History hungry students on the hunt for clues to England's past can now take a high-tech approach to historical exploration as English Heritage launches geocache trails at a selection of properties across the country.
Using handheld GPS devices, groups must navigate their way around some of England's greatest landmarks and monuments to discover 'treasure boxes' known as caches, which are hidden in key locations and contain tasks designed to stimulate discussion about England's past, its connection to life today and the future.
At the heart of English Heritage's plans is its flagship 'Geosong' project, a chain of geocache trails through the Ironbridge Gorge. The trail will explore the lives of the everyday people who helped create the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, now a World Heritage Site.
Launching in autumn 2011 and set for completion in September 2012, the year of the cultural Olympiad, 'Geosong' will reveal the stories of Ironbridge's historic community through modern-day folk ballads composed and performed by schools and community members. The ballads, along with printed educational resources, will be revealed as the 'treasure' along the geocache trail.
The brainchild of David Sheldon, Education Manager for English Heritage, and Andy Calderbank, Head of Music at Phoenix Secondary School, 'Geosong' is an arts and heritage partnership project which will bring together schools, arts organisations, heritage organisations and professional musicians to leave a lasting legacy for the local community. The Ironbridge Gorge Museums and Birmingham Symphony Orchestra are just two of the organisations already signed up.
David Sheldon, Education Manager for English Heritage in the East and West Midlands, said: "Young people, and in fact communities in general, do not always realise the impact of the past on their everyday lives. Projects like 'Geosong' enable us to make the past more tangible by capitalising on the public's love of technology and the arts, and bringing it together with hands-on learning.
"We're delighted to be part of English Heritage's new programme of geocache trails. Geocaching is a really popular hobby at the moment and it's great to see the technology being used to engage young people with our country's rich heritage."
Geocache trails and GPS tours for schools and education groups are currently also being rolled out at Witley Court in Worcestershire, Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire, Kenwood in London, and Dover Castle and Deal Castle in Kent. The activities are available as part of English Heritage's free entry scheme for schools and other pre-booked learning groups. They will give teachers and children the chance to guide their own learning, develop cross-curricular skills and find out about everything from habitats and geography to the lives of monks, kings and ordinary people in castles, monasteries and mansions of all periods. If you would like to arrange a free entry education visit to an English Heritage property near you visit: www.english-heritage.org.uk/education.