Black Gold 2015: Hearts, Souls and Mines Showcase Event

 Black Gold 2015: Hearts, Souls and Mines Showcase Event

Pupils from 16 Rhondda Cynon Taff schools have taken part in a showcase event to celebrate and share their learning in the ground breaking project Black Gold 2015: Hearts, Souls and Mines. The project was designed by RCT Council in collaboration with Microsoft IT Academy, as part of their on going partnership and led by James Protheroe from Darran Park Primary School. The event, which took place on 15th July at Ferndale Community School, was attended by a large audience including representatives of Welsh Government, Microsoft, RCT Council and Central South Consortium Joint Education Service.

During this unique project, the schools worked collaboratively to build the Rhondda Heritage Park using Minecraft. The RCT project was designed to raise standards in ICT and digital competency in schools across Rhondda Cynon Taff, through developing an understanding of the rich heritage of coal mining in South Wales.  In addition, the project was also designed to promote school-to-school working, with pupils and staff from each school collaborating closely throughout the project. Another important aim of the project was to develop literacy and numeracy skills. Leanne Wood, Welsh Assembly Minister for South Wales stated: “This project is not only ground breaking for this authority but is the first time a project of this scale has been attempted anywhere in the world.”

Talking about the way Minecraft had been used to inspire learners, Stuart Ball, Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Programme Manager & Regional Lead, stated: “During the project the pupils have been the experts, they have been able to share their Minecraft expertise to solve problems and create something truly fantastic. Well done Rhondda Cynon Taff for leading the way.”

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DSCF2892 Stuart Ball, Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Programme Manager & Regional Lead, presenting at the showcase event.

As well as using a range of ICT throughout the project, each school collaborated using Hwb+, the all Wales learning platform. A shared area was set up for pupils and teachers to share work and work together to produce blogs, wikis and discussion forums. It was also used to share literacy and numeracy tasks and give pupils the opportunity to have an extensive audience for their work beyond the classroom. Chris Owen, Welsh Government Head of Digital Learning Unit, celebrated the work of pupils during the show, “I’ve enjoyed listening to the thoughts of the children and it is clear that they have developed so many skills throughout the project. They are a credit to Rhondda Cynon Taff.”


Pupils from Darran Park Primary School sharing their work with Leanne Wood AM.


Pupils discussing the Black Gold 2015 with representatives from Welsh Government and Hwb+.

Another important part of the showcase was the première of the animation ‘Black Gold’ which was created by the pupils during the project with the animation company Turnip Starfish. Each school researched a specific area of Coal Society before beginning the animation.  The research was used to create the story of the South Wales coal industry through the 19th and early 20th century. Each school was then visited by Nick Price and Lexy Jones from Turnip Starfish to create the animation.  You can view the animation by clicking the following link:

Black Gold

A number of partners worked closely with the schools throughout the project. Technocamps, have supported pupils to develop a range of ICT and computing skills through using a range of ICT such as:  Kodu, Lego Mindstorm and 3D printing. The organisation, who aim to inspire, motivate and engage people computational thinking and promote computer science, have worked with the pupils to use Minecraft and 3D printing to create a model of the Rhondda Heritage Park. Laura Roberts, Regional Coordinator for South East Wales, worked closely with each school throughout the project. Penrhys Partnership and Big Click also played an important part in working with schools to develop digital competency. Ben Treharne Foose, worked closely with schools delivering a range of computing workshops.

Sue Walker, Head of Achievement (Primary) RCT, celebrated the achievements by presenting each school with an award. “It is important to recognise the commitment that Rhondda Cynon Taff has made to developing ICT and digital and competency across our schools. This is reflected by the authority’s continuing partnership with Microsoft IT Academy and it’s commitment to school-to school working.”  As part of this partnership, RCT and Microsoft have developed teacher trainers throughout the authority to support teachers with using ICT to transform and learning.

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Sue Walker, Head of Achievement Primary RCT, presenting Black Gold 2015 awards.

Speaking about the legacy of the project, James Protheroe, Black Gold project leader, said that the work would be shared with other schools throughout RCT and Central South Consortium Joint Education Service. “It is very important to continue looking for innovative ways to use ICT to inspire pupils and make the curriculum come alive.” The resources developed throughout the project will be used to create an education pack to be used in conjunction with the Rhondda Heritage Park. Next term pupils aim to expand the Minecraft world to create other features of Coal Society in South Wales, including the Blaencwm to Blaengwyfi tunnel, an important railway that connected the Rhondda and Swansea Valleys that is soon to be reopened.

Well done to all the pupils who presented their work at the Black Gold 2015 showcase event and to the schools for showing their commitment to developing digital competency and school-to-school working throughout the project.

DSCF2895James Protheroe, Black Gold 2015 Project Leader, talking about the legacy of the project.

A big thank you to all the schools who took part:

Ferndale Cluster: Darran Park Primary School, Maerdy Primary School, Penrhys Primary School, Tylorstown Primary School and Ferndale Community School.

Cymer Cluster: Ysgol Gynradd Llyn Y Forwyn, Ysgol Gynradd Bronllwyn, Ysgol Gynradd Llwyncelyn, Ysgol Gynradd Ynyswen, Ysgol Gyfun Y Cymer.

SS Gabriel and Raphael Primary School

Tonypandy Cluster: Penygraig Junior School, Llwynypia Primary School, Williamstown Primary School, Tonypandy Primary School, Ysgol Yr Eos.

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