Universities offer a wealth of information and expertise that can help to bring education to life for school children – if you can access it.
Now the education team at Newcastle University have designed a new online platform which brings together everything the institution has to offer in one place.
In the basement of Newcastle University’s Robinson Library is a collection of precious archives charting the spread of cholera across the North East in 1831.
Listing the names of those who died, it also details the treatments used and the systems implemented by local authorities to try to manage the spread of this terrifying disease.
It’s just the sort of document that brings history alive and now for the first time, these archives are being made available to schools across the UK as part of a unique learning resource.
Newcastle University’s Teachers’ Toolkit, is an online platform which brings together over 250 teaching resources, outreach programmes and schools events to support teachers and inspire the next generation.
Covering everything from Biofuels and Biology to Philosophy and Citizenship, the aim is to give schools easy access to the University’s world-leading expertise to support, inform and inspire classroom lessons.
"In 2011 we asked teachers what we could do to help them work more effectively with us," explains Professor Suzanne Cholerton, Newcastle University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning.
"The response was unanimous - with such a big organisation it's often hard to know who to ask or where to look.
"So the team set about creating a simple, clearly structured website that brought together everything we offer for schools and colleges. And the result is Teachers' Toolkit."
Science Education Liaison Officer Simon Laing, who has led the project explains: “Our aim was to create the Yellow Pages equivalent for schools outreach at Newcastle University.
“One of the problems is the real world isn’t divided up into University subjects and disciplines. A teacher trying to find information about disease might go to the medical faculty website but not search the historical archives which are housed in the library.
“Other topics might fall under chemistry in the school curriculum but come under medicine or Biology here at the University and teachers are just too busy to trawl through the website trying to find the right programmes and the right people to speak to.
“Teachers’ Toolkit brings everything together in one place. There are almost 250 resources uploaded so far, from lesson plans and resources to outreach activities that we offer both in schools and on campus.
“And more are being added all the time as new events are developed – such as those which will be run in conjunction with this year’s British Science Festival.
“We hope this resource will give more teachers access to the expertise, information and resources we have here at Newcastle to support their lessons and enhance the educational experience of schoolchildren not just in the North East but across the UK.”
Sara Bird, education officer in the University’s Robinson Library, is one of more than30 staff who have contributed to the new website.
Working with experts in the medical faculty, one of the sessions she runs is ‘Cracking Cholera’ which gives students the chance to not only delve into the special collections but also use original documents to create their own recipes for a cure and then test them in the labs.
“It’s a brilliant event,” says Sara, who worked for 10 years as a secondary school teacher before joining the university.
“And this is just one of many we offer but in the past it has been difficult for teachers to find out what’s going on in the university because it has all been quite disjointed.
“I know what it’s like to be on the other side – all the lesson planning and preparation - and teachers just don’t have the time to trawl websites.
“Teachers’ Toolkit is really easy to navigate and gives them access to materials they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
published on: 10 January 2013