Bringing history to life through animation

Victoria Nielson, CEO of Waterloo 200, discusses getting youngsters engaged with history through the Age of Revolution project…

Q&A on Waterloo 200's history animation competition

1. Tell us about Waterloo 200 charity, about its background and how the Age of Revolution Project came about.

Waterloo 200 is the official body recognised by the UK government to support the commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo. As part of our work we have launched a five-year educational legacy project – the Age of Revolution. The aim of the project is to broaden understanding and engagement of the revolution in Europe between 1775 and 1848. Our goal is to engage with over 2,000 national UK schools across the education spectrum through providing bespoke educational materials, multimedia technologies and creative educational partnerships. 

The Age of Revolution resource brings together objects and artworks from museums and galleries across the UK, together with facts, information and curriculum-linked ideas to help bring this extraordinary period to life. Victoria Nielson of Waterloo 200 on the history animation competition

2. Why did the charity decide to run an animation competition?

We’re always looking for ways to link the extraordinary people, events and ideas of the time – such as protests, equality and the invention of things we now take for granted – with the lives of children and young people today. Animation is a great way to pull all of these aims together.

One of the best ways to learn about something – including history – is to present or explain it to someone else. By creating an animation about the Age of Revolution, students have to really focus their learning about the period and think creatively about how to get their message across, in a fun and engaging way. We hope that presenting this as a competition will not only encourage more schools to have a go, but will also mean they can share their wonderful ideas with us – and others. We’ve included a step-by-step guide to making an animation in our online resource so we hope that will also help students (and teachers!) develop new skills in digital making.

3. Have you seen any entries yet and, if so, what impressed you?

It’s a little early for entries at the moment as schools have until February 2020 to submit their entries. The judges are looking for imaginative, creative animations, which genuinely reflect students’ own ideas and thoughts about ‘Revolution’.

We really want to encourage schools to be as creative as they want to be – they can use photography, clay or digital apps. We just want people to have fun with it and for their film to answer the question “What Does Revolution Mean to Me?”

We are lucky to be working with hugely talented judges who are experts in creativity, filmmaking and history. From historian and Waterloo 200 ambassador Dan Snow to award-winning Casting Director Kate Rhodes-James, BBC Animation Producer Barry Quinn and Anra Kennedy, Partnerships Director at Culture24, our judges are waiting to be impressed.

4. How can schools get involved in the competition?

Firstly, we need schools to encourage their children to engage with the competition and what revolution means to them. We would point teachers towards our Revolutionary collection held on our website (ageofrevolution.org) to introduce their students to the objects and images of the Age of Revolution. Students may want to look at the Age of Revolution as a whole or concentrate on a specific theme for their film – be that Riots and reforms or the Industrial Revolution. We then would ask teachers to plan a simple story with their class which will form the arc of their animation, as well as to think about the different elements – from characters to format to colours and storylines. It’s then down to creating the film!

5. Do you provide wider resources on the Age of Revolution for schools?   Waterloo 200 history animation competition - painting

We have many free online resources for teachers supported by the Age of Revolution project. It includes an online gallery of over 100 revolutionary objects, carefully selected from museums and galleries across the UK, with facts and information written specifically for teachers. Teachers can choose from our range of tried-and-tested historical enquiries, creative challenges, activities and ideas, to bring classroom learning to life across the curriculum, for all ages. Schools can visit ageofrevolution.org for more information and a bank of free resources.

6. What do you have planned for the future?

We’re about to launch a graphic novel about the Peterloo Massacre – created specially for schools. It’s been created by Polyp, Robert Poole and Ben Marsh (our historian partner from the University go Kent) – it’s described as:

"The explosive tale of Peterloo, told through the voices of those who were there. A vivid, original and historically accurate 'comic book' visual account of the 1819 Manchester massacre, to be published as part of the 200th anniversary commemorations.”

As with all our resources it will be accompanied by associated classroom activities for teachers.

We have also just closed an exciting funding opportunity for schools and museums to apply for funding to develop digital making projects. We want them to work together to use simple digital tools such as apps, green screening, video, 3D printing, microcomputers etc to get creative with ‘Revolutionary’ museum collections – and with our own online ‘Revolutionary collection’ of objects. We’ll be working with successful applicants from September on these projects and will share any great ideas on our website as part of our resource, for other museums and schools to try.

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