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Historic Scotland introduces two new activities for school children

30 March 2010

Historic Scotland has introduced two new workshops for school children at Stanley Mills and Elgin Cathedral as part of its new education programme for this year.

Stanley Mills has introduced a cross curricular activity that brings together history, technology and science.  It aims to help pupils’ understanding of Scotland’s industrial past by exploring areas such as water power and renewable energy.

As well as the waterwheels challenge, schools are also being offered the opportunity to turn ‘science sleuth’ and look at how energy was harnessed and converted into other forms at Stanley by exploring friction, forces and power transfer.

Pupils are taken on a tour of the site which follows the route of the power from the river into the building, via the wheel pits. This shows them how important water was to the development of Stanley Mills.   They then work in teams to build 3-D working waterwheel models, which they then test using water pumps to explore the development of the wheels from paddle to bucket.

Fiona Davidson, education officer for Historic Scotland at Stanley Mills said:

“Stanley Mills played a key role in Scotland’s industrial past, and it is important that we bring this to life in a way which presents science in context and connects with young people.

“The physical buildings give pupils an idea of the size and scale of the operation, but we also want to give them the opportunity to look at the science and innovation behind it - and how these mills were key pioneers of water power.

““By bringing science into the historic environment, we want to encourage children to be passionate about their heritage as well as developing problem solving and critical thinking skills for later life across disciplines.

“Practical examples such as looking at the impact of the physical landscape on Stanley’s scientific and technological development are a key way of doing this and we look forward to rolling the programme out over the upcoming months.”

The pilot course at Elgin Cathedral will teach school children about the importance of conserving Scotland’s built heritage and what can be done to help to protect it. By giving them first hand access to both the stonemason’s studio and the cathedral they can see how traditional skills are being maintained and applied to some of the country’s most recognisable buildings.  They visit a stonemason’s yard to find out first hand about the processes involved in stone masonry including crafting the famous gargoyles which feature on some of Europe’s most famous buildings including the cathedral.

The children are also encouraged to do some tests on building stones to determine the stone type to help them work out the best use for the different stones based on properties. They then explore Elgin Cathedral where they are shown how to identify and record different types of stone decay using digital cameras. They are encouraged to  understand the man made and natural processes that can cause damage to building stones including wind, rain and plants as well as climate change and vandalism.

The children are also tasked with finding examples of damage, as well as areas where the stonework has been repaired or protected before looking for examples of changes to the site through the ages by identifying and tracing the marks of different stonemasons.

Elspeth Mackay, Education Officer for Historic Scotland said:

“This activity is intended to give primary school children a greater understanding of the importance of Scotland’s built heritage and what can be done to help protect it.

“By giving them first hand access to both the stonemason’s studio and the cathedral they can see how traditional skills are being maintained and applied to some of the country’s most recognisable buildings.

“It also provides a link into contemporary issues such as climate change and what is being done to protect our traditional buildings so that they can be enjoyed by generations to come.”


Notes for editors


  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk



For further information


Jennifer Johnston Watt
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8070 or 07827 956 866
jennifer.johnstonwatt@scotland.gsi.gov.uk