A Wombling Career Development Module at Seven Stories

Newcastle University’s Career Development Module enables stage two or final year students on selected degree programmes to complete a 20 credit module by undertaking a volunteering placement. This academic year, Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books have got involved in this module for the first time. Today I’m welcoming Charlie Shovlar to the Vital North Partnership blog to tell us all about her experience…

We like the Wombles because... Image: Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children's Books
We like the Wombles because… Image: Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books

Hi Charlie! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello! I’m Charlie, a stage 3 Combined Honours student at Newcastle University; my subjects are Media, Communication and Cultural Studies and Philosophy.

What attracted you to do a Career Development Module with Seven Stories?

I’d previously been to the Visitor Centre in Ouseburn and loved it – the atmosphere, the exhibitions, everything. So when it came to choosing my placement, I was excited to see that Seven Stories was offering not one but three different options! Marketing, Environment, and Collections. I realised the Collections placement sounded best suited to me.

What are the benefits of doing a Career Development Module over a standard taught 20 credit module?

As I’m in my final year, this was my last chance to do a Career Development Module. I didn’t have any workplace experience, so throwing myself into a placement seemed like a good thing to do to help me gain important skills, especially as it would count for module credits at the same time.

So what have you been doing on your volunteering placement at Seven Stories?

During initial discussions about the placement with my supervisors, it came up that they had the Elisabeth Beresford collection, which was in need of sorting out! I have fond memories of The Wombles from when I was little, so I was very happy when they suggested my main task could be to organise the collection. I’ve come across some lovely illustrations, still images from the Wombling Free film, and countless adorable stories.

Great Uncle Bulgaria illustration, from The Wombles Annual 1980. Image: Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books
Great Uncle Bulgaria illustration, from The Wombles Annual 1980. Image: Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books

Towards the end of my placement I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Visitor Centre shadowing a Storycatcher and getting involved in a workshop with a school group, which was really fun. I also helped to review children’s books for the Hooks into Books scheme, which involves compiling packs of books that people across the Seven Stories team have read and reviewed, and sending them to primary schools.

What skills are you developing as part of your volunteering placement?

There has been opportunity to develop so many skills, new and existing. Aside from the Graduate Skills Framework that I need to keep track of for the module assessments, I noticed my work ethic improving a great deal – when I do work at home for other modules I get distracted all the time, but in the Seven Stories office the only distraction is the manuscripts I’m sorting through.

Also my planning and organisational skills have come on miles, as I have to make detailed notes each week so that I know where to begin next time. If I hadn’t written down where a particular few pieces of paper were, they could have been lost forever!

Still from The Wombles film. Image: Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books
Still from The Wombles film. Image: Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books

How will the Career Development Module impact on your future studies, research or career plans?

The module has required me to take a good look at my skills to consider what sort of career is best suited to my strengths. I’m never going to be amazing at communicating, but the work I’ve done at my placement has made me feel that I’m capable of more than I thought.

A personal skills audit that we did in one of the module seminars revealed that by far my main strength is personal enterprise – that means problem-spotting, coming up with creative solutions, and embracing new perspectives. Hopefully I can bring this to wherever I end up after I graduate.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Just that I’ve massively enjoyed my time at Seven Stories, thank you for the experience and I’m going to miss the team.

Go Wombles!

Thanks Charlie! If you’re interested in undertaking a Career Development Module in 2017/18, have a look at Seven Stories’ Collections and Exhibitions placements and apply now.

First year work shadowing at Seven Stories

The graduate job market is competitive. Alongside academic performance, employers are looking for students with relevant work experience. Demonstrating your employability is key, and it’s never too early to start – which is why Newcastle University’s Careers Service offers a work shadowing programme for first year students.

As part of the 2016/17 programme, Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books welcomed three first year students to their Visitor Centre to shadow our Learning and Participation and Front of House teams for a day over the Easter vacation. I talked to the students about what they got out of the experience…

Hello Akiba, Hannah and Katy! Tell me about your first impressions of Seven Stories.

Akiba: It’s even more exciting than I anticipated!

Hannah: And so colourful!

Tell me about your studies.

Hannah: We all study English Literature at Newcastle University, so we sort of knew each other before we came to shadow at Seven Stories. We’re all in our first year – so far, I love it!

Hannah in the Michael Morpurgo exhibition. Image taken by Katy.
Hannah in the Michael Morpurgo exhibition. Image taken by Katy.

How did you find out about the First Year Work Shadowing programme and secure this placement at Seven Stories?

Katy: I met Rachel at the Seven Stories stand at the Creative Careers event on 1st March and signed up for more information about placements. Then, Rachel contacted me with about the First Year Work Shadowing opportunity, and I emailed her with my CV and a couple of paragraphs on why I was interested in the placement.

What attracted you to undertake a work shadowing placement at Seven Stories?

Hannah: I visited Seven Stories as a child – so I wanted to see what careers here were like as an adult!

Akiba: I’m interested in going into a career in publishing, and Seven Stories encourages children to explore the world of books, so I was attracted to explore careers related to the publishing industry.

