News 9 May 2022

Derwent Valley Rail Project – Alderwasley Hall Special School

Derbyshire Environmental Studies Service worked with pupils from Alderwasley Hall Special School on a Derwent Valley Rail Education Project with Derwent Valley Line Community Rail Partnership, East Midlands Railway and the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

In March and April 2022 Derbyshire Environmental Studies Service worked with pupils from Alderwasley Hall Special School on a Derwent Valley Rail Pilot Project.  The project was funded by the Derwent Valley Line Community Rail Partnership and East Midlands Railway and worked in partnership with the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

The pupils taking part in the project all have autism or specific learning needs and the project was carefully planned and resourced to test out whether we could:

  • Build skills for the pupils in preparing, planning and using local rail transport confidently and safely
  • To travel as a group on the Derwent Valley Line sustainably, safely and enjoyably
  • Develop and practice a variety of life skills: navigation, working towards independent travel, social skills, local knowledge, confidence in working and speaking with new people.
  • An understanding of their local area, particularly the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site (DVMWHS) and why it is special
  • To take part in a visit to Cromford within the DVMWHS and experience some of the heritage and leisure activities available.

The school staff were provided with lesson plans, activities, presentations, videos and activity resources for two introductory sessions.  These helped the pupils explore rail travel skills, rail safety messages, map skills and information about the location they would be travelling to – Cromford within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.  It helped to prepare them to know what to expect at the train station, on the train and at the location to be visited.

Pupils were provided with booklets “The Story of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site” to find out why the place they would be visiting is special and were challenged to record their learning in a creative and interactive way developing photography skills.

The third session was a familiarisation trip to Whatstandwell Train Station where the pupils would be starting their journey.  This was chance to get used to the new sights, sounds and safety requirements at the railway station.  We also explored common features around train stations, did some sketching and learned how to purchase and print tickets on the machine.  We explored the nearby Cromford Canal towpath and wildlife before exploring the local café and developing social skills ordering drinks.

The fourth session was a full morning visit to Cromford Mills.  Pupils had to remember how to stay safe at the station, board safely, find their seats and speak with the ticket staff.  They each had a copy of the “Views from the Train Window” guide to find out more about the world heritage landscape they were travelling through.

At Cromford Mills the pupil’s found out about the World’s First Factories, explored the mill yard, visitor gateway and even met Sir Richard in the Arkwright Experience projection.

Pupil’s were encouraged to document their experience capturing what caught their attention using photography.  They captured views and perspectives exploring contrast, rule of thirds, point of view, proximity and I’m sure you’ll agree the gallery below with just some of the pupil’s images really highlights some excellent photography skills

The fifth and final session the pupils were challenged to use some of their photographs, learning and resources to create posters of their learning experience.  We’ll share some of these here soon.

Each pupil received a copy of the Derwent Valley Line Activity Book featuring information and short walks from the stations along the line to support and encourage future visits and independent travel.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile project for the pupils, staff and delivery partners with really positive outcomes and lots of potential for the future.

We hope to explore a larger scale project in the future to encourage the use of the Derwent Valley Line by school and community groups to explore their local heritage.  If you’re interested in taking your class on a visit by rail visit our School Trips By Train page to find out more

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