This page is dedicated to school trips and visits.
nATIONAL HOLOCAUST CENTRE AND MUSEUM, MARCH 2017 (YEAR 10)
On a sunny March morning, we arrived at Beth Shalom (House of Peace), The National Holocaust Centre and Museum, which is in the village of Laxton, near Newark in Nottinghamshire.
A very powerful DVD set the day’s agenda and asked us to reflect on some very important questions, not just about the Holocaust but about more recent genocides and about lessons to be learned for life in Britain today, where discrimination against minority groups and ‘foreigners’ is often part of everyday society. How much have we really learned from the past?
After the DVD and some questions, we visited the memorial gardens, the on-site bookshop and the underground exhibition, where we viewed artefacts and personal stories. We viewed with equal amounts of interest and horror the details of the Nazi experimentations and their racial typing programme.
In the gardens we were invited to add a stone to the ever-growing pile in the memorial gardens, to represent the one and a half million children who were murdered in the Holocaust.
We learned that the memorial is still only one fifth of what it will eventually be and the Holocaust Centre has been open since 1995. Many of us took time to read the plaques in the garden and discovered one man’s memorial to 87 members of his family who had been killed.
After lunch, we listened to our speaker for the day, Hedi Argent, who was born in Vienna in 1929. She told us how, as a young school girl, she experienced the increasingly tightening grip of Nazi restrictions on herself, as the only Jewish child in her class, and on her family. We listened as she spoke of the family's escape and of those who did not manage to get out. Conscious that Holocaust survivors are becoming fewer by the day, we felt privileged to listen to this first-hand account of how the Holocaust had impacted on Hedi’s life and the life of her family.
Opportunities for questions enabled us to reflect on our own attitudes and to delve deeper into the lessons of that period in our not-so-distant history. All in all, this was an inspiring and challenging visit to a very unique place. It was a fitting preface to the Year 10’s forthcoming visit to Auschwitz in July.
NUNEATON MOSQUE AND COVENTRY CATHEDRAL, MARCH 2017 (YEAR 9)
Thornton’s Year 9s have spent a long time learning about Islam and the Five Pillars, which every Muslim should follow in order to please Allah. The purpose of our visit to the Nuneaton Mosque was to see the building rather than to revise the beliefs. Our guide, Imam Abbas, was most welcoming and keen to share his faith with us.
We first visited the Ablutions Room where Muslims perform the washing ritual (WUZZU) before prayer and then made our way upstairs to see the classrooms of the Madrasa. Every day between the hours of 5pm and 7:30pm, more than 200 young Muslims aged five to 18 come here to learn Arabic and the Qur'an. Many hope to earn the coveted title ‘Hafiz’, given only to those, who have learned the whole Qur’an by heart. We found this dedication quite remarkable. Our visit also allowed us to see ‘The Dead Room’ where bodies are prepared by family members for burial. We noted a very different and much more relaxed attitude to death here.
After refreshments, we set off for Coventry Cathedral and arrived in good time for the Litany of Reconciliation at noon. This short prayer for peace in the world takes place every day. We ate lunch in the new Cathedral’s Undercroft and then visited the ruins of the original Cathedral, bombed in 1940 but still standing as a reminder of the destruction of war. We noted the way in which the new Cathedral was linked to the ruins as a sign of hope and the promise of something good coming out of an event of great sadness.
The new building was full of very powerful symbolism. Its furnishings, from every corner of the world, reminded us of the power of forgiveness and working together in the quest to build a better world. We were surrounded by themes of death, resurrection, peace and reconciliation and many of us found the art and architecture inspiring in its ability to communicate the Christian message of forgiveness and hope.
Of particular note was the very symbolic Chapel of Unity floor, where we participated in a mini experiment, dropping golf balls from circles in various parts of the room. Each circle represented a continent and we were amazed when all the golf balls rolled towards the centre and met in the dove of peace, a very powerful visual symbol of what lies at the heart of Coventry’s message.