Katy and the unicorn in the Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories gallery. Image taken by Akiba.
Katy and the unicorn in the Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories gallery. Image taken by Akiba.

So what have you been up to during your work shadowing placement?

Katy: I sat in on Beth’s school session with the Reception class in the Studio. First we had a workshop, which the kids loved – and it was really interesting to see how Beth changed the activity every ten minutes or so to keep the children engaged. She gave every child the chance to participate and she knew how to get everyone’s attention when she wanted the class to listen.

Hannah: It was really interesting to watch how the teachers interacted with the Storycatchers, too. Today we’ve seen careers at Seven Stories and careers in teaching.

Akiba: We went to watch a storytime with Cathy, and I loved the performance aspect! I don’t think I could do it though. We also spent time in the exhibitions, reading books in the bookshop and talking to the Front of House team.

Akiba in the Michael Morpurgo exhibition. Image taken by Katy.
Akiba in the Michael Morpurgo exhibition. Image taken by Katy.

What have you learned from today, and what impact will your work shadowing placement have on your studies at Newcastle University?

Hannah: We’ve recently been having some lectures on children’s literature by Professor Kim Reynolds, and there’s more to children’s books than you might think. Today’s visit has definitely reinforced that: children’s books are about children’s first steps into reading and they play a really important role in language development.

Katy: Reading the books in the bookshop also made me think that children’s books can represent serious and dark themes – Pandora by Victoria Turnbull was heartbreaking. And images can be just as important as the words in children’s books.

Any final comments?

Akiba: I truly appreciated the kindness of the Seven Stories team for being so warming, making me feel comfortable and answering on any questions that I had. Thank you!

Seven Stories Research Scholarship: Q&A

Earlier this year, a Speech and Language Sciences student, Zoe, spent 8 weeks with Seven Stories’ Learning and Participation Team working on a Newcastle University Research Scholarship.

In November, Seven Stories’ Business Development Manager John Beattie and I caught up with Zoe at Newcastle University’s Research Scholarship celebration event, where she presented a poster about her work with Seven Stories.

Hello Zoe! You undertook a Newcastle University Research Scholarship with Seven Stories. What’s that, and how did you secure it?

A vacation Research Scholarship is offered to students in their middle or penultimate year of their degree from Schools across the University. Back in January 2016, we were notified of this opportunity to conduct some research and receive a bursary. My supervisor Professor James Law notified me that Seven Stories would like some research to be conducted in collaboration with them. I organised a meeting at Seven Stories where I met members of the Learning and Participation Team. We decided on a topic and wrote a proposal that was handed in February 2016. In March I found the proposal was successful and began the scholarship in June 2016.

What did you do during your Research Scholarship with Seven Stories?

We decided to do a study about Hooks into Books at Seven Stories and sent Snow Dogs book packs into two schools to evaluate how they were received, and if anything could be improved.  This involved doing a literature review surrounding reading for pleasure and its implications. After packs were delivered I then attended each school, carried out questionnaires and observed a session. This was great, seeing the school staff and children’s reactions to the books.

Zoe's research poster: How do children engage in reading for pleasure?
Zoe’s research poster: How do children engage in reading for pleasure?

What were your research findings?

Children’s reading habits did not differ between the schools (regardless of pupil premium percentage).

Teachers and Schools have different definitions therefore different approaches to reading for pleasure. School A:  ‘Enjoying stories for the sake of it and being able to be comfortable laying down in a nice environment.’ School B: ‘Having enough knowledge and understanding to be able to read for fluency.’

Schools took different approaches to reading the story (one read all one read half). They also had different ways of choosing the story (one asked colleagues, one looked at illustrations). The activities they did using the books were also different: one was purely creative and artistic whereas the other followed more closely the curriculum with creative writing and pictures.

How did you find working in a cultural education setting like Seven Stories, in comparison to a speech therapy role?

I really enjoyed working with Seven Stories and felt very supported throughout my time there.

It was enjoyable working in the office, then experiencing the hustle and bustle of schools. In comparison, as a speech therapy student every day and placement can be different, from hospitals, to children’s centres, to community clinics and schools.

Newcastle University's Research Scholarship celebration event in November 2016. Image: Newcastle University
Newcastle University’s Research Scholarship celebration event in November 2016. Image: Newcastle University

What have you learnt from your Research Scholarship?

I have learnt lots of research skills from my project, particularly how to form child-friendly questionnaires and write literature reviews. I have also learnt how to format and design posters.

What impact will your Research Scholarship and time with Seven Stories have on your future studies, research and career plans?

I hope to incorporate my experience into speech therapy in the future, particularly the links between ‘reading for pleasure’ and speech and language difficulties.  The formatting skills I learnt will help me in the future to make assessed posters whilst still at university, but also in the future when making information sheets for colleagues of clients.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I would encourage anyone to take up the opportunity of a summer vacation Research Scholarship. It was a valuable experience which will definitely have benefits for my future.