The Glass-House worked with Union Chapel to develop and deliver a hybrid digital workshop remotely to primary school students in North London.

The Story

The Glass-House Community Led Design was invited by Union Chapel, a heritage building and active church in Islington, North London, to design and deliver a hybrid workshop to a local primary school. The workshop aimed to unpack the stories within Union Chapel and encourage a wider, diverse audience to get involved with heritage buildings. This work was part of a larger project funded by Historic England. 

We worked with 21 Year 5 and 6 students from the neighbouring Canonbury Primary School in coordination with a multi-disciplinary facilitation team. We used a range of innovative and interactive digital assets in tandem with physical resources to engage the children throughout the one-day workshop.

Themes of the day

The workshop was designed to help the children learn about the heritage within Union Chapel, while connecting them with the idea that historic buildings are layers of stories and empowering them to engage with the future of heritage spaces. The school has a long-term history with Union Chapel and the venue is often used for celebration events, so the majority of the children had an existing link to the chapel which we could build upon throughout the workshop.

It was important for us to retain a sense of exploration in the digital engagement spaces, allowing the children to discover narratives within the chapel and to develop a sense of excitement around these stories. We viewed this workshop as an explorative space for us as well, a space which we could use to continue to investigate the possibilities of digital engagement and hybrid facilitation.

Working across physical and digital spaces

Designed during the third national COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, the workshop was delivered to the students within their classrooms in Islington completely remotely by The Glass-House and Union Chapel teams through the online video conferencing platform, Zoom. Teachers were present within the classroom to help support the children.

Using Zoom, the online whiteboard platform Miro and a host of physical resources developed specifically for this workshop model, we created a series of learning, reflective, active and design activities. These included: memory mapping the children’s pre-existing and changing perceptions of Union Chapel; an introduction to building design and the principles of form, function and feeling; an exploratory digital treasure hunt of Union Chapel; a collaged group poster task; and as a creative art and design activity, re-imaging one of the elements of Union Chapel (pulpit, clock, stained glass windows or organ) while using drawing, modelling or collaging to depict the result.

Limitations becoming innovations

The key area of innovation within this workshop was the transformation of a Miro board into a treasure map for the children to use, giving them agency over which aspects and stories from Union Chapel they explored. This was shared through Zoom screen-sharing and then independently accessed by the children through the classroom smartboards, allowing the children to use their hands to open areas of content and explore through the map. 

The treasure map focused on four key elements of the Union Chapel building: the pulpit, the organ, the clock and the stained glass windows. As part of our preparation processes, we sourced stories about Union Chapel’s history, formation and future from Barbara Basini, the Head of Conservation and Building Projects at Union Chapel. This built a rich tapestry of information for us to highlight and graphically illustrate within the digital treasure map. We used a range of media, including videos, sounds and live music, throughout the experience to keep the children engaged.

Looking forward

This workshop served as the first iteration in a larger framework of workshop development for Union Chapel. We hope that Union Chapel will be able to use the physical and digital resources developed to host and run workshops with other schools in the local vicinity, as well as to connect with children from across the UK.

The Impact

This workshop offered an exciting opportunity for students to engage with a heritage building in their local area, to acquire new knowledge about building design and built history whilst unlocking their creativity through design tasks. For the three partner organisations involved, it created a unique opportunity to innovate through the need to adapt to unusual circumstances. 

“It’s opened our eyes about how technology can support education and the learning experience of children.” Patrick Mildren, Headmaster at Canonbury Primary School

What will stay with me most is the children’s excitement of seeing and understanding the inner workings of Union Chapel and the organ. Just pure excitement, joy and interest through the exploration tasks” Feedback from our Glass-House Junior Enabler, Jake Stephenson-Bartley

 

We hope that Union Chapel will be able to take this workshop as an initial iteration, and use it as a replicable process to engage digitally with children and schools across the UK. The workshop has been a useful tool for the team to consider how they engage with children, and to understand how young people relate to their built environment and heritage narratives. We are also interested in the further development of this portfolio of resources to support any heritage building interested in sharing their heritage through creative workshops. 

“It was a joy to be part of this” 

“The results speak for themselves”.

Feedback from the Union Chapel team

 

Union Chapel are hoping to host an exhibition later this year (COVID-19 restrictions permitting), showcasing their various community engagement activities over lockdown. Keep an eye on their website for further details. 

Within The Glass-House, this workshop has factored into our constantly evolving consideration of digital engagement and facilitation, opening the door for further experimentation surrounding bridging digital and physical spaces.

Explore

You can read more about the Union Chapel Heritage Workshop day in Elly’s blog, or in Barbara Basini’s, Head of Regeneration and Building Projects at Union Chapel, lovely blog about the day here

We have developed a publication which captures an overview of the workshop and the range of immersive resources developed, which can found here, or you can read more about the Union Chapel Heritage Workshop story here.

To keep up to date with Union Chapel’s exciting range of projects, events and workshops, visit their website.

 

To learn more about our Empowering Design Practices (EDP) action research, which forged our connection with Union Chapel, visit our Empowering Design Practices story here, or visit their website. 

 

You can explore our portfolio of digital engagement experiences and workshops here:

Digitising Design Training on Broadwater Farm Estate

Explore our other blog pieces here.