Society, Steam and Speed

What makes a successful community? & What does the community of Doncaster owe to the railways?

In September 2017, the Year 7 students of XP East embarked on a learning expedition about the railways in our local area.

The learning targets were :

  • I can discuss community success through studying challenging texts
  • I can write about community in a variety of forms and for different purposes
  • I can visually express my ideas of a successful community
  • I can identify the methods of historical enquiry
  • I can explain how Doncaster and the UK changed during the Industrial revolution
  • I can conduct a reproducible scientific experiment
  • I can explain how I know how long it takes takes a train to reach a destination from Doncaster
  • I can explain how I can find a missing passenger departing from Doncaster
  • I can explain how scientific variables that affect a train journey
  • I can identify the impact of the proposed high speed rail network on the community of Doncaster
  • I can justify an argument for or against HS2, basing my argument on practical and factual considerations
  • I can create a piece of art using mathematical concepts
  • I can create a descriptive narrative piece of writing based on the experiences of a railway worker

During the students first opportunity for fieldwork, they visited our local area to carry out observations to help them understand the community of Doncaster. Thinking carefully about what successful and unsuccessful aspects of a community might look like, they compiled a portfolio of images of features and landmarks which helped them build up an idea as to what the community of Doncaster is currently like.

Students then shifted their focus to travel back in time to discover more about Doncaster and its railway heritage. They studied the changes as Doncaster became one of the main towns in the Industrial Revolution, a result which they found out had occurred because of the development of Doncaster as a major railway town and the role that this played in attracting people to work here.

During the immersion visit to the National Railway Museum in York, students were able to understand just how influential Doncaster was in the building of steam trains. In fact, two of the world’s most famous locomotives were built at the plant works: The Flying Scotsman and The Mallard. Students were amazed at the craftsmanship and quality it had taken to build these machines – they were even able to walk underneath one! They became aware of people’s fear and fascination with these new modes of transport and collated ideas about how the use of the railway was promoted to encourage the public to take a ride! They sketched ideas and took photographs to help them later in the art studies.

By thinking as a mathematician and a scientist, students were able to use concepts such as pi and the geometry of circle, alongside the concepts of relative motion (speed = distance / time), friction and air resistance to allow them to calculate the time it would take for a passenger who boarded a train in Doncaster to travel to an unknown destination.

Students then travelled to the future, thinking about the construction of the new HS2 rail link which will pass through the outskirts of Doncaster by 2033. As they started to discuss this proposal, it quickly became apparent that two differing points of view were emerging. Some of them thought it would have a positive impact on the community of Doncaster; some of them thought it would be a negative influence on their town. Students formulated a piece of persuasive writing which helped inform a live debate about Doncaster’s and HS2’s future.

Throughout the learning expedition, they studied ‘Lion: A Long Way Home’ by Saroo Brierly. This autobiographical text is about a five-year old boy, Saroo, who lives in India and becomes lost as he boards a train with his older brother. He spends time surviving on his own, facing constant danger living on the street. His story then takes the students halfway across the world when he is adopted by a family who live in Tasmania. Saroo then describes how he uses his memories but particularly Google maps to help him find landmarks he can remember and to eventually find out where he is from. This book taught us more about different communities, railways and, most importantly, our school’s character values and habits of work and learning.

The final product was a book which showcased their work. Each student contributed, demonstrating their understanding of the railways and, more specifically, how much Doncaster has been and will continue to be, influenced by trains.

All resources relating to this expedition can be found below:

Expedition Posts

Hitachi Fieldwork

Final Product – Book

(Example pages from the book will appear here once published with a link to buy the book)