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Junior 3 visit Ancient Rome in The John Shaw Science Wing

Junior 3 visit Ancient Rome in The John Shaw Science Wing

On Friday 26 April, Junior 3 paid a special visit to the Senior School to travel back in time to Ancient Rome and learn about an important former pupil, John Shaw (Class of 1966), as part of the School’s focus on its 900 year history.

Visiting the Senior School is always an exciting experience for Junior School pupils, leaving an impression and making learning memorable. Children arrived at The John Shaw Science Wing with their HSOG passports in hand, ready to be stamped by Passport Control, gaining them entry to Ancient Rome through the power of technology.

A lesson from Mrs Pollock, Junior School Deputy Head Teacher (Teaching and Learning), immediately engaged children with an interactive timeline highlighting key dates across the School’s 900 year history. This helped to put into context the importance of the School’s anniversary, reinforcing to the children that they are a part of something really special.

Drawing on their leadership topic, Mrs Pollock shared insights into a significant former pupil, John Shaw (Class of 1966): his education, impressive career and marriage to entrepreneur and global business leader, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Executive Chairperson and founder of Biocon, a global biopharmaceutical company with the belief that everyone, everywhere deserves access to affordable, quality medicines.

The children heard about the couple’s wish for their wealth to have a positive impact on the world and were introduced to the concept of philanthropy. They learnt about the incredibly generous donations made to the two educational establishments which shaped John: The High School of Glasgow and the University of Glasgow.

In 2022, The John Shaw Science Wing was officially opened, following a £1.5 million donation from the couple, the largest single donation ever made to the School. John and Kiran’s generosity transformed the empty shell of the Science Wing’s top floor, into four bright and modern Geography and Modern Studies classrooms, and created a Flexible Learning Area, the first of its kind at the High School. Unlike traditional teaching spaces, this inspiring area allows pupils to design, dream and collaborate, out with the confines of a normal classroom. It’s a making and a doing area, encouraging blue sky thinking and endless opportunities.

Children discovered the impact of John and Kiran’s donations on the School and the University of Glasgow, resulting in the creation of the Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre (ARC), highlighting the parallels between the two places of learning. Some of the seven and eight year-olds present voiced how they hoped one day to study within ARC, a perfect example of the School motto, Sursum Semper (Ever Upwards), in action.

Mrs Pollock asked children, the attributes they believed a good leader possesses. Their answers included someone who was “kind and caring”, “had a warm heart”, “who thinks about others” and is “generous”. Learning more about John, everyone agreed that John embodied all of these qualities.

The top floor of The John Shaw Science Wing, and all of the resources within it, were purchased thanks to the donation from John and Kiran. Among these resources are Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. Junior 3 donned their VR headsets and travelled back in time to Ancient Rome: the looks of wonder on the young learners’ faces said it all. They visited the Colosseum where they witnessed a Gladiator fight and held a VR gladius, the sword Roman Soldiers would use in combat. They explored a Roman Villa belonging to an Emperor, revelling in its beauty, and the children were even able to use VR to pick up a ceramic vase. Finally, they visited Pompeii, walking the streets and summitting Mount Vesuvius, where they surveyed the landscape and reflected on the 9 metres of ash that buried the inhabitants when Vesuvius erupted.

In true Italian fashion, the children were treated to gelato on their return to the Junior School, ensuring they enjoyed the full experience of their trip to Rome! As a bonus, the sun decided to shine on Glasgow as they enjoyed their ice creams outside.

Mrs Pollock, said:

This was a truly memorable morning for Junior 3. The learning sparked joy and the children were really engaged in every aspect of their visit to The John Shaw Science Wing.

The VR headsets provided an impactful and immersive way of bringing Ancient Rome to life – all from the confines of the top floor of The John Shaw Science Wing. We can only imagine the conversations around the dinner table that evening! We pride ourselves on helping children to discover the joy of learning and this perfectly encapsulated that.

Across our 900th anniversary, we are teaching Junior School children about our School’s rich past, highlighting significant individuals. Sharing John’s story and the impact he had on the High School, all while learning within the area of the School that his donation created, demonstrated his generosity first-hand to some of our youngest learners. There was a real sense that John’s memory, and his legacy, will live on for generations of High School pupils to come.”

It is thanks to the creation of a new space for learning within the top floor of The John Shaw Science Wing that START, a design thinking and entrepreneurship programme, has been launched at the Senior School. START encourages and equips a raft of new innovators with the skills, network and confidence they will need to succeed. After a successful 2023/24 session, the intention is to roll this out in partnership to schools across Scotland, benefiting even more ambitious young people.


A gallery of images from a fun-filled day can be viewed below.

J3 Visit to John Shaw Science Wing