Earlier this term, seven pupils in Year 10, members of the Phoenix Society, visited Cambridge University for a week of study, research and experiencing university life.

This is an annual visit and pupils are based at Fitzwilliam College. They have the opportunity to study a topic of their choice and to explore museums, attend lectures and meet with College fellows and admissions staff. Pupils from Years 9 – 11 are invited to join the Phoenix Society, a membership-based academic society, based on a variety of criteria. The group meets fortnightly in the School Library and the emphasis is on intellectual activity and engagement. 

Prior to the visit, each pupil, with help from a teacher, formulated a question to pursue independently during the week. This year, the group spent mornings working in the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College and spent evenings working in Fitzwilliam Library.

Sedbergh School’s historic link with St.John’s is reinforced this year by governor Emma Waring. Dr Waring served as a lecturer in Cambridge’s Law Faculty and as a Fellow and the Director of Studies of Law at St. John’s before taking up her current position at York University.

A summary of the talks follow.

Victoria Bailey

Drawing on her interest in the Classical world and through excellent guidance from Mr Hollingbury, Tori got utterly lost in Cambridge, exploring the concept of the Homeric hero. Reading The Odyssey she identified traits of a hero, questioned whether or not Penelope could be considered a hero, and, through Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad (2002), was able to return to her guiding interest: what society’s concept of a hero says about that society. In her talk, Tori provided an overview of the work she did in each of these areas, and lay the foundation for future study she intends to do on the topic from a feminist perspective.

Isobelle Page

Izzy worries about ‘big problems’ that are present on the global scale (recall in Year 9 that Izzy did a project on slavery), and is concerned that meaningful action is taken to address these problems. Using climate change as her ‘issue,’ Izzy researched political organising and the formation of interest groups, discovering along the way the role that values play in prompting citizen-based action. In her talk, Izzy highlighted points she found especially interesting from her research.

Charlotte Preston

Her own study of languages and inspiration from Mollie Richmond’s talk last year led Charlotte to pursue a project about linguistic change over time. In Cambridge, Charlotte spent time reading about the influence of Latin and French on Middle English with particular attention paid to morphology. Charlotte treated us to a chronological tour of linguistic change focussing mainly on Latin and French affixes.

Kate Russell

Kate used this opportunity to explore a topic she felt she wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to pursue before embarking (she hopes) on a career in medicine. An interest in America (its history, its geography and its regional differences) led Kate to read about (mainly early) settlement patterns in the US and how those patterns lead to cultural differences. Her talk focused mainly on regional variation of religious participation.

Max Silvester

Max’s interest in world politics informed his project exploring the United Nations: its history, its structure, and its role in mediating world peace. In his talk he gave an overview of what he learned, and he addressed the case of Cambodia to illustrate the organisation’s work and question its effectiveness.

James Thomas

A television programme James saw this past summer sparked an interest in how pathogens work their way through the human body. In Cambridge (and since) James has read about Clostridium botulinum, an especially toxic bacterium which can lurk in food and soil for decades, awaiting for favourable conditions to then wreak havoc.

(Ailsa Duncan will give her talk about a settlement in Peru at a later date.)

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