Robert Owen's Windows of Learning
Robert Owen's principles of education immortalised in stained glass
A series of eight stained glass panels created by local Lanark schools, celebrating the legacy of social philanthropist Robert Owen, commemorates the Windows of Learning Project which took place in 2017.
Principles of character, cooperation, environment, equity, happiness, kindness and play, used by Owen when creating his Institute for the Formation of Character – the first infant school in the world - 200 years ago, have been immortalised in stained glass, which now reside in New Lanark Primary School.
Brought together by New Lanark Primary School Parents’ Association, the multifaceted Windows of Learning project involved pupils from New Lanark Primary School, Kirkfieldbank Primary School, Lanark Primary School, St Mary’s Primary School and Robert Owen Memorial Primary School.
Watch the video below to hear artist Fiona Foley describe how the children researched Robert Owen's philosophies and turned them into bold and bright stained glass creations.
The panels were a culmination of different elements in the project, as below.
Back in Time workshops
The children of Lanark’s schools and nurseries travelled back in time to experience what life was like for children in New Lanark 200 years ago when Robert Owen was the Mill Manager. Owen was dedicated to improving the lives of those living and working in New Lanark and believed that education was the key to forming a society free from crime and poverty. He opened the Institute of Character Reformation on the 1st January 1816. With an emphasis on play, children learned to share, be kind to one another and to be curious about their natural environment. These principles are the focus of the window design.
Local nurseries were treated to a series of drama, drumming and nature craft workshops. Inspired by Robert Owen’s love of the book ‘Robinson Crusoe’ the children went on an imaginary adventure pretending they were cast away on a remote island. The nurseries were: St. Mary’s, Robert Owen, Lanark, Little People and Grand-y-Care Academy.
Parents, guardians, teachers and early years workers were invited to take part in seminars entitled ‘Ways to Nurture a Joy of Learning’. Guest speakers with a background in character development and education engaged the audience in discussion that explored the relevance of Robert Owen’s principles in our lives today. The highlight was a talk by Sue Palmer, author of ‘Toxic Childhood’ and spearhead of the nationwide ‘Upstart’ campaign. Sue has since published an article about her talk and visit to Lanark, available by clicking the link under ‘related links’.
Forest School Training
Have you ever been for a walk in the woodlands at New Lanark? It’s possible that you were on one of the paths originally created by Robert Owen so that workers had easy access to appreciate the captivating beauty of the Clyde Valley. Owen regularly emphasised the importance of children playing outdoors and exploring and observing our natural environment. In honor of this, the project offered wild play sessions featuring den-building and eating marshmallows toasted on the open fire. To promote an expansion of local outdoor learning and play activities, a number of parents, teachers and nursery staff have been funded to gain Forest School qualifications.
Stained glass window workshops
Local schools benefited from three imaginative workshops curated by Fiona Foley, stained-glass window artist, from Leadhills. Fiona immersed children in a wide range of experiences to generate the ideas which have been skillfully woven into the windows. To explore Robert Owen’s principles of character, kindness, play, cooperation, equity, the environment and happiness, the children took part in a museum of curiosity, played Victorian games, explored the world of colour, texture and pattern and tested their hands at printing and glass cutting. We hope you marvel at the results and join us in praising all the children for bringing such joy and wonder to the project.
The panels were exhibited in the Lanark Tolbooth in August 2017. Watch the video below to hear Tila Morris describing the project at the closing party of the exhibition.
The project was funded by LEADER and Heritage Lottery Fund supported Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP), with funding from Big Lottery Fund, Clydesdale Bank PLC and New Lanark Trust. New Lanark Primary School Parents Association and CAVLP would also like to thank the family and friends of the late George Cullen, who contributed a generous donation of £800.