Rome, October 2016 (Year 11)
Thornton’s annual trip to Italy saw Senior students soaking up the sights of The Eternal City. The girls ticked off the Trevi Fountain, the Arch of Constantine, the Coliseum, ancient Rome and the Forum. They were impressed by the magnificence of St Peter’s Basilica, both its exterior and interior, and they visited the Holy Stairs, which pilgrims must climb on their knees out of respect.
The Catacombs of St Priscilla on the very edge of the city brought another adventure. These 13 miles of narrow and dimly-lit corridors were the underground burial chambers of the first Christians in Rome.
During the trip, students also spent time with the Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Rome. After a warm welcome, they visited the grave of Mother St Clare who, in 1917, founded our very own Thornton College.
Day four meant an early start to claim a good spot in St Peter’s Square for the Angelus at midday. This year, Mrs Holmes managed to get 36 tickets to the canonisation of seven saints. When Pope Francis climbed into the Popemobile Thornton girls proved just how good they were at weaving in and out of crowds and managed to take amazing photos of him at arm’s length. To finish, the group enjoyed a short visit to Castel St Angelo in the blazing sunshine with stunning views over Vatican City and the rest of Rome.
france, JUly 2016 (YEAR 7)
Year 7 pupils visited the Château de la Baudonnière in Normandy for a five-day trip as part of the school's annual Activities Week. They took part in a range of activities: fencing, climbing, photography, initiative exercises, assault course, canoeing and bread-making.
The objective of the trip was to speak French and the Château was set out ito maximise their use of the language – students had to listen to instructions in French and also had to use French to ask for things. It was great to see how they coped with all the instructions, as well as see their confidence increase in the use of the language.
Students also took part in small tasks such as feeding the animals in the small farm and discovering about cider making. Evenings were spent doing sports tournaments, French quizzes and a Talent Show and all students took part in these activities with enthusiasm. Behaviour was exemplary and this added to the overall enjoyment by everyone on the trip.
a midsummer night's dream theatre trip, june 2016 (Year 7)
On 28 June, Year 7 girls enjoyed an entertaining performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford Upon Avon.
An agile and mischievous Puck, a menacing Oberon and a cast of amateur, local actors playing the part of the workmen added humour and farce to the play. The girls enjoyed dressing up for the occasion, sitting in ‘the gods’, the interval ice creams and reciting some of the well-known speeches along with the cast. For some girls it was their first experience at the RSC and they were unanimous in their appreciation and delight.
‘We sat in ‘The Gods’ at the very top of the theatre which gave us a great view. The actors were very professional but there was awesome humour, too. Some of my favourite characters were Puck, Lysander and Bottom. Puck, who was a naughty fairy, ran around the stage and across the audience seats, this made everyone laugh. It was very creative how they used the props like doors, stairs and a piano (the piano was used as a bed). We were entertained the whole time and I’d love to go again.’
Melissa F, Year 7
Wimbledon Synagogue, November 2015 (year 8)
When we arrived at the Wimbledon Synagogue, we were greeted by Ros and Mike who, throughout our visit, were very happy to answer any questions we had. I had expected a grand, ornate building, but the Synagogue was rather modern and similar to the size of the sports hall.
At the beginning of the tour, Ros and Mike asked us to name anything we had seen on the outside of the building such as the Mezuzah and the Hebrew signs. They also asked if we knew the Shema Hear, O Israel which we did, and we recited the words.
Inside was a large open space with chairs laid out in rows. We were asked if we would like to wear a kippah, a small hat, which we did as a sign of respect. We were guided into the main section of the Synagogue where they pray and read from The Torah. I was not expecting to be able to touch so many of the artefacts, particularly the silver on The Torah.
Mike indicated the bimah, or platform, on which the ark stood where The Torah was kept. To one side was the menorah with its seven candles. Above the arc we also saw the ner tamid, which is a candle that is always burning as a sign that The Torah is eternal. We could also see the Ten Commandments that are always placed above the ark in a Synagogue.
We were then introduced to the Rabbi, Jason Rossner. He said he would answer any questions we had about the Jewish faith such as: ‘What do you think about what happened to the Jews during World War II?’ He answered that he did not think any religion should suffer but had come to peace with it. Someone also asked: ‘What does a Jew have to do if they eat something that is not kosher?’ He answered that they need to be cleansed by a Rabbi.
