery artefact that the Vikings would use in winter – an ice skate carved from a horse’s foot bone! This virtual session also introduced the children to the topic of sagas and storytelling in the Viking age, as Oddny explained that gathering around the hearth in winter to keep warm was also where Vikings would tell stories of famous adventurers, warriors, gods and monsters. The telling of stories in the Viking age was also accompanied by music, and the children got to see replica musical instruments including a deer bone flute and a wooden syrinx (panpipes), based on the rare find from Coppergate.

At the end of each session, the children then had a chance to ask their Viking host questions about everyday life in the Viking age, ranging from how houses were built, which gods the Vikings worshipped and what the average Viking would eat for breakfast.

Reflecting on the virtual outreach, one of the teachers, Mrs Smith, commented: “All three classes absolutely loved it and it was just perfect to finish our topic with- you provided us with lots of information we can now add into our balanced argument.” The children put their new knowledge to good use in their written work, discussing whether the Vikings should be remembered as violent raiders or peaceful settlers. They then copied this written work onto the sails of beautifully designed model Viking ships!

Also as part of their Viking topic the children produced digital artwork reflecting on what they have learnt about the Vikings in their classes. You can see some examples of their artwork
in the gallery below. They also recreated the drama and violence of Viking raids in short animations, which you can also view below. Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the JORVIK Group Learning Team from delivering much of our usual learning programme of outreach visits to schools and interactive workshops at our attractions, relying on digital engagement has allowed us to expand our virtual offer to reach learning groups from outside the region. Unfortunately the JORVIK Viking Centre is too far away for schools such as Camelford to travel to on a school trip, but engaging with children across the UK and beyond via video calls has allowed us to present history and archaeology to younger audiences in new and creative ways.

Thank you to Mrs Smith and the rest of the Year 5 and 6 pupils and teachers from Camelford Primary for sending us the photos and animations from their fantastic Viking project!