The Iris Project

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This article is about the educational charity. For the Irish Republican magazine, see IRIS Magazine.

The Iris Project is an educational charity which was started in 2006 by Dr Lorna Robinson in order to bring ancient languages and culture to inner city state schools and communities. Saying that the decline in the study of classics was "a real concern" and that the study of classics should not be confined to pupils at independent schools, she launched the project to considerable media interest.[1]

The project began by offering a magazine, Iris, free for state schools and weekend/lunchtime classes, and soon expanded across London and Oxford to many state schools as a part of the literacy curriculum.

Iris Magazine[edit]

In September 2006, the first issue of Iris magazine was published, a new classics magazine which aimed to present classical topics in a fun, accessible, light-hearted, modern and unusual way. The first issue featured articles such as the academic Dylan Evan's quest to re-establish Plato's Academy, a mock report on the ancient Olympian messenger system, a look at the prevalence of melting women in Ovid, amongst others. Later issues have included an article by Sarah Annes Brown on modern re-interpretations of the classics, a piece on the more gruesome elements of ancient medicine by Professor Helen King and interviews with prominent classicists.[2]

As well as serious articles by enthusiasts and academics on classical topics, the magazine set out to have a quirky and gently irreverent approach to the ancient world, and therefore included a fashion page, quizzes, a myth debunk page, advice from ancient deities and even a soap-opera inspired by the BBC's Life on Mars series.

All of these things were intended to make the subjects fun and accessible to school students and adults who may not have had any access to the subjects before.

From issue two, Alex Williams joined Iris as co-editor and since then has written the myth pages and advice column, amongst other things.[3]

The sixteenth issue of Iris was the last regular edition of the magazine. In November 2012, it switched to an annual edition.[4]

Notable issues include:

Issue One (Autumn 2006) “If Ovid and Horace were alive today, they would be the biggest paid executives in Hollywood ”: Iris chats to Colin Dexter about Classics and the modern world"

Issue Two (January 2007) A chat with Boris Johnson

Issue Three (Summer 2007) An interview with Bettany Hughes, TV historian

Issue Six (Summer 2008) A chat with Ian Hislop, Editor of Private Eye[2]

Issue Thirteen (Autumn 2010) An interview with Jonathan Evans, Director General of MI5[5]

The London Literacy through Latin Project[edit]

In September 2006, Lorna started piloting Latin on the KS2 literacy curriculum to large mixed-ability classes in inner city schools. She used a course which she developed specifically for this pilot scheme, that delivered Latin using activities and the myths of Ovid. The lesson plans were designed to support and enhance the national curriculum literacy strategies, and to provide an exciting, original and accessible introduction to Latin. Activities were varied and lively, examples including the use of jigsaw pieces to teach inflection, making spider webs to display how Latin and English words were connected, making road signs to teach imperatives, and inventing ancient menus to introduce vocabulary and aspects of ancient culture. The course also encouraged children to explore ancient myths in a variety of ways, from drama and story tellings to artistic reinterpretations.[6]

The pilot proved to be very popular and successful,[7] and as a result, from September 2007, twenty state primary and secondary schools started classes in Latin using the same course.[8] From September 2008, state primary and secondary schools became involved in a range of inner London boroughs including Lambeth, Southwark, Brent, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Camden and Newham, as well as the schools continuing in Hackney. At this time The Iris Project began to run the scheme in conjunction with University College London and King's College London, and arranged for the students to received training from the King's College London Classics PGCE Department as part of the project.The participating schools expressed the importance of the role of Latin in helping support and enhance literacy skills.[9]

The Oxford Literacy through Latin Project[edit]

The Oxford Latin project was piloted in 2007/8 with a handful of primary schools in Oxford city, focussing particularly on schools in the east of the city, including some of the more deprived estates including Barton and Blackbird Leys.[10] The project continues to this day, and pupils receive year long Latin courses as part of the literacy curriculum, following the same course as outlined above in the London Latin Project.

The Hackney Schools Greek Drama Project[edit]

In 2008, playwright Graham Kirby[11] joined The Iris Project as the co-originator of a new pilot project funded by University College London and run with the help of student volunteers.

The project started running in two schools in the London Borough of Hackney with a series of workshops that introduced Greek mythologies and history to Year 6 and Year 7 pupils.

