'Put your back into it...' A learning mentor puts the volunteers through their paces. © Stockwood Park Museum.
A team of learning mentors and 11 pupils from Cardinal Newman School in Luton are Digging For Victory - an exciting 15-week programme taking place at Stockwood Park Museum until July 19 2005.
Pupils, aged 11–14, spend alternate weeks in their Dig For Victory Garden together with educational sessions that link to World War II, including a day trip to Imperial War Museum Duxford.
The project brings together two strands of the museum’s development programme; the Learning Mentors project, funded by the East of England Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (EEMLAC) and the Their Past Your Future (TPYF) exhibition, which the museum will host in September.
The pupils, kitted out in t-shirts (courtesy of the Imperial War Museum) with the Dig For Victory poster and the TPYF logo on, have been growing potatoes, radishes, cabbages, marrows, carrots and lettuces. They have also learned how to care for chickens – and enjoy their eggs.
The team put the finishing touches to the Anderson Shelter. © Stockwood Park Museum.
"I've enjoyed everything, but most of all being with the chickens in the garden," confirmed one of the pupils, Nika. Another of the volunteers, Yvette, preferred the vegetable gardening: "I've enjoyed planting and picking the veggies," she said.
Education sessions have involved topics such as evacuation, air raids and the home front and have also been mapped to other areas of the curriculum such as science - linking rationing to healthy diets.
Of the related education sessions another of the pupils, James, commented, "the best thing was learning about World War 2 and writing the letters home and the poems."
An Anderson Shelter, on loan from the Imperial War Museum, has also been put in the garden and covered by a couple of inches of soil to which the children added further soil and planted more vegetables. "The best bit was covering the Anderson Shelter when we all came together as a team and worked hard!" commented Joshua.
Planting a seed row. © Stockwood Park Museum.
“It’s been exciting to be able to connect the project with Their Past Your Future,” said Helen Close, Education Development Officer. “The children have got so much out of it and there has been great feedback from the school.”
Although the project will shortly be coming to a close, for the children it has proved to be a worthwhile experience: "I think the most enjoyable thing was Duxford Museum with the aeroplanes," said Zaklina.
For some of the children the project was also a great opportunity to make some new friends: "I've enjoyed doing our own garden and planting vegetables," said Sean, "and also meeting new friends and having fun."
The project will culminate at the end of the term with a presentation of the work undertaken. Mentors from other schools will also be invited to view the results of this exciting project.
The Their Past Your Future scheme is supported by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the Imperial War Museum in this the 60th anniversary of the war’s end.
Catherine Rose is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance student journalist for the East of England region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.