Students inspired by ancient abbey ruins

STUDENTS have been inspired by the historic surroundings of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal to develop exciting ideas for a series of possible public events.

More than 130 Ripon Grammar School third form pupils explored the magnificent stone ruins and green open spaces as part of a novel literacy and numeracy project which is testing their creativity alongside communication and organisational skills.

Their challenge is to create an imaginary new visitor experience in this stunning setting on the edge of Ripon, which will appeal to a wide range of people and incorporate the unique character of the World Heritage Site.

Now in its seventh year, the project, developed by RGS literacy and numeracy co-ordinator Sally Dring alongside the National Trust, has gone from strength to strength.

One of the ideas students presented in the past - for an historical themed trail around the grounds, with costumed actors telling stories of the abbey - was even turned into a real visitor event.

Pupils have to stick to a strict budget of £300 and can also make use of resources, including water, power, tables, chairs, rugs and gazebos, alongside the services of a member of staff and two volunteers.

Mrs Dring explained how the challenge, based around numeracy and literacy, also incorporates history, business, art and other subjects: “As well as coming up with ideas, students have to create marketing materials to publicise their visitor experience and work to a strict budget.”

Over the coming weeks, students will prepare their final pitches and present them to National Trust staff.

Fountains Abbey learning officer Janet Anderson said it was important to hear the views of young people in the area: “As a World Heritage Site too, it’s vital that young people gain an understanding of their heritage and feel like it’s relevant to their lives. This challenge is a great way for us to see what inspires young people about the site and to engage the future custodians of our heritage.”

Divided into groups, the students, whose initial ideas included everything from a medieval market to a duck race and photography festival, had to pick the location of their event within the Fountains estate – with no shortage of impressive backdrops to choose from.

Fin Middlemiss, 14, from Boroughbridge said it was an extremely exciting project to be involved in: “It’s fun to organise an activity yourself without adults and we’ve enjoyed going around the abbey and learning about the history.”

Boarding student Ayo Olobaniyi, 14, from Leeds, explained that it was her first visit to the abbey: “I found it inspiring and now want to explore more. I’ve really enjoyed doing something educational which is fun at the same time.”

Mrs Dring added: “It has been so rewarding to see this project develop. Every year we are amazed at the students’ creativity. And it’s just wonderful for them to be able to work with this fantastic World Heritage site right on our doorstep.”

Mrs Anderson, who visited the school to brief students on the task concluded: “I’ll be looking to see students have really grasped the spirit of place so that the event they plan helps to deepen visitors’ appreciation and understanding of Fountains. It needs to be clearly presented with obvious involvement by all members of the team. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.”