The culmination of the project was on 7 July 2008 with a free performance at the Bloomsbury Theatre of Aristophanes' Frogs and Peace, translated and adapted by Graham Kirby. The project was viewed as a success by academics and seen as an important contribution to widening access to Classics. Professor Chris Carey commented: "These plays are an ideal vehicle because they are enormous fun and can be appreciated by a wide audience. The children did a very good job; I was impressed that they were never intimidated by the scale of the theatre. They put a lot of work into learning their lines and getting into character.".[12]

Latin in the Parks[edit]

In summer 2008, Lorna set up a new project for adults who had never had the opportunity to study Latin. Running twice-weekly in Oxford with occasional sessions in London, the project ran throughout May,June and July and will continue in 2009. The sessions are held in local parks, and have met with enthusiastic success.[13] They involve a mixture of an introduction to Latin through translating adapted versions of the myths of Greece and Rome, and informal talks on various aspects of the ancient world, such as Roman religion, roles of women, a history of the Roman republic, exploring the representation of various mythical figures in ancient literature and art, amongst many other topics.

These sessions were brought to Swansea by Dr Evelien Bracke in summer 2012.[14]

Early Day Motion[edit]

In July 2008 an Early Day Motion was tabled by Tom Brake MP who praised the Iris Project:

"That this House welcomes the initiative of the Iris Project, Latin in the Park, as an excellent opportunity for people from all backgrounds to learn Latin and about ancient culture free of charge in a friendly and relaxed setting; recognises that the project enables adults and families to explore various aspects of ancient culture, such as women in the ancient world, religion, the history of the Roman Republic and other subjects; further recognises that Latin may be viewed as an elite area of study discouraging wider participation; and draws attention to the fact that this initiative promotes access to the classics amongst all and any local communities."

EDM 2016 was signed by 31 other MPs. They were: Angus McNeil, Jeremy Corbyn, David Lepper, Andrew Dismore, Gordon Marsden, Lynne Jones, Edward Davey, Peter Bottomley, Stephen Williams, Kelvin Hopkins, Joan Humble, Alan Simpson, Brian Jenkins, Edward O'Hara, Michael Fallon, John Battle, Andy Slaughter, Greg Pope, Richard Shepherd, John McDonnell, Malcolm Bruce, Ann Cryer, Bill Etherington, Mark Fisher, Don Foster, Ian Taylor, Philip Davies, Mark Hunter, Vincent Cable, Martin Horwood, and Susan Kramer [15]

The Iris Festival of Greek Drama[edit]

In June 2009 the Iris Project launched a new Classics festival, run by Graham Kirby, at The Scoop in central London. The Iris Festival of Greek Drama took place on 17–19 June 2009 with a double bill of Greek comedy performed by inner London state schools, an afternoon of activities and workshops, and an evening performance of Euripides' The Bacchae, translated by Graham Kirby.

Over three days two hundred and fifty children took part in the afternoon performances from four different schools, performing adaptations of two abridged Greek plays, Birds and Clouds.

The festival was officially opened by London mayor Boris Johnson and was free to members of the public.

The Oxford Greek Project[edit]

A new project was launched in Autumn 2010, which involves teaching ancient Greek in east Oxford primary schools during the academic year to see if this will enhance and enrich the children’s learning of English and other connected subjects in year six. Project leader Lorna Robinson stated that learning ancient Greek as part of the English KS2 curriculum would provide a fascinating basis for grasping the complexities of English grammar; and that it would also provide a fascinating framework within which to locate English learning, introducing them to an hugely influential culture and explaining how this culture and its language has shaped English and English cultural norms.[16]

The lessons, which are freely available on The Iris Project website for schools to use, connect with other aspects of the school curriculum, from history and geography, through to science and maths, and also drama, art and sport. The curriculum includes introductions to ancient Greek philosophy, theatre, democracy, sport and more. Sessions have also included an artefact session, where pupils have had the opportunity to handle copies of ancient Greek objects and to explore what information they give about ancient Greek society.[17]

Iota magazine[edit]

