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Heritage Heroes Project

By Archaeology Scotland

Remember those days in schools when you spent most classes staring longingly out the window at the great outdoors? Our Heritage Heroes Outreach project provided an opportunity for over 280 Senior 1 pupils from South Lanarkshire to use archaeological sites as their outdoor classroom. Pupils at Biggar High School and Strathaven Academy gained the skills of an archaeologist through a range of interactive sessions. They explored the remains of Boghall Castle, which was once the largest in the area while Strathaven Academy investigated the old cemetery to find macabre symbols of skulls and hourglasses on gravestones!

This project is a transition project which covers the move from primary to secondary school. In Primary 7 pupils were introduced to the skills of an archaeologist through the examination and handling of genuine Roman artefacts. They also investigated a range of sources such as aerial photography and historic maps of their local area. Margaret Sharkey a teacher from Wester Overton Primary said "The variety of stimulating tasks ensured that they remained focussed throughout the afternoon and the time flew by!"

When the pupils moved to their new high schools they were now equipped with the skills necessary to investigate archaeological sites. Together with their new classmates they undertook to survey, record and research these local heritage sites with the help of local experts- Biggar Museum Trust and Lanarkshire Genealogical Society. This helped them build up a wider picture of what life might have been like in the past. Suzanne Rigg of Biggar Museum Trust said, "It was a great treat for us to work with the pupils to make a genuine difference to some of our local heritage. I am sure we have learned much from each other". By investigating Boghall Castle, the pupils were amazed to discover how much they could learn about the history of the castle by looking for clues from its remains. They gained an understanding of the defensive nature of the castle by measuring the width of the walls, recording the gunloops and planning the remains of the towers. By visiting Boghall Castle pupils became aware of important histories are often hidden on their doorstep.

The pupils at Strathaven Academy recorded the old cemetery. They got a true experience of archaeology when autumnal showers threatened our sessions! They investigated the range of symbols and sizes of the gravestones and discovered how these give us clues to the religious beliefs and status of the people buried there. They reflected on some of the anti-social behaviour at the site and the importance of protecting the cemetery as it is integral part of the story of Strathaven.

The students will make their work available to the wider public thus adding to the knowledge of our heritage which no doubt will inspire others, thus making them Heritage Heroes.

Fundamental to this project was promoting local heritage as a rich learning resource for teachers. Training session for volunteers and teachers on archaeology and education were delivered to encourage partnerships between local schools and their community groups. With the new Curriculum for Excellence, schools are looking to community groups for local innovative projects that encourage pupils to explore and understand their own local environment and will give pupils the opportunity to develop a wide range of transferable skills through practical hands on learning. In particular, active involvement from local community groups allows the sharing of knowledge and building strong relationships enhance learning experiences for young people.

If you would like to run a similar heritage project, check out our website for a wide range of resources:


This project is sponsored by Heritage Lottery Fund and South Lanarkshire LEADER, and would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and commitment from the teachers and volunteers.

october 2013