We also discussed the Shabbat with Ros. She showed us the Shabbat candles, the challah (the special bread that is shared during Shabbat), a bottle of wine with Hewbrew writing on it, and a wooden charity box into which money is placed every Shabbat.
I found the visit very interesting and it helped me understand all the information we had previously studied by seeing it in a relevant environment.
Hannah W, Year 8
Black Country Living Museum,
November 2015 (Year 9)
Year 9s trip to the Black County Living Museum tied in with the girls’ topic on the Industrial Revolution.
This trip was thoroughly enjoyed by all and I feel that we gained much from participating. Our guide, Helen, was informative and fun and keen to share the museum with us. We commenced with a general talk about the period of history and the museum.
The Black Country is named after the sooty, polluted skies that were the product of the booming factories that suffocated the area. The museum is a recreation of a typical industrial village at that time of great change. It includes a tramline, a school, a chapel, a mine, shops and even a Victorian fair.
We were privileged enough to descend underground to experience what the life of miners would have been like. Obviously it was not as dangerous, dark or strenuous as it once was, but the excursion was realistic and fascinating. We squeezed through tight, gloomy passages and listened to information about the miners’ work and lives. Boys as young as four were sent down the pitch-black tunnels to start earning a living by helping to obtain huge quantities of coal, lead, tin and limestone from the seams that ran below the Black Country. We can only begin to imagine the horrendous conditions of labouring down a mine. The guide really put across a vivid picture of the mines, assisted by numerous waxwork figures of the dishevelled, desperate men.
Another highlight of the trip was the Victorian schoolroom where we participated in a typical lesson, though not quite as harsh. The realistic schoolmaster took us through our times tables, making us recite them ‘by rote’, and also gave us an introduction to copperplate - the handwriting used by educated Victorians. It is a lot more complicated than normal handwriting and, in addition, had to be written on slate first before it could be accomplished in ink. The schoolmaster also demonstrated some punishments, such as the cane, reciting the alphabet backwards or standing on one leg with your arms on your head in front of the class. It made us realise how grateful we should be to have the schooling we do now.
As well as watching a blacksmith make an original ‘tommy’ chain and give an intriguing talk about the process, we also went inside a miniscule house, listened to a chemist and enjoyed the rides of the fair. The latter consisted of swing boats, a traditional ‘cake-walk’ and an old rollercoaster which was a sort of carousel but with wooden platforms that spun round at a thrilling speed. We concurred that the Victorians, for all their faults and cruel ways, knew how to make fun rides just as well as we do.
Overall, the day was fun and fascinating and had the correct balance of play and learning. The learning was interactive and I think that this trip was a huge success thanks to the hard work and commitment of the staff involved. I would like to say a big thank you to Mrs Lewis for ensuring that the outing was as enjoyable and advantageous as it turned out to be. I certainly benefited from every second of it.
Amy B, Year 9
Natural History Museum, November 2015 (Year 10)
The Year 10 field trip to London’s Natural History Museum gave the girls an opportunity to look at displays and exhibitions relevant to their Biology, Geography and Art studies. The human biology section, for instance, provided many ‘hands-on’ displays to reinforce what they have learnt in class on nerves and hormones, says Dr Parker. Worksheets provided by the museum also guided students around relevant displays.
Here, two of our Art students recount their experience of the day:
I really enjoyed the trip to the Natural History Museum, as it contributed to not only my Biology work but also to Geography and Art. As part of the Art coursework, we have to make independent visits to as many places as we can to help us achieve the best grades that we can. The fact that we visited the Natural History Museum means that we are able to use the photographs that we took, plus any items that we bought there, as reference or inspiration for ideas for art.
At the moment, I have the task to create a response to one of my photographs from the trip, using the effect of stippling, monochrome colours, and oil pastels – three different options that I picked at random. This response must be fairly small scale – either A4 or A3 – and fit in with my theme, which is distortion and decay, leading into consumerism and society. I like the idea of the small scale response to begin with, as we are only experimenting with new ideas, rather than creating a massive response which may not work out very well.