Iota is a new Classics magazine produced by The Iris Project for younger children. It aims to introduce Classics and Latin in a fun, informative and engaging way, and its content is designed and written to fit in with the key stage two material on the ancient Greeks and Romans. There are three editions published per year - one for each school term - and every issue is themed around a different Classical myth. Through five exciting sections, children can learn about the way Romans and Greeks lived, as well as being introduced to the Latin language through activities and games.[18]

Iris Online[edit]

Iris Online was designed by Duncan Martin and launched in October 2011 to bring Iris magazine's content online as well as featuring more immediate news, polls and reviews. The early site featured articles about philosophy, slavery and Lucian as well as interviews with Bettany Hughes, Joan Smith and Martha Kearney.[19]

The Mayor of London's Love Latin Scheme[edit]

A new scheme Love Latin is a Mayoral initiative run by The Iris Project which brings Latin and Classics to state schools across London through a team of volunteers.[20] Through a mixture of weekly Latin classes in primary schools and one-off workshops in primary or secondary schools, the scheme aims to unlock the mysteries of Latin and Classics for school children across the city. The Latin classes in primary schools expands on an existing successful scheme run by The Iris Project, 'Literacy through Latin'.

The one-off workshops in secondary schools is a programme which involves sending volunteers from all walks of life who have a classical background to give sessions in local schools on Classical topics which they are passionate about bringing to a new, young audience.

This scheme is part of the Team London initiative. A team of volunteers from London and elsewhere set about delivering workshops and talks on a wide range of topics: gladiators, Olympics, Julius Caesar, how ancient democracy connects to our democracy today, how Latin words connect to English ones, aimed at highlighting the connections between the ancient and modern world.[21]

Swansea Literacy through Latin Project[edit]

An expansion of the Iris Literacy through Latin project to help improve Welsh primary school pupils' literacy through the teaching of Latin for the first time was launched at Swansea University on Thursday, January 26, 2011.

The initiative is a collaboration between the University's Department of History and Classics and The Iris Project, which already successfully runs similar projects in a number of English primary schools.

Latin students from Swansea University's Department of History and Classics, as volunteers, teach Latin to year five and six pupils of Brynmill Primary School in Swansea for one hour a week in the Spring and Summer terms of 2012.

Dr Evelien Bracke, the Project Coordinator at Swansea University, said:"Latin will be approached in a fun and engaging way, through storytelling, games, and interaction, and with specific reference to linguistic skills in English. "In the next school year, the project will be opened up to other local schools in the South West Wales area."

As part of celebrations for the project's launch on Thursday, January 26, pupils from Brynmill Primary School will visit the University to take part in fun Roman-related activities, such as mosaic-making and commanding a Roman army.[22]

Further Expansion of the Literacy through Latin Project[edit]

In October 2012, the Literacy through Latin project was expanded to Reading, Manchester and St Andrews, with all places using the template of the project to set up local versions[23] Iris Project staff provide guidance and mentoring for the student teachers and university staff liaison officers. In October 2013, the project will expand to Glasgow. In 2012-3, there has been a pilot of a course book written and illustrated by Iris Project members, Telling Tales in Latin[24][25] in Pegasus primary school in Oxford and St Saviours primary school in London which culminates in the pupils sitting the new OCR Entry Level Latin qualification.[26] In October 2013, it is planned for other interested schools to use the project towards an examination.

East Oxford Community Classics Centre[edit]

The East Oxford Community Classics Centre was founded by The Iris Project in 2013. It is hosted at Cheney School, and is a vibrant Classics learning venue for people of all ages to attend events, workshops, lessons, and exhibitions.[27] The Centre was officially opened on 24 October 2013 with a large community classics festival, featuring Roman food and drink, activities, stalls, labyrinths and a minotaur trail.[28] Professor Mary Beard gave an opening address.[29] The Centre is run by The Iris Project with great support and input from Cheney School staff. Volunteers, often students from the University of Oxford and other local universities, help with many of its projects and evening classes.

The purpose of the Centre is both to provide a permanent presence within the school whereby pupils can engage with the Classics in a range of different ways, and also to provide an accessible place for visitors of all ages from the local community to experience Classics and attend lessons and sessions. All activities are provided with no charge.

In 2014, the Centre has continued to run evening classes workshops and events for the local community as well as for Cheney School pupils, including a Mosaics Project part funded by the Classics Conclave [30] [31]

It also runs themed days. So far these have included a Roman Medicine day[32] and a Classical Myth Day.

