Talkin' 'bout my generation: intergenerational exchange about childhood games and songs

Award Holder

Dr Rebekah Willett

Higher Education Institute

London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, University of London

Project Summary

This project will engage different generations in communication and learning about current and historical forms of play. The project is to develop a teaching pack and curatorship programme, both of which will involve engaging with the current project website hosted by the British Library (which will go live in February 2011) as well as creating new materials for an archival deposit. These activities will lead to a self-sustaining programme involving HEIs, schools and community organisations in documenting, exchanging and comparing knowledge and experiences about childhood games and songs.

When it launches in February, the British Library website will contain film, video, audio and other documents which span over a century of recordings about childhood games and songs. The teaching pack, which will be developed in this follow-up project, will be distributed as a free downloadable resource on various websites (potentially Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, British Library, United Kingdom Literacy Association). The teaching activities (for pupils aged 3 - 11) will engage children in learning about games and songs through various forms of generational dialogue. The pack will include activities in which children learn about previous and current generations of play through existing visual and audio materials available on the website, as well as through interviews and dialogue involving older friends, siblings, relatives and/or elders about their experiences of play. For example, the website will contain both historical images and oral recordings of marbles and hopscotch as well as videogame versions of those games. One activity will be for children to find out more about people's experiences of these games (through various forms of communication) and to engage with different generations of people in playing both the playground and videogame versions. A panel of elders who have experience in working with schools will be available for this activity (e.g., to answer interview questions, visit schools, comment on website material). Other activities will focus on a range of curricular areas (e.g., history, language and literacy, speaking and listening, music, ICT) and include suggestions for setting up exchanges (e.g., via email, Skype, blogs, videoblogs) with other schools or organisations as a way of discussing and documenting current games and songs. The intention is also that older people will learn about newer forms of play such as computer games, stimulated by the computer game adaptations of traditional games developed as part of the current project.

The curatorship component of the project will develop a self-sustaining programme of new collections of childhood games and songs including video, audio and still images. The programme will involve agreeing to a protocol for contributions to an archive (potentially the British Library). We will develop a running programme with HEIs which are committed to including a research activity centred in collecting children's games and songs as part of existing courses (e.g., primary language and literacy courses); and we will secure commitments from lecturers for participation to cover at least the next three years. In addition, primary schools and community organisations undertaking intergenerational work involving discussions of childhood games will be able to take part in the curatorship. Currently Age Exchange and the English and Media Centre have such programmes, and we plan to recruit other organisations working in this area through groups such as the Oral History Society Regional Network and the Heritage Lottery Fund for future involvement in the curatorship.


Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.