Case Study: High Schools workshops

Who took part?

  • S3 & S6 pupils from Duncanrig Secondary School, East Kilbride
  • S2 & S5 pupils from Kilsyth Academy, Kilsyth
  • S4, S5 & S6 pupils from Thurso High School, Caithness

What buildings did we look at?

  • Duncanrig Secondary School
  • Kilsyth Academy
  • Thurso High School

Final product

Three short films


We looked at how learning spaces have changed over time, with the students at each school involved in discovering more about the history of their school and developing a greater awareness of their own school environment. Under the guidance of a film-maker, pupils at each school created their own short film which is a reflection of their own school experiences as well as their responses to Spence’s visions for their school.

“I’ve found out tons about my school, film making, architecture, how to work well in a team, that we have good ideas and that the library has round corners.”

(pupil, Thurso High School)

Each school also created a “video diary” for the other schools involved in the project. This was a good way to exchange information and ideas between the different schools; it helped each group decide what was important about their school and the things they wanted their final film to communicate.

“I have discovered that my school is not that bad at all and I’m not going to take it for granted as I now know it’s a great building”

(pupil, Duncanrig Secondary School)

Learning aims

  • To create a short film documenting the past, present (and future) life of each of the schools involved in the project.
  • To appreciate how designs for learning environments change and evolve over time.
  • To develop an understanding of how to interpret and use architectural plans and archive material
  • To give pupils the chance to engage with the planning and design process with a professional film maker
  • An opportunity to forge relationships with pupils at other schools involved in project.

Learning outcomes

  • Practical understanding and experience of how to shoot and edit a short film
  • Greater awareness and appreciation of their school environment
  • Positive links with other schools involved in the project
Students looking at archive materialStudents doing a storyboard before filming

(left) Students looking at archive material, and (right) doing a storyboard before filming


1. Exploring archive material relating to each school

As a group, students explored archive material with the help of an RCAAHMS staff member. Material included old photographs, plans and drawings of the original school building.

Copies of the school’s original plans were given to students who then went on a tour of the school building. On the tour, students considered the following:

  • How has the school building changed over time? Has the layout changed?
  • What features of Spence’s original design are still apparent?
  • What considerations did Spence keep in mind when he designed each school? What considerations would an architect have today?

The plans Spence drew for each school were highly detailed. We asked pupils to work in teams to draw a plan of one floor of their own school and compare it to Spence’s original drawings. This was done on tracing paper and the finished plans were laid over copies of Spence’s own drawings so that the two could be compared.

This activity allowed students to document some of the changes that have occurred in their school over time. A similar task, as part of a larger art and design project, would help develop skills such as organisation, problem solving and team work which are central to the Curriculum for Excellence.

2. Creating short film about each school

Students were invited to decide on the nature of their film and what they wished to communicate about their school. Students worked through the following tasks before they began filming:

  • Storyboarding
  • Scripting
  • Assigning roles (camera person, director etc) and tasks

After they completed filming, students thought about the editing process and what they wished to be included and in what order.

The finished films and the video diaries each school produced were circulated around each school involved in the project and shown at the schools.

Materials & Equipment

  • Tracing paper
  • Coloured marker pens
  • Digital cameras
  • Digital video cameras
  • DV tapes
  • Tripod
  • Microphone

Further development

The opportunity to reflect on past experiences through looking at how school environments have changed can lead to a consideration of the future.

  • How might schools look in 10, 50 or 100 years time?
  • What impact might technology have on places of learning?

Provide students with a brief to create an ideal 21st century learning environment. Students should consider factors such as changes in learning styles, IT developments and increasing technology and changes in school curricula over time.