Is your class inspired by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the SS Great Britain?
Spark their imaginations with creative activities and resources – from writing a poem about life at sea, to designing a bridge to span the River Avon, your class can get inventive like Brunel whilst discovering links between the arts, literacy and STEM subjects.
If you’re doing Arts Award Discover, these activities could be used for the Creative Activity in part A. Learn more about how we can support you, your pupils and your school with both Arts Award and Artsmark here.
- To pass the time during long voyages on the SS Great Britain, passengers used to write newspapers detailing what was happening on board. The St. Helena Advocate was one such newspaper. Your class can become journalists and write for the “Great Britain Times”. Use Global Stories for inspiration and to find out what happened on specific days on the ship’s voyages.
- Writing poetry was a popular past time on board the SS Great Britain. Poems often featured in the onboard newspapers, the Gold Poem was published in the SS Great Britain Gazette (a newspaper published onboard in 1861). There are also references to poems in passengers’ diaries. “The Goat of the Sea” poem, written about poor conditions onboard the ship, is an interesting example of poetry created by passengers. Could your class write their own poems about what life might have been like on board the ship?
- Looking further poetry inspiration for your class? Why not show them poet Saili Katebe performing his poem about the SS Great Britain "After '70". The poem was written as part of the Afrika Eye Festival 2019 and refers to the ship returning to Bristol in 1970. Your class could write and perform their own poems about the SS Great Britain.
- Children can imagine they are travelling on the ship and write a diary entry describing their experiences on the journey. If you are looking for inspiration, why not check out Global Stories to learn more about life on board.
- Rats were a common problem on board the SS Great Britain as this extract from Allan Gilmour’s diary shows. Encourage your class to use their imaginations and write a diary entry from the point of view of a rat on board the ship.
- Writing a biography about Isambard Kingdom Brunel? Use our Factsheets and Collection Stories to find out more about him.
- Use diary extracts from Global Stories in drama. What happened onboard the ship and how did the passengers feel on their journeys on the SS Great Britain?
Stem and Creativity
- Brunel submitted several different entries to the original competition to design a bridge over the River Avon, including this one. Why not design a new bridge to span the river? This activity gives the children things they need to consider as part of their design. Extend the activity by getting your class to construct their bridges.
- Brunel commissioned 10 different paintings showing scenes from Shakespeare plays for his London home. Encourage your class to become artistic and create their own masterpieces. It could show their favourite scene from a story or maybe something they saw on a visit to the SS Great Britain.
- The Shakespeare Room in Brunel’s home in London is where he used to hold dinner parties for friends, family and other famous people. There, food would be served on elaborate table wear, including his silver gilt dessert stand. Design your own dessert allows children to use their imagination to design an elaborate Victorian dessert, that could have been on Brunel’s table. Why not take the activity further and try baking a few Victorian recipes?
- For the steerage passengers and crew on the SS Great Britain the humble ship’s biscuit formed a large part of their diet. If your class feel brave enough to try one, use this recipe to make your own biscuits!
- Rats were a huge problem on the SS Great Britain, as passenger Allan Gilmour wrote in his diary. Can your class help Allan and other the passengers by designing a rat trap?
- Paper peepshows were very popular in Victorian times, often depicting famous places, beautiful scenes or even the inside of the Brunels’ Thames Tunnel in great detail. Using this template children can create their own.
- Our interactive, online ship building game, Full Steam Ahead, encourages children to think like Brunel and become engineers themselves as they take on a range of challenges. Learn more about how the game links to the curriculum here.
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed a prefabricated hospital for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Using Build Your Own Renkioi Hospital Ward your class can use a net to create their own ward buildings. As a class you could create your own hospital and work out how many soldiers your hospital can treat.
- Looking for an exciting activity for a Science or History club? Our Brunel Loan boxes, are free to borrow and come with everything you need. There are 4 to choose from and activities range from launching paper rockets to constructing a globe.