University of Worcester students have been working with The National Archives to bring key historical figures to life for an online children’s educational book resource.

Second year Graphic Design and Illustration students took part in a live brief set by The National Archives’ Education Service to develop a concept for an eBook inspired by documents in its collection.

Those on the Children’s Book Design module were tasked with devising a concept to help Key Stage 1 schoolchildren learn about one of The National Archives’ key stage project focusses: ‘significant people in British history’. They were shown a number of documents relating to figures, including nurse Florence Nightingale, footballer Walter Tull, WW2 spy Noor Khan and pioneering pilot Amy Johnson and had to develop and design sample pages for a document that schools could use for follow up work after a visit.

This is one of a number of similar ‘live’ children’s publishing projects students have worked on for The National Archives during successful collaborations lasting over six years. The Education team there will now select a few eBook concept designs to feature on its website initially. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this year all communication with the London-based organisation has had to be conducted online, with students supported through regular virtual client meetings, alongside the module’s support blog, to evolve their concepts with the client.

Florentina Manole, a second year Graphic Design student, designed her e-book on Charles Dickens. She said: “I carefully selected activities that represented the writer based on historical facts. Knowing also that Dickens supported children’s rights throughout his life, he could have established a great connection with the Key Stage 1 audience, so I decided he should play the role of a grandfather in my eBook pages. The overall mood of the pages is therefore warm and supportive. 

“The brief and module was a great opportunity for me to understand how children learn and how different they are from us. Moreover, the experience of communicating with the client was beneficial too and it taught me how to be a better listener and ask better questions.”

Rachel Hillman, Education Manager for the National Archives, who set the students the project, said: “I really enjoyed working with such a talented group of graphic design and illustration students. It was wonderful to showcase highlights from our collection with them and to see how they responded creatively to the documents.”

The University’s Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design, Andy Stevenson, who developed the Children’s Book Design module, said: “Academics at the University have been involved in raising the profile of children’s literature from a design perspective through the University’s Graphic Design course for a period of about 10 years. We’re one of only a few such courses in the UK which help to prepare our students for a possible design career in the busy world of children’s publishing. Through The National Archives, our students have had a great opportunity to put the skills they have learnt into a real-life brief, so we are hugely grateful for this ongoing productive collaboration.”

For information on courses at University of Worcester visit www.worcester.ac.uk or for application enquiries telephone 01905 855111 or email admissions@worc.ac.uk

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