At the museum, we looked at an exhibition on rocks, minerals and other various stones. These were beautiful and related to a lot of our themes, for example, light and reflection, or decay and time as it passes. We took photos of everything, and my friend and I bought a book on the elements from the shop afterwards. We could use photos in this as a reminder of the minerals and rocks that we saw.
As well as this, we looked at dinosaur bones and fossils, which can relate to my theme, inspiring many ideas of patterns involving decay. I have recently been studying towers, such as the Towel of Babel, and creating my own in a Steampunk style. However, another of Mrs White’s ideas was to make another tower consisting of everything I found in the Natural History Museum. This could include rocks, minerals, little bones or fossils, or even styles of architecture taken from the building itself, which sounds like an interesting project! Overall, the trip has benefited my artwork hugely, and has opened up a lot more options and ideas which I can use, either inspired by or in response to the museum.
Sophie L, Year 10
On our trip to the National History Museum we looked at the rocks and crystals. This has helped me with my Art coursework as I took pictures of some of the crystals that were on display. This was a great opportunity to look at all the reflections and details on the crystals. The different colours that were bouncing off them has inspired me to look more into the different colours that are being reflected. Also, the rocks we looked at had a lot to do with my topic: jewellery. This was because there were different colours, shapes and sizes of rocks.
In the museum there was a rock on display that has inspired me to do a large scale painting of a purple rock, and in the painting I can show tiny intricate details like reflections, dark and light areas and the texture of the rock.
On the trip we also looked at the dinosaur section, which has influenced me to look into the bones of the dinosaurs and incorporate it with jewellery. For example, I could draw a skeleton head of a dinosaur as a necklace or draw a skeleton as a crystal. Overall, it was a great trip as it gave me an opportunity to look at crystals, rocks and skeletons of dinosaurs to help me with my course work.
Eva W, Year 10
Lord of the Flies theatre trip, November 2015 (Year 9)
Thursday 19th November saw a party of eager pupils and staff setting off on our first theatre visit of the year to see Lord of the Flies at the Wycombe Swan Theatre. Although not taught on the English syllabus, several of the girls had read William Golding's classic novel in preparation for the trip and by the end of the evening, having enjoyed a fast-paced and brilliantly-directed production, many of the students were putting it on their 'must-read' book list.
The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre Company wowed the audience with their exciting interpretation and very clever staging, as the group of young actors transformed themselves from well-behaved choristers and public schoolboys into painted savages who hunted their prey – both animal and human! – across the 'island' setting.
There were a number of very moving, poignant moments which slowed down the action and provided the audience with an opportunity to reflect on the tense and dramatic scenes being played out before them. The broken fuselage of a crashed aeroplane formed the main part of the set and various parts of this were used cleverly to suggest the landscape of the island, while also giving us a very real insight into the aftermath of an airline disaster.
The young theatre company took three curtain calls at the end of the evening – much deserved praise for their energetic and lively performance – and it was obvious that they had enjoyed the evening as much as we had!
Rome, October 2015 (Year 11)
An early flight from Heathrow ensured that we arrived in Rome early enough to check into our hotel and then head straight out to explore! We had lunch in the Trevi Fountain area before catching the metro to Colosseo to see the Arch of Constantine, the Coliseum, ancient Rome, the Forum and the Mamertine Prison, where St Peter and St Paul were held before their martyrdom in Rome. We also managed to fit in the Basilica of St Peter in Chains before returning to our hotel to prepare for dinner in the nearby Taverna Lino.
On day two, we were all suitably impressed by the magnificence of St Peter's Basilica, the centre of Vatican City and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. The area around St Peter's provided many little cafes and restaurants for snacks as well as a multitude of shops selling religious artefacts, which we were eager to purchase. Another metro journey took us to St Paul's Outside the Walls, another of the great basilicas of Rome.
