Over a hundred and twenty primary and secondary school pupils learned about the ideas of Robert Owen through activities and games during the Co-operative College’s first Robert Owen Day.
The event, which was held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on 19 November, coincided with Social Enterprise Day. Owen is regarded as the father of social enterprise, and the day explored the way his ideas live on over 150 years after his death.
Students attended from All Hallows Catholic College in Macclesfield, Reddish Vale Technology College in Stockport, and the Manchester schools St Francis RC Primary School, St Joseph’s RC Primary School, St Mary’s RC Primary School, Plant Hill High School and Whalley Range High School for Girls.
Russell Gill, head of membership at the Co-operative Group introduced the day by explaining how co-operation is still relevant today, not just in the UK, but world-wide, with over a billion members of co-operatives across the globe.
Students aged between nine and eleven took part in activities, ranging from the thought-provoking – ‘Making the Olympics Fair’ saw children looking at where their clothes were made and finding out about the working conditions of children in those countries, and the films White Gold and Matthew’s Story taught children about Fairtrade and ethical trade – to the fun and noisy. They practiced their marching, dancing and musical skills with Manchester folk singer’s Aidan Jolly’s interactive protest songs, and learned new skills such Thai boxing, magic card tricks and how to say their name in Swahili with the activity ‘Each One Teach One’.
A treasure hunt based around Owen’s life offered the chance to win Fairtrade chocolate and Robert Owen mugs designed by pupils from Sir Thomas Boughey High School in Stoke-on-Trent, and pupils also quizzed the Co-operative College’s head archivist Gillian Lonergan about Owen. She faced questions on Owen’s height, his best friends and the most unusual artifact in the college’s Robert Owen archive.
Year 10 students from Reddish Vale Technology College helped out at the event, donning nineteenth century dress and interviewing younger pupils for the position of mill manager at New Lanark.
Students also got to indulge their creative side, making their ideal place to live out of Plasticine, using recycled materials to create a memorial banner to Robert Owen with the help of a “Grumpy” artist from Salford Scrapstore and filming television interviews with Robert Owen.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the day, though, was the energetic co-operative games, which saw balls flying about the room and children running about noisily underneath a large, multicoloured parachute – all in the spirit of co-operation rather than competition.
A parallel event was held at Upper Shirley High School in Southampton, and it is hoped that Robert Owen Day will become an annual event.