Case Study: The Picts: a learning resource

Case Study 38

The Picts: a learning resource―an inclusive approach to integrating archaeology and the Curriculum for Excellence

Matt Ritchie

The FCS learning resource The Picts was developed in collaboration with Highlife Highland (Highland Council’s Museum and Gallery Service), Archaeology Scotland, Scran and HES's Learning Services. It aims to support indoor classroom and museum learning and to encourage visits to Pictish symbol stones and hillforts local to the school. Several of the best examples of Pictish hillforts are situated on Scotland’s National Forest Estate. By providing broader information and ideas within an inclusive package (both promoting and promoted by a range of partners), the learning resource becomes a self-sustaining hub with many routes of entry (and many potential champions). 

The learning resource encourages the inclusion of archaeology within both classroom and outdoor learning; and to promote the study of the Picts as a formal ‘topic’ in schools. It summarises a range of new work on the Picts, making it easier for the education specialist to understand and use. The innovative use of illustrative material (created by Small Finds & Design) helps to encourage classroom use, promoting the concept of ‘stories in stone’ via the attractive reworking of Pictish carvings. For example, this image is instantly recognisable as the story of Little Red Riding Hood (with the Pictish Ardross Wolf, now in Inverness Museum). The characters and scenes carved on many Pictish stones were probably just as recognisable to the Picts themselves, although their stories are now forgotten. Just who is this mounted horseman, depicted during an exciting deer hunt on the Kirriemuir stone?

Visiting and understanding a Pictish hill-fort or symbol stone can engender pride of place through an archaeological appreciation of the monument—and Pictish symbol stones are an immediately accessible and very tangible element of our early history. Place-based learning can inform objective recording and subjective interpretation and can also inspire creative writing and a range of arts and crafts projects. For example, a trip to the Eagle Stone in Strathpeffer can be combined with a visit to the once-mighty nearby hillfort of Knock Farril. In Inverness, a trip to the hill-fort of Craig Phadrig can be combined with a visit to the Pictish collection in Inverness Museum and the online exploration of national websites such as Scran (where a number of associated image collections known as Pathfinder Packages are available).

The Picts: a learning resource has a clear framework for use and attractive design. It forms part of a growing suite of FCS cultural heritage learning resources, including Wolf Brother’s Wildwoods and Trees and the Scottish Enlightenment—all designed to complement the Curriculum for Excellence. The free publication is readily accessible, with boxes of hard copies given to local museums. It is also available for download from both the FCS and HES websites.


Figure 1: Little Red Riding Hood. © Forestry Commission Scotland by Small Finds & Design 


Figure 2: Kirriemuir Hunt. © Forestry Commission Scotland by Small Finds & Design


Figure 3: The Eagle Stone, Strathpeffer. © Matt Ritchie