Bristol Open Doors for Schools

Local children explore the city’s stories through poetry, drama and street art

Last week, the entire year six cohort of May Park Primary School, Easton had an unforgettable day exploring the built environment of central Bristol. Part of the Bristol Open Doors programme, the city’s largest architecture and design festival, the day was devised to encourage the 100 students to see their city in a new light.

The theme of the day was ‘if these walls could talk’ with the aim of developing literacy through exploring the stories of the city’s buildings and streets – using place-based learning to enrich the curriculum.  For the first half of the day, the children were split into class groups and rotated around four fantastic experiences, each of which encouraged them to consider buildings in a creative way. Throughout the morning, the children collected adjectives, stories, snippets and pictures through the following activities:

  • Word-based poetry session in St James’ Priory with Ali Camp from Lighting up Learning, where children tagged adjectives to various parts of the building, explored the effect that architecture and design can have on our emotions
  • A street art walk of Nelson Street with Amy Harrison of the Architecture Centre, which encouraged the children to represent the effect of street art on our cities through descriptive language
  • A exploration of the crypt of the Church of St John the Baptist Church (St John on the Wall) with Michael Gorely from Heritage Schools, discovering the stories, gossip and even smells associated with the crypt’s diverse uses over time
  • An immersive historical experience of the Christmas Steps, devised by Ruth Myers of Local Learning, saw an actor in period costume evoke life on the busy shopping street before the steps themselves were constructed.

In the afternoon, the children came back together in St James’ Priory, where they worked in groups to devise creative responses to the morning’s activities, before presenting them to the rest of the year group. Through poetry, prose and a pop-up street art gallery the array of work showed a depth of understanding of the complex stories that buildings have to tell and a rich use of language.

This Bristol Doors Open for Schools event was part of the Architecture Centre’s award-winning Learning & Participation programme and supported through our Opening Doors to Heritage project. Bristol Open Doors for School was more than just a great day out: it helped to open the minds of those who took part and ‘a wonderful experience to get the children out of the classroom and exploring the city – such an engaging way to develop their literacy skills, spark their creativity and enable them discover the history of their city’ Year 6 Teacher

Bristol Open Doors will be taking place from 14-16 September. Find out more