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Learning from 10 year olds – what we’ve gained from Year 5 at Westacre by Julia and Pernilla

Long before we started the Brine Memories project, we asked Year 5 pupils at Westacre Middle School to do a survey: Did they know why our town was called Droitwich Spa? Had they heard of the brine baths? Had they ever visited the Heritage Centre? 70 per cent of the students answered ‘no’ to all three questions.

So a plan was born. Together with the wonderful Year 5 teachers, we designed a series of lessons (and adventures) through the summer term enabling the pupils to discover more about Droitwich. It has been a treat for us all.

Despite Covid restrictions, Julia was able to teach each class about oral history and why it’s important to preserve people’s memories, as they tell us about things that would never be written down. Pernilla then created a wonderful Artefact Trail (with the help of our excellent researcher Catrin and Catherine at the Droitwich Heritage Centre), enticing the children to examine photos, pricelists, football programmes, brochures, objects, maps, types of salt and a living artefact – Mr John Corbett. These artefacts were central to enabling the children to understand that if we can’t talk to someone about the past, there are other sources we can use.


Another initial aim was to get the students to record oral history interviews with older people from the town. We were not going to be thwarted by Covid. As we couldn’t do this in person, we decided to do it through zoom. Our interviewees were beamed into each classroom via the magic of interactive whiteboards.

The children’s engagement throughout the project has been truly wonderful. Our favourite moments? Watching an entire class transfixed by an interviewee’s stories, all eyes on the screen. A 10-year-old boy telling one of our volunteers that he’d give his pocket money to help build a new brine bath. The sense of breathless excitement and discovery as the students examined the artefacts in the school dining hall. Being confronted by 5 students who had quizzed their own grandparents and found out things even we didn’t know.

Perhaps the final word should go to Alison Underhill, Westacre’s amazing Head of History, who had faith in us and enabled the project to happen. “As someone passionate about family history, it’s been incredible to hear the students share stories about our learning and their engagement with it. I’d quite like to involve year 6 and 7 too – to take this knowledge further.”

We’d like that too! Droitwich’s brine heritage is safe if the youngsters from Westacre carry on learning and caring about it.

Oh, and we repeated the initial survey at the end of the project and you won’t be surprised to hear that 100 per cent of the students said ‘yes’ to the three questions at the top of this page!


Armed with their new knowledge of the brine baths from oral and primary sources, the students then went on a heritage trail around the town, stopping at various places (manned by Brine Memories volunteers) to discover if any of the buildings from the town’s salt heritage were still visible. Back at school they made sketches of the Raven hotel as well as wonderful pool pictures in the style of David Hockney and designs for a new brine bath.