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Primary schools

Explore Great St Mary's in the heart of Cambridge to bring over 800 years of history to life!

Discover a thriving Anglican place of worship: an ideal introduction to Christian beliefs, festivals and sacred space.

We offer a large range of Education Sessions for Primary School Children focusing on RE, History and Creative Arts.  We also offer tours, tower climbs and self guided visits.  Our RE Sessions are free of charge.

We can offer sessions for just one class or offer a carousel of activities to accommodate larger groups.  We are happy to liaise with local museums to arrange a half-day or full day of activities for you in the historic centre of Cambridge.

What we Offer

Great St Mary’s Revealed Tour

On our interactive tour, children will explore the church with the Education Officer finding out about its interesting history, fascinating features and the stories behind them. Find out why the church is the official centre of Cambridge and why the bells sound so familiar; discover why there are two organs and why the pulpit can move; examine the font and the lectern for clues to their purpose; hear about the strange stories of the church; stand in the same spot as Queen Elizabeth I and much more!

Tower Climb

Find out about the fascinating history of the tower and its famous bells. Climb the 123 spiral steps to the top to experience a bird’s eye view of Cambridge from the air.

RE

We have a great range of activities to help children explore this historical Christian place of worship and to build their Christian Understanding.

God’s House: What’s in a Church? Explore the church with the Education Officer in this RE focused tour. Looking at the font, lectern, altar, pulpit, chapel, organ and pews as well as other features, we will discover how the space of the church is connected to Christian beliefs and what makes Great St Mary’s special.

I– Spy: Signs, Symbols & Space: Look, explore and find out more… Children use our I-Spy Pack to explore the church independently or in small groups. They will look closely for signs and symbols and examine the church space for evidence of Christian beliefs and practices. Packs include an I-Spy Guide, a magnifying glass and binoculars.

ExploRE Tour: In this RE focused interactive tour, students discover the meaning behind the features in the church. Students will discover God’s house with a journey through the ‘big story’ of the Bible. We will explore the Creation and the Fall, the Incarnation, Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Trinity, baptism, worship and prayer and link them to the features and space of the church.

Baptism and Belonging: Find out more about the Christian practice of Baptism using objects, role play and scripture.

A Family Meal- Holy Communion: Why do Christians have a sip of wine and a taste of bread on a Sunday?  This session explores the Eucharist and the practice of Holy Communion and its origins in the Bible.

A Sense of Place: Experience the church with all five senses. Hear the church bells and sing in the choir stalls; taste bread at the High Altar; smell incense; light a candle; feel the different materials and textures in the church and make rubbings of them and our brasses and see the building from all angles marvelling at its shape, colours and size.

ExploRE Sessions: These sessions help children to understand more about key Christian beliefs and festivals and are specifically adapted for your key stage.

  • Creation ExploREd / Harvest Thanks: Find out more about harvest festival and how it is celebrated in a church and reflect on Christian ideas of Creation.
  • Easter ExploREd:  Why is Easter so important for Christians? This session explores the events and Christian concepts surrounding Easter.
  • Christmas ExploREd: This session explores the Christmas story and its meaning for Christians.

History

Elizabethan Experience: This experience day will transport your children back to Elizabethan Cambridge. Meet Martha, Queen Elizabeth’s lady in waiting and hear all about the Queen’s spectacular visit to Cambridge and Great St Mary’s Church in 1564. Your visit can also include, Elizabethan craft, an Elizabethan singing session in the choir stalls and a visit to Dr. Butler’s surgery to hear about his weird and wonderful Elizabethan cures.

Market Square Time Travellers: On this trail, children explore Cambridge market square with the aid of a map and old photographs. Children travel back in time by comparing what market square locations were like in the past to how they are now and discussing why things have changed.