On 3rd and 4th July it ran a double bill of Ancient Athens Days which included having Re-Enactment Specialists Comitatus camping on site and delivering a range of exciting shows as well as the Team from the Oxford Greek Play 2014 The Furies who delivered drama-based workshops to year 6s who were visiting Cheney School for their Transfer Days[33]

It has also been running classics and positive psychology workshops for Cheney Plus Inclusion Unit, which are a first-of-its-kind initiative using classical myths to explore developing positive ways of thinking and relating to others [34]

It will also host an A level course open to pupils and adults from across the city and county from September 2014.[35]

On 3rd October 2014 it is holding the Festival of Ancient Tales which will be large festival to celebrate classical myths and stories as well as to mark the Centre's first birthday. Authors Caroline Lawrence, Adele Geras, Tom Holland and Lindsey Davis will be delivering talks, and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy will be performing in the evening.[36]

Patrons[edit]

Boris Johnson is a patron of the project. Other patrons are Professor Chris Carey, broadcaster Martha Kearney, historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, renowned educationalist and philosopher Mary Warnock, biographer Anthony Seldon, and campaigner and writer Joan Smith.[37]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BBC NEWS | Education | Classics drive for inner cities
  2. ^ a b The Iris Project - Classics in Schools and Communities
  3. ^ The Iris Project - Classics in Schools and Communities
  4. ^ http://irisonline.org.uk/index.php/iris-orders/iris-annual
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ The Iris Project - Classics in Schools and Communities
  7. ^ BBC NEWS | Education | Reviving a 'dead' language
  8. ^ BBC NEWS | England | London | Latin taught in 20 London schools
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ Memorabilia Antonina: 2006 UCL Classics Play
  12. ^ Aristophanes' Peace and Frogs | Bloomsbury Theatre
  13. ^ A triumph of the ego - Telegraph
  14. ^ http://historyclassics.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/latin-in-the-park/
  15. ^ UK Parliament - Early Day Motions By Details
  16. ^ [4]
  17. ^ [5]
  18. ^ [6]
  19. ^ http://www.irisonline.org.uk
  20. ^ http://www.timesplus.co.uk/tto/news/?login=false&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thetimes.co.uk%2Ftto%2Flife%2Farticle3216920.ece
  21. ^ http://irisproject.org.uk/index.php/london-mayors-latin-scheme
  22. ^ http://www.newswales.co.uk/?section=Education&F=1&id=23648
  23. ^ http://irisproject.org.uk/index.php/projects/literacy-through-latin/66-manchester-literacy-through-latin
  24. ^ http://irisproject.org.uk/index.php/resources/latin/telling-tales
  25. ^ http://www.theclassicslibrary.com/2013/06/05/telling-tales-in-latin-lorna-robinson-a-review/
  26. ^ http://irisproject.org.uk/index.php/projects/literacy-through-latin/71-ocr-latin-pilot
  27. ^ http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/yourtown/oxford/10393376.School_centre_aims_to_bring_Latin_to_life/
  28. ^ http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/10765167.It_s_classics_for_all_as_free_public_centre_is_launched/
  29. ^ http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/2013/10/good-news-for-classics.html
  30. ^ http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/yourtown/oxford/10849905.Pupils_to_make_mosaics_at_new_East_Oxford_Community_Classics_Centre/
  31. ^ http://irisproject.org.uk/index.php/east-oxford-community-classics-centre/167-the-making-project-roman-mosaic
  32. ^ http://irisproject.org.uk/index.php/east-oxford-community-classics-centre/programme-of-events/43-special-events/163-roman-medicine-day
  33. ^ http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/11323172.Ancient_Greece_comes_alive_with__invasion__at_school/
  34. ^ http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storyCode=6433257
  35. ^ http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/yourtown/oxfordshire/10898778.Pupils_at_comprehensive_to_study_for_an_A_Level_in_Latin/
  36. ^ http://www.irisproject.org.uk/index.php/east-oxford-community-classics-centre/programme-of-events/43-special-events/179-festival-of-ancient-tales-celebrating-our-first-year
  37. ^ http://www.irismagazine.org/patrons.html