Lancaster University: Children can relive Wordsworth’s ‘spots of time’ thanks to new Grasmere museum attraction

A new game world that enables youngsters to immerse themselves in the world of William Wordsworth creates a magical and exciting universe to bring literature to life.

Children can also explore the poet’s home, Dove Cottage at Grasmere, and undertake activities in the landscape of the Lake District just as the young Wordsworth did.

In partnership with The Wordsworth Trust, academics in the English Literature and Creative Writing Department at Lancaster University have created a unique resource in Minecraft for use with children in the newly designed Wordsworth Grasmere Museum and Educational Space.

LITCRAFT uses the popular Minecraft gaming platform to build accurate scale models of literary worlds which are then creatively and imaginatively linked to reading to help motivate children to enjoy reading through play in an exciting way.

Pupils begin by reading a poem or narrative and understanding it before entering the corresponding game world in which they undertake challenges that re-enact the actions and events of the text. Then they leave the game world and write about their experiences.

Using a 3D model of Dove Cottage owned by the Trust the academics have created an accurate scale model of William and sister Dorothy’s home in Grasmere.

This is then set in a fully accurate map of the Lake District in Minecraft generated from Ordnance Survey data.

Wordsworth called his boyhood experiences ‘spots of time’ – powerful experiential memories that he drew upon in later years and that made him the poet he became.

These include climbing crags, rowing at night and skating on Windermere beneath the stars.

In the wintery scene of Windermere in Minecraft, children re-enact William’s exploration and build a giant ice and light sculpture.

LITCRAFTessentially enables an entirely new way of reading that brings together the child’s internal imaginative visualisation of a text read in a book with exploration and play in a virtual environment that corresponds to the text.

Through a process of ‘cognitive blending’ these experiences merge to reinforce each other and make reading, including poetry, fun.

Professor Sally Bushell, of Lancaster University, who created the resource with colleague Dr James Butler, says: “As a Wordsworthian it was so enjoyable to make this build, and to get to know Dove Cottage in a whole new way by building it!

“I am excited by the potential Litcraft offers to bring a whole new generation to Wordsworth through the digital environment”.

Key Stage Two children at St Cuthbert’s School, Windermere, have already been enjoying using the resource after a recent teacher training workshop at Wordsworth Grasmere.

Their teacher, Rowena James, said “The children love using Litcraft to support their reading. The activities are really easy to deliver. The activities are well thought out and relevant to the curriculum. You can also use the activities as stimulus for further written work.”

And on Monday children from Year Six at Grasmere School were at Wordsworth Grasmere for a practical workshop with Professor Bushell.

Education Development Manager at Wordsworth Grasmere Zoe McLain added: “William’s escapades have been going down really well with children and young people in the Museum.

“Litcraft allows children to engage with William’s poetry and Dorothy’s Journal in a new and exciting way. We are looking forward to rolling these opportunities out to more young people through a teacher and librarian training programme.”

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