Gruesome Great St Mary’s and its Strange Stories: On this interactive tour the children will hear about the more gruesome side of Great St Mary’s and Cambridge’s history. The tour features stories such as the slimy Cambridge book that was found in the belly of a fish; ‘Bloody’ Mary and the burnt bodies; the story of Martin Bucer, the man who died twice; the ghost of the Tower and the gruesome story of Oliver Cromwell’s head!

First World War Stories: In 1922 the grieving families of Great St Mary’s installed the East window in the St Andrew’s Chapel in memory to those who died in the First World War. In this interactive session, the children will discover the personal stories of the fallen men of Great St Mary’s.

Self Guided Trails and Tours

I– Spy at Great St Mary’s: Look, explore and find out more… Children use our I Spy Pack to explore the church independently or in small groups. They will find out about the church’s fascinating features, people and stories. Packs include an I Spy Guide, a magnifying glass and binoculars.

The Great Ark Escape: All the animals have escaped from Noah’s Ark! Using binoculars, explore the church looking for our hidden fantastic beasts, amazing animals and carved creatures. Can you spot all the animals and help Noah put them back into the Ark?

Stained Glass Window Safari: Using binoculars, go on a stained glass window safari and hunt for hidden items in our stained glass windows. Find out more about the stories behind our stained glass.

Tudor Town Trail: This self-led walking trail around Cambridge introduces children to the big religious conflicts of the Reformation and the kings and queens who left their mark on Cambridge. It also touches on the differences between rich and poor in Tudor England. The trail comes with a student worksheet and teacher pack with a map, explanatory notes and accompanying visual aids. The trail ends on Jesus Green- the perfect place for a picnic lunch!

Art and Craft

Tall Towers: Great St Mary’s tower is already 114ft high but unfortunately the proposed 80ft spire was never built due to a lack of money. In this session the children will design and construct a new spire for Great St Mary’s and will try their designs out on a model of the church. They will also get to test out their engineering skills in some terrific tower building challenges.

Beautiful Bells: Hear about the famous Great St Mary’s Bells and the Cambridge Quarters which were copied by Westminster for the Houses of Parliament.  Visit the tower to see the bells for yourselves and then return down the 123 spiral steps for a range of craft activities involving tinkling bells!  Have a go at making your own chimes for Great St Mary’s on our hand-bells.

Flying High: Join us for a quest to discover the flying creatures and winged messengers in the church.  Have a go at some flying high craft activities or take on the egg drop challenge and compete to be able to drop an egg from our galleries without it breaking!

Terrific Textures: Let your children get creative with a session exploring textures in the church. Children will enjoy a range of textured crafts and have a go at brass rubbing .

Fantastic Beasts: Great St Mary’s is full of hidden fantastic beasts! Explore the church on a fantastic beast safari to hunt for a menagerie of mystical and mythical creatures. Find and sketch your favourite animal and then design and create your own fantastic beast chimera puppet to take home.

Jewelled Light- Stained Glass Stories: Using binoculars, the children will explore the stained glass windows of Great St Mary’s and discover the stories behind them.  They will go on a stained glass safari to spot the fascinating details in the pictures. They will then design and make their own stained glass window to take home.

Heraldry: In this session the children are introduced to the concept of heraldry and will explore the many coats of arms in the church. We will also look at the Cambridge coat of arms. The children will go on a heraldry hunt learning about the meaning of heraldic symbols, animals and colours. They will then have the opportunity to make their own shield to take away with them, incorporating symbols which they feel represent themselves or their families.

Clay Creatures: In the session the children will go on a hunt for gargoyles and grotesques nearby the church and learn about what they were used for. The children will then design their very own gargoyle or grotesque and then sculpt their terrifying creature out of clay using a range of techniques. The children will be able to take home their creature to dry.

King’s College Chapel

Our fun discovery sheet introduces children to the awe-inspiring experience of King’s College Chapel. The breath-taking stained glass and soaring stonework is something that every child growing up in or around Cambridge should see! We also offer joint visits with King’s College.