Brunel experience

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Earlier this term, a group of KS3 students visited the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe.  The visit gave the students an opportunity to learn the history of the Rotherhithe station tunnel: built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his father, Marc Isambard Brunel, it was the first underwater tunnel in the world, originally designed to transport goods inland, later housing a fair and shops.  Access to this tunnel is rare and our students were one of the few groups who have had the opportunity to enter it in 150 years.

As well as learning about this amazing feat of engineering, the girls also learnt about the role of women in Victorian times.  Victorian women were not allowed to contribute to intellectual conversations and were denied credit for their work which went to men instead.  One particular story captured our students’ imagination - Florence Nightingale, who was a statistician working for the government (she invented the pie chart), was only portrayed as a nurse, an image of womanhood much more acceptable in Victorian times.

One of the Year 9 students wrote, "The experience of our visit to the Brunel Museum was one of the most motivational and inspiring visits this year. We went into a “chamber” that was the “birth of the underground “ and it felt special to be one the first people to visit a site that has just been re-opened after being closed for about 150 years.

We participated in a workshop to make us think about how women are portrayed in our society today, and how this affects our career choices. We discussed how, although we are more open minded than women from the Victorian era, we still carry a reflection of their ideas with many negative sex stereotypes continuing in today’s society. We considered the impact of the classic negative sex stereotypes we still use today, for example “don’t cry like a girl” resulting in young boys believing that in some way girls and women are somehow weaker than them. It was shocking to hear that even today only 11% of engineers are female in this country, and a gender pay gap still exists in many careers.

On the whole, the experience was extraordinary. I loved this experience because it supported the concept of feminism and sex equality and it enhanced my self-confidence in terms of competing in a “male dominated careers society”. Out of all the trips, this has been one of the best ones by far for me at St Martin’s."