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Schools join forces to develop next generation of historians and artists

10 November 2022

Dave Wyatt showing children hillfort

Pupils from two high schools in Cardiff are learning about the city’s Iron Age and Roman heritage through a range of creative activities.

The CAER Roman ’Diff Fusion project, led by academics at Cardiff University, has seen a collective of young people from Cardiff West Community High School and Fitzalan High School coming together for a series of weekly discovery activities exploring the fascinating history that’s just on their doorsteps.

It is hoped the project, which brings together three University projects - CAER Heritage, Community Gateway and Creative Cardiff, along with community development organisation Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE), and Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum of Wales, will succeed in forming new friendships and an ongoing inter-community youth forum as well as inspiring the young people in their studies.

Sessions include a trip with special access to explore artefacts from Ely’s Roman 2000 year-old villa, excavated nearly 100 years ago and now stored in museum archives, along with co-created temporary art installations at Ely’s Roman Villa and Cardiff Castle, experimental archaeology activities such as making Roman cosmetics at the CAER Centre and a heritage video game designing jam at Grange Pavilion.

Using these experiences as inspiration, students will then work with a project artist commissioned by Creative Cardiff to co-create an artwork and performance later this autumn.

Tianah, aged 12, a pupil at Cardiff West Community High School, said: “It’s really enjoyable and fun to learn about history especially when it’s right under your feet. I’ve made friends and it’s been lovely to experience these activities with young people from another school.”

Joe, aged 12, a pupil at Fitzalan High School, said: “It’s been very good so far. I’ve always enjoyed history. We’ve gone down into the archives at the museum to look at artefacts  - and we’ve seen the Roman foundations at Cardiff Castle. It’s been fun to learn about the history of Cardiff.”

Dr David Wyatt, Reader in Civic Mission and Community Action, based at Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said: “This project creates a partnership between two wonderful schools which we’ve worked with before - it really is about bringing communities together from across the west of Cardiff to explore a shared heritage. The young people are so creative and it’s been great to see them bonding and developing friendships over the weeks.

“The practical activities are giving them insights into the role of archaeologists, historians and researchers on religion. Some great Cardiff University students are also closely involved, showing the young people new potential career pathways that they might not have considered before."

We hope the project will be stimulating and open their eyes to the history and opportunities for learning that can be found all around us. We also hope it will lead to an ongoing youth forum across these communities and ongoing partnership working between youth workers, schools and the University to support this.

Dr David Wyatt Reader in Early Medieval History, Civic Mission and Innovation Lead

Martin Hulland, headteacher at Cardiff West Community High School said: “We have been delighted to be involved again with CAER Heritage in this excellent cross-curricular and cross-community project. Our Year 8 students have enjoyed the range of activities linked to the history on their doorstep. It has also been fantastic to see them making new friendships, and learning with, pupils from Fitzalan High School. They have loved the project and thoroughly enjoyed learning outside of their normal classrooms.”

Judith Rees, assistant headteacher at Fitzalan High School said: “Our pupils have enjoyed such amazing experiences which have given them an insight into an unfamiliar world on their doorsteps.  The blend of learning and creativity has allowed pupils to explore local history in an accessible and engaging way.  What has also been successful is the way that young people from across the city have been able to meet, collaborate and make friends.  A huge thank you to all the staff involved.”

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Researchers in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion are concerned with both the human past, from prehistory to the present day, and human beliefs.