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Curriculum for Excellence topics


The following workshops are designed for pupils from P3 to S3 within the broad general education.


Image shows volumes of the Register of Deeds on a shelf. Crown Copyright: National Records of Scotland.

The National Records of Scotland

Find out what an archive is and what archivists do in this introduction to the work of the National Records of Scotland. Put your skills to the test in deciphering a range of primary sources drawn from our extensive holdings. Book this workshop now.

Image shows a battle scene.

The Scottish Wars of Independence

During the 13th and 14th centuries, Scotland's status as an independent kingdom came under threat from King Edward I and King Edward II of England. Pupils investigate this turbulent period in history, from the death of King Alexander III in 1286 to the execution of William Wallace in 1305, and consider Wallace's impact on events.
Two versions are available: for P4-P7 pupils, and for S1-S3 pupils. Book this workshop now.

Detail of image showing the signature of Mary Queen of Scots. National Records of Scotland reference GD112/40.

Mary, Queen of Scots

In this session younger pupils use archives to investigate the early life of Mary Queen of Scots. They look closely at examples of her handwriting, seal and coins to find out about the young queen.
Recommended for P3-P5 pupils. Book this workshop now.

Detail of image of a witness statement. National Records of Scotland reference JC12/1/31.

Witches on Trial

Between 1563 and 1736, witchcraft was a criminal offence in Scotland, punishable by death. Pupils study evidence presented in a number of 16th and 17th century witchcraft trials to understand why they took place and how the accused were dealt with.
Recommended for S1-S3 pupils. Book this workshop now.

Image shows part of a witness statement in the case of John O'Neill, a climbing boy, in 1840. National Records of Scotland reference JC26/1840/286.

Victorian Scotland
Workshop 1: The Case of the Climbing Boy

John O'Neill was employed as a climbing boy in Glasgow in 1840. An incident took place which resulted in a criminal case. Pupils use their detective skills to evaluate contemporary witness statements to find out what happened to John and to identify who was responsible. Book this workshop now.

Detail from a 19th century image showing an elderly lady, Grandmama, and a young girl, Daisy Webster. National Records of Scotland reference GD1/1208/1/6.

Victorian Scotland
Workshop 2: 'Our Glen', a Snapshot in Time

During the summer of 1866, Alexander McCallum Webster built his own camera and took photographs of his family and the servants on his grandmother's estate at Invercreran in Argyll. Pupils use the photographs and other primary sources to research the Webster family, their servants and their lives. Book this workshop now.

Image shows a drawing of the Flannan Isles Lighthouse Eilean Mor. Reproduced courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Northern Lighthouse Board.

Victorian Scotland
Workshop 3: The Flannan Lighthouse Mystery

Using contemporary evidence gathered by the Northen Lighthouse Board, pupils retell the story of the disappearance of the three lightkeepers from Flannan Lighthouse in December 1900 and draw their own conclusions as to what happened. Book this workshop now.

Image shows part of a recruitment poster. National Records of Scotland reference GD16/52/60/1

The Impact of the Great War, 1914-1915

When Britain declared war on Germany on 8 August 1914, people were optimistic that it would be over in a matter of months. This workshop focuses on life in Scotland from 1910 onwards and investigates the immediate impact of the war up to December 1915. Book this workshop now.

Image shows part of a photograph of St Kildans at the jetty. National Records of Scotland reference GD1/713/15

St Kilda
Workshop 1: Living on the Edge

No matter which century or location, survivial in small isolated communities presents constant challenges. Using contemporary evidence created by officials and visitors to St Kilda, pupils find out about the island, the people and their lives and why they abandoned their homes in August 1930.
Recommended for P5-P7 pupils. Book this workshop now.

Image shows part of a photograph of St Kildans at the jetty. National Records of Scotland reference GD1/713/15

St Kilda
Workshop 2: Planning the Evacuation

On 10 May 1930 government officials received a petition from the inhabitants of St Kilda asking for assistance to leave the island. Pupils revisit the experience through the eyes of both the civil servants and the local population to assess how the situation was handled and whether they agree with the decisions taken.
Recommended for S1-S3 pupils. Book this workshop now.

Image shows detail of street plan of Greenock, with bomb hits from 6th-7th May 1941 blitz marked in red. National Records of Scotland reference HH50/162 p.6

The Second World War
Workshop 1: The Scottish Home Front

Pupils 'meet' some of the people who lived on Baker Street and Ingleston Street in Greenock during the Second World War, build a picture of what life was like and find out how the war affected their lives. Book this workshop now.

Extract from a report by the Northern Lighthouse Board including the following words: At 3.45pm on 21st Jan... single enemy aircraft a... buildings, 2 bombs were... first registered a direct...west gable end of the... dwelling houses, comprising...Principal's, 1st and 2nd... National Records of Scotland reference NLC10/3/63 p.448.

The Second World War
Workshop 2: New Light on the Scottish Home Front

Using the records of the Northern Lighthouse Board, pupils discover how lighthouses were affected by the Second World War, how the responsibilities of the lightkeepers changed, and how they defended themselves, their lights and their families. Book this workshop now.

Image shows the lion rampant of Scotland, a detail from the illustrative border of the Exemplification of the Act of Union. National Records of Scotland reference SP13/210.

The Thistle and the Lion

Pupils examine replica coins and primary sources to discover the symbols used to represent Scotland through the ages. With this knowledge they go on to choose symbols to represent themselves. Book this workshop now.

Image shows tartan bloomers flying from a flagpole, a detail from a humourous postcard. Image reproduced courtesy of SCRAN.

Tartan: a Chequered Tale

The National Records of Scotland administers the Scottish Register of Tartans which was established in 2008. In this session we explain what tartan is and how it is created, and use original sources from our holdings to illustrate episodes from Scotland's tartan history. Book this workshop now.

Image shows detail from a census record featuring an entry for Charles R Mackintosh. Crown copyright: National Records of Scotland.

What is the census?

The first official Scottish census took place in 1801 and it continues to take place every ten years. Why do we have a census and how useful is the data collected? Pupils learn how to read, interpret and compare statistical data from a selection of 19th to 21st century census records. The next census is due in 2021: what questions should be asked to help plan Scotland's future? Book this workshop now.

Image shows part of the act forbidding the playing of football. National Records of Scotland reference GD3/5/2

Sporting Scotland

Sport has been played in Scotland for centuries, with the most popular being football and golf. Pupils investigate primary sources to discover why football and golf were banned in the 15th century and how they have evolved since then. Other sports featured include archery and those associated with Highland Games. Book this workshop now.