Big Ideas Programme: Scotland in the 21st Century – A Changing Nation?

Over the last 18 months we’ve introduced a new strand of programming for senior school students. Our Big Ideas programme gives young people the opportunity to debate current issues, in the context of the Museum’s collections, to hear from high profile speakers and to network with other schools. The programme focuses on broad curriculum topics such as citizenship, international development and climate change. Past events have included our successful Scotland to Malawi Event and Architecture Conference.

Our most recent event, held on 12 June 2013 at the National Museum of Scotland, was Scotland in the 21st Century: A Changing Nation? Chaired by broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, speakers included political commentator Gerry Hassan, Lands campaigner and writer Andy Wightman and Shetland’s representative on the Scottish Youth Parliament, Emily Shaw.

Senior school students at the Scotland 2020 conference
Senior school students at the Scotland in the 21st Century conference.

We introduced young people’s voices right at the start of the day – captured in a film ‘Scotland 2020’. This was made in advance of the event, from interviews with students who were already booked to attend. This film ensured that the whole programme was driven by the views and questions of young people – and set the perfect tone for the day.

[vimeo 68699696 w=500&h=280]

Inevitably the discussion turned to the referendum, since many of the young people will be able to vote next year. However pupils, teachers and speakers all understood the value of a debate about the challenges our country will face in terms of education, employment, energy and land resources regardless of the outcome of the referendum.  Many of the stories at the heart of this debate are reflected through our collections, and pupils had the chance to discover Scotland’s changes through objects on display in our galleries, from the Lewis chess pieces, representing Scotland’s early history, to Salter’s Duck, part of a display on alternative energy sources in our 20th century gallery.

The trusted neutrality of the museum makes it a great venue for young people to come together and talk about issues that matter to them. However it was great to see 200 young people looking at our collections from a fresh perspective and contributing actively to a debate about our future.

Next academic year we will be grappling with our future energy needs linked to our new galleries and looking at climate change from the perspective of our source communities.

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