Storying Sheffield

“University is a place to learn about what you want to be in life”

This is the second blog post by a group of University staff on the Sheffield Leader 3 programme who are researching what the University of Sheffield might learn from Sheffield people who feel disconnected or remote from it. To read the first post click here.

University is a place to learn about what you want to be in life
(Sheffield primary school student, age 6)
Following on from our previous blog, two of our impact group had a really enjoyable (and sweltering) visit to St Patricks Primary School in Firth Park, which was made possible by Mrs Phillips Class 3 teacher and we are extremely grateful for all her assistance.
We introduced ourselves to the class (6-7 year olds) and a selection of other classes ranging from 8-11 years old (about 50 children in total). We deliberately did not give much away about the University as we wanted the children to draw an unbiased view based on their understanding of what a University is.
There was a good cross section of children, including some originating from India, Phillipines, and Africa. We asked them to draw a mind map, spider gram, map or drawing and most children drew a tall building with lots of windows… honest, we hadn’t shown them the Arts Tower at that point!
All the children greeted the task with enthusiasm and we circulated around the tables asking the children questions about their drawings. We also asked them what they would like to do when they grow up and got such varied answers as Lollipop Man to Prime Minister with a smattering of want to be a teacher like Mrs Phillips particularly from the little girls.
The drawing above and the caption are unashamedly now our impact group’s borrowed logo from the primary school children. There were many more interesting interpretations and descriptions a few are listed below:
“It is a school for adults”
“I want to be an engineer. A University is when you graduate from secondary school”
“I want to be a teacher. I haven’t heard about a University”

We then presented some photographs we had collated of the University, we included an aerial view of the campus and pointed out landmarks the children knew like the Childrens Hospital and Weston Park museum. In addition we explained about studying, research and graduation.
We then briefly had a q and a session. The children were interested to know why you would need to go to University – to which we answered you need to for certain jobs such as being a teacher, scientist…
The Science lecture presented by Professor Stirling afterwards was fun, informative and loud, including experiments, talk about atoms and molecules – with lots of audience participation.
Learning points: every child attending has now heard of the University, and if this was further consolidated with a student visit or participation in the “be a scientist for the day” this would spark their interest and memory.
Later when we further discussed the drawings obtained from just this one visit with the rest of our impact group we realised that it is never too early to explain to children about their ability to achieve in life. The children were very interested in us and when we went to University and what we studied. Some of the comments made by the children were thought provoking and very relevant.
In addition for me having never stood in front of a group of children before it was both scary and extremely rewarding to see our “little” project turned into something tangible which provides valuable insight both personally and for the project. I will end this with a phrase one of our group kindly provided (we think it’s from a Terry Pratchett novel but probably before that some famous philosopher!)
“If it is true that the act of observing changes the thing being observed, it’s even more true that it changes the observer.”
The next instalment of the blog will hopefully focus on some feedback received from local community groups in the Broomhall area…