Learning by Being There: Alice in Wonderland & Lewis Carrol

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

We've recently embarked on a three-month tour of the South of the UK. As well as having amazing adventures we intend to learn by being there too. Our first topic was Alice in Wonderland and the author Lewis Carrol. For now, I will give you day trip details, but at the end of our tour (30th September), I will post the full itinerary if you want to recreate it with your own family.

If you want to do this as a day trip, do the written learning at home the day before you go. If you fancy making a night or a weekend of it, I recommend Cotswold View Caravan and Camping Park where you can bring your caravan or motorhome, camp, or hire a pod. Alternatively right next door they have Banbury Hill Farm B&B and cottages.

Before we set off for Oxford, we spent some time learning about the story of Alice In Wonderland, which we all know is a classic children's story written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pen name, Lewis Carrol. All of the resources I am going to name are from Twinkl and there will be a link at the bottom for their website if you want to sign up. I highly recommend Twinkl, it costs around £10 per month and for that, you get tons of resources, their calendar with all the important events, holidays and festivals throughout the year and they send you a free book every quarter. Their resources are second to none. Some resources are free so if you want to try to get the resources we used at no cost, just head over to their website and type in the search Alice in Wonderland Slideshow.

The first thing we did was learn about the story through a Slideshow from Twinkl. Then we completed an emotions worksheet (type in Twinkl Alice in Wonderland character emotions), where the children had to use words to describe what they thought each character was feeling at certain points in the story, then use colours to represent those emotions.

After that, we read about Lewis Carrol, also from Twinkl. (Search for Literary Lives, Lewis Carrol Comprehension). This is intended for secondary education. If your children are quite young or short on their attention span, read and highlight what you want to teach them and leave out the rest. This comes with comprehension questions that they have to answer, again, highlight only the questions you want them to answer.

It's a really good piece of learning because it teaches the children all about Lewis Carroll, how he was also homeschooled, but how he went on to become a famous author of the most popular children's story of all time. It explains where he was educated at Christ Church College in Oxford (visit if possible as part of your day trip/weekend away), and explains how he got the pen name, Lewis Carrol. But most importantly it explains how Alice in Wonderland came to be when Lewis Carrol was on a boat ride from Folly Bridge to Godstow with the Reverand Robinson Duckworth with the scholar Henry Liddell's three daughters, one of them being ten-year-old Alice.

After our written learning, we headed off for a cycle ride from Folly Bridge to Godstow Nunnery along the river Thames. This is a trip I completely made up and actually, I couldn't find a route for the ride anywhere online, so if you want to recreate the 25-minute journey, this is the best route to take. First of all, head to Marlborough Road for on-street parking (free) with no return of two hours. Use the postcode OX1 4LF. From here, you need to cycle to the bridge entrance at Jubilee Terrace, just a minute away. Simply head for the direction of the Ethos Hotel on the corner, turn right onto Cobden Crescent, and then first left. It's important you are on the left-hand side of the river, on the same side as the Folly Restaurant. Whatever you do, don't be on the right-hand side, the path will eventually take you off the river. You should get to a street sign that says Jubilee Terrace at the bridge entrance, you want to go left on the river path and follow it all the way to Godstow. If you're using Google Maps, or need directions, look for Osney, or The Medley, a local bar. The general rule is though, simply follow the path all the way along the Thames until you reach Godstow Nunnery with the Trout Inn opposite.

If it's a nice day, take (or wear underneath), your swimming costumes. As you get to The Medley, and then closer to Godstow, you will see lots of people swimming in the river, and jumping off bridges too (although I wouldn't recommend this of course). It's clearly a popular place to swim, and there are lots of fishing along the river banks too. It's a flat route, not too difficult, and should take around 25 minutes. Ask your children to imagine Lewis Carrol on that boat journey with those little girls on the 4th July 1862, making up his nonsensical fantasy story as they went along so that they can come up with their own creative writing, inspired by what they see, at the end of the journey.

There are cow pats all over the place as you pass The Medley so be careful. The idea is to get to Godstow Nunnery, formerly Godstow Abbey, and pitch up a picnic blanket beside the river.

If you wanted to really make it a special day, you could book into the Trout Inn for dinner or lunch. The Trout Inn is famous for featuring in the Inspector Morse series and appears in the episode, 'The Wolvercote Tongue'. It has also been visited by former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea.

We enjoyed a picnic and started making our own poems using our Usborne Creative Writing Books which I just love, using our surroundings and the journey for inspiration. If you want to buy the Usborne Creative Writing Book just click on the picture.

After our picnic, we walked around Godstow Nunnery and learned a little about how it closed with the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, before heading back the way we came along the Thames.

On the way back I recommend stopping off at The Medley, a lovely, unique bar serving cool drinks from a converted caravan.

To finish the day off, watch one of the many Alice in Wonderland movies as a family with a tub of popcorn. You could even turn your picnic into a Mad Hatters Tea Party! There are lots of options, but most importantly, what a great way to learn about one of the most famous children's stories of all time, and what a wonderful opportunity to get your children inspired by literature.

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