We then headed to Via Nomentana to visit the Generalate, the home of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Rome. The Sisters welcomed us warmly and we had a tour of the house as well as an opportunity to spend a few quiet moments in the Chapel, reflecting on the fact that Thornton is part of a worldwide community of Jesus and Mary Schools. We visited the grave of Mother St Clare, who, in 1917, founded our very own Thornton College. We were also privileged to meet Mother Cecilia, who, at 114 years old, is the fifteenth oldest person alive. She amazed us with her lively wit and her accurate memories of Thornton.
The third day brought yet another adventure – the Catacombs of St Priscilla, the underground burial chambers of the earliest Christians in Rome. We saw the earliest ever picture of the Virgin Mary with Jesus, etched onto the roof of one of the tunnels and dating back to a time when Christianity was not even legal in the Empire. Lunch in Pantheon Square enabled us to see inside the magnificent Pantheon structure and to do some souvenir shopping. It was then time for an afternoon visit to St John Lateran Basilica, the cathedral Church of Rome and the nearby Holy Stairs, which pilgrims must climb on their knees in an attitude of prayer and respect. Many of us chose to climb these stairs with other pilgrims.
On our final day we were up early to claim a good spot in St Peter's Square, directly under the window of the papal apartment, for the Angelus at midday. Thousands of pilgrims gathered for noon and were overjoyed to see and hear Pope Francis 'in the flesh'.
BAPS shri Swaminarayan Hindu temple (Year 7) July 2015
During their religious education at Thornton College, the girls learn about different religions. Year 7s cover a module on Hinduism in the summer term, which included a visit to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Neasden, London, in July 2015.
Once we got to the temple, we had to take our shoes off before we met our guide, Usha. She led us to a room and showed us a quick video on how the Mandir was built and the story behind it. We then visited the main temple made out of marble, which had delicately been carved in India by craftsmen, and saw the murti which were dressed in bright coloured clothes. It was amazing seeing all the carvings.
We then went downstairs to the ‘Understanding of Hinduism’, which helped us comprehend how Hindus live their lives and other interesting things like astronomy and how the number 0 was created in India.
We were able to ask Usha questions about the Mandir and her life being a Hindu. Next, we went and saw an arti ceremony being performed by the priests dressed in orange. Some people clapped their hands while others joined in the singing prayer. Finally, we travelled home exhausted but knowing a little more about Hinduism. My favourite part was definitely seeing the intricate carvings in the Mandir.
Asha B, Year 7
Krakow, Poland, June 2015 (Year 10)
Our hotel for the visit was the well-placed Hotel Wyspianski, a stone’s throw from the Old Town. Over the course of three days, we enjoyed a guided walking tour of the city, which included the Jewish quarter. Our visit to Deportation Square and the Eagle Pharmacy introduced us to the reality of life for Jews in the Krakow ghetto and the remarkable story of Tadeusz Pankiewicz, the pharmacist, who was an eye-witness to genocide and who became instrumental in saving the lives of many Jews.
Our first afternoon also took in Wawel Castle and Cathedral. A steep climb to the cathedral’s bell tower enabled us to see the Sigismund Bell and hear the legend associated with it. We were particularly interested in the idea that any girl who touches the bell with her left hand will find her true love within the year! Naturally there was a ‘big rush’ for the bell!
Our guide also took us to many of the sights of Krakow associated with Pope John Paul (II), who had been Archbishop of Krakow before he became Pope, and Maximilien Kolbe, the Catholic priest, who gave his life for another prisoner and died in Auschwitz. This prepared us well for the focus of our trip – a visit to Auschwitz itself.
To walk past the ovens where bodies were burned and to see the rooms of suitcases, shoes and human hair, (which were discovered on the camp’s liberation), was at once horrific and intensely moving.
Our tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mines revealed many surprises, among which was an entire chapel carved out of salt by three miners in their ‘spare time’ over a period of 70 years! Some of our Chamber Choir girls provided a ‘musical interlude’ just to test out the superb acoustics.
Our final morning allowed for the much-awaited tour of Schindler’s Factory, made famous by the film, Schindler’s List. It confronted us once more with both the reality of the Holocaust and the enormous power of one individual to change the lives of many.