School Trip to the British Library Exhibition 'Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices' 12 November 2010-3 April 2011
Blake, Julie, NATE Classroom
It's a curious phrase 'the class trip'. I write it and feel my skin thickening to educational dinosaur as I remember a naked King Lear at the Hackney Empire, last post at the Menin Gate, The Relapse at Stratford, Blake at the Tate, and several years of the scratch'n'sniff Canterbury Tales experience. Trips for A Level English Language students were more difficult, but where there was fervent staffroom competition to be crowned King/Queen of Trips, one had to make an effort. We toured the Houses of Parliament with an insulting MP visited The Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library (www.bl.uk/ whatson/permgall/treasures), and in my finest hour with a risk assessment form, re-enacted the Battle of Hastings at Senlac Hill. Did the students get better grades--who knows? Did they have a richer and fuller experience of life and learning than they would otherwise have had--for sure.
It is often very difficult now for teachers to run class trips. The cover situation ... the strange belief that nailing students to seats and forcing them to swallow PEE is a strategy for educational improvement ... the blood-curdling growls of the health and safety monitor ... But whatever the difficulty, we must battle on, knowing the difference a day can make. And if there is one must-do trip this year, it is the British Library's once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, 'Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices'. There won't be PEE anywhere, and it is an extraordinary opportunity for students to get a text-rich soaking in language history and variety, part of the National Curriculum for Key Stage 3/4 English. This is covered in depth for the language change component of A Level English Language, and of broad contextual value to students of A Level English Literature. The exhibition has been designed by the Learning Team and curators at the British Library, with David Crystal, so there will be plenty of quirkiness, curiosity and interactivity for everyone.
Of course, any trip is only ever as good as its logistical forethought so here is a handy cut-out-and-keep guide to how to spend your day at the British Library, where to find suitable refreshment, and a few suggestions of what else you might do if you have time/inclination/budget to make a day/residential of it.
Your time at the British Library
The exhibition is open seven days a week, free of charge. The Learning Team have laid on free--that's FREE workshops with knowledgeable and experienced school/college workshop leaders?! For enquiries phone the Learning Team on +44 (0)20 7412 7797, email them on learning@ bl.uk, and see the information here http://www.bl.uk/evolvingenglish/. Book now to avoid considerable disappointment.
If your students are of the pocket money types, you might want to stage-manage an outing to the gift shop. Lots of things young people won't be interested in (like, ummm, books? ...) but also British Library pencils, Alice in Wonderland pencil boxes, British Library chocolate, etc. For teachers there will be the exhibition book, written by David Crystal and lavishly illustrated with colour plates of extra items not included in the exhibition, as well as lots of CDs of recordings of poets, speechmakers and other material that might come in pedagogical handiness. For super-keeners who want more, there is also the free Ritblat Gallery, the permanent exhibition of treasures from the British Library's collection, and the Folio gallery, where there is a regularly changing small exhibition (currently iconic inventions of the 21st century). The best website address to use for learning at the British Library is: www.bl.uk/learning.
Food and drink inside the library
Inside the library there are plenty of free water fountains. There is also a Peyton & Byrne cafe, and a self-service restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. If you haven't come across Peyton & Byrne, think fluorescent cupcakes and triple skinny lattes. …