History of the Ancient Schoolroom

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The Reading Ancient Schoolroom started in November 2014 as a one-day event called Experiencing Ancient Education. It was intended as a one-off experiment, but everyone involved had so much fun that we all agreed it had to be repeated. Since then the ancient schoolroom has run for several days in the winter or spring of most academic years. In order to cover expenses we are now obliged to charge an admission fee, but we try very hard to stick to the spirit of the original free event by keeping the charge as low as possible: to date it has never been higher than £5 per person for a 2-hour schoolroom visit or £10 per person for the full-day experience. Neither the University of Reading nor any of its staff receive any payment for their contributions.

The activities on offer vary each year according to the skills and interests of the volunteers, with a general trend of increase in the number of possibilities. Detailed descriptions of three of the years, with photographs, are offered in the pages dedicated to those years; here is a general overview.

In November 2014 we offered reading, writing, memorisation, and maths exercises in the schoolroom; plus handling ancient pottery in the Ure Museum, Roman food, and a gift shop. Three schools sent groups (totalling 60 children and 6 teachers), and c. 60 people (children and parents) came independently, including a large group of homeschoolers. Seventeen volunteers produced the event, including one from outside Reading.

In January 2016 there were two days of ancient schoolroom. We lost the Roman food and the gift shop but added a workshop on Roman graffiti. Four schools sent groups (totalling 75 children and 9 teachers), and c. 35 people (children and parents) came independently, including a large group of homeschoolers. Nineteen volunteers produced the event, including several from outside Reading.

In June and July 2017 there were seven days of ancient schoolroom. We regained the Roman food and the gift shop, kept all the other activities from earlier years, and added Latin, Greek, and a workshop on Roman inkwells. Eight schools (including three subsidised by Reading’s Widening Participation programme) sent groups (totalling 203 children and 9 teachers), the Reading branch of the Young Archaeologists’ Club sent 33 children, and c. 30 people (children, parents, and trainee teachers) came independently. Twenty volunteers produced the event, some coming from as far as Edinburgh for the experience.

In January 2019 there were three days of ancient schoolroom. We lost the Roman food (permanently, we fear) but kept all the other activities from 2017 and added a workshop on the Roman calendar. Two schools sent groups (totalling 64 children and 4 teachers), and c. 20 people (children and parents) came independently. Fifteen volunteers produced the event, some coming from as far as the Netherlands for the experience.

In January 2020 there were six days of ancient schoolroom. We kept all the activities from 2019 except the calendar workshop and added pottery painting, pen making, geometry, and spoken Latin, the last provided by a magnificent team from the Oxford Latinitas Society. Three schools sent groups (totalling 76 children and 6 teachers), and c. 60 people (children and parents) came independently, including a group of homeschoolers. Twenty-eight volunteers produced the event, several coming from outside Reading.

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