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Heritage Week 2020: ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’

We are delighted to share our theme for Heritage Week 2020: ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’. Engaging with our shared heritage – in Ireland and across Europe – presents a rich source for learning, and an opportunity to rediscover and reconnect with the knowledge, traditions and skills of our ancestors.

This year, we encourage everybody to explore the close connection between education and heritage, and to consider what our heritage can teach us about our past, what it can tell us about our present and how it can provide fresh ideas for a sustainable future.

Re-learning skills for sustainable living

Heritage Week 2020 offers an opportunity to share or learn new skills to help us all live more sustainably. Making and mending clothes, making tools, preserving foods, and cultivating and using plants for remedies were all common skills of the past. Re-learning them can help us treat our environment more sustainably and to use our resources more responsibly.

The heritage of education

This year’s theme also offers an opportunity to celebrate our centuries of educational heritage, and to consider how school curriculums can draw on the lessons from the past to inspire a better tomorrow. From our early monasteries connecting Irish scholars to the rest of Europe; to the times of Ireland’s hedge schools during the 18th and 19th centuries; to school life in the 20th century and our present-day education system, which encourages student exchanges, Erasmus placements and international research projects – our educational heritage provides much to draw from for talks, workshops, exhibitions and much more

Heritage on your doorstep

You can also use Heritage Week 2020 as an opportunity to learn something new about the heritage on your doorstep, for example by visiting a museum, local library or heritage site; by getting to know the history behind a historic monument in your locality, or by finding out more about our unique landscapes and wildlife habitats and the importance of ensuring their protection.

Things to consider when planning your event…

If you’re interested in getting involved as an event organiser, here are some things to consider when planning your event:

  • Heritage Week attendees particularly enjoy events that encourage active participation and ‘doing’. When planning your event, think about some ways in which you can encourage attendees to get involved, for example by offering an opportunity to try their own hand during a demonstration or workshop, by asking people to share their own experiences, or by scheduling a small quiz as part of your event.
  • Focus on quality events – we know it takes time and effort to develop a wonderful event that speaks to the theme of the week and offers information about an aspect of our heritage, so it’s not the number of events that matters, but how creative and engaging they are.
  • Attendees like having a sense of getting ‘special access’ as part of Heritage Week. If you’re planning a guided tour of a building or heritage site, for example, consider opening a room or area that’s not usually open to the public as a Heritage Week bonus.
  • Reach out to new audiences and make heritage accessible to all, for example people with disabilities, people from different ethnic backgrounds, children and teenagers, etc.
  • Make your event as environmentally friendly as possible by avoiding the use of non-sustainable materials such as plastics, glitter, etc.

Five event ideas to get you started…

  • Organise a demonstration or workshop focusing on a skill that our ancestors were very familiar with but may have been forgotten. How about basket-making, knitting, felting, darning, rope-making, thatching, dyeing, curing, pickling, candle-making, straw-plaiting… the options are endless!
  • Organise a night-time event to add an element of excitement. This could be a night sky workshop to teach people about the stars that have guided the way of travellers for centuries; an owl walk; or a night-time visit to a local museum or heritage site.
  • Consider an exhibition or a programme of talks looking at the role your local monastery or church played in providing education and in transmitting knowledge across boundaries.
  • Organise a cross-generational workshop, exploring the experience of going to school across different ages. What equipment could be found in a school room 50 years ago, and what is the standard today? What do pupils do during lunch break and recess now and then? What were / are people’s favourite school yard games?
  • Take a group on a guided tour of a building or heritage site and tell attendees about the origin of the building or site, how it was used in the past and now, and why it is important to preserve it. Alternatively, bring people of a guided walk of a park, nature reserve or conservation area near you and tell people about the plants, wildlife and anything else that makes the destination important to you. Don’t forget to ask members of the group about their own knowledge of the local biodiversity – there is so much knowledge to share.