Today, I set off rather early for Cirencester Deep Park School (CDPS) in order to deliver a whole day’s workshop, centred around the Arctic, to nearly 70, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 pupils and accompanying members of staff. The secondary school had kindly offered to host the event and their Year 8 selected ‘ambassadors’ warmly greeted youngsters and their teachers from three, nearby primary schools, namely Cirencester Primary School (CPS), Down Ampney C of E Primary School and Rodmarton Primary School. Rebecca (Becs) Lillington, Head of Geography at Cirencester Deer Park School, had done a sterling job reproducing the prepared resources and booking rooms to ensure that the day went as smoothly as possible. I was supported by two, other consultants; Kathryn Minchew, a former MasterChef semi-finalist and now a professional chef running her own business (http://www.pyromaniacchef.com/), and Sarah Shaw, an AST for primary dance. In addition, due to my freelance authoring and consultancy links with Wicked Weather Watch (WWW – http://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/), we were privileged to have a visit from Rob Hudson, a retiree, who had recently completed part of the Polar Ocean Challenge (POC – http://polarocean.co.uk/) led by Sir David Hempleman-Adams, for some of the day.
On arrival at Cirencester Deer Park School, Key Stage 2 pupils were immediately paired with a Key Stage 3 student and given a jigsaw puzzle to complete together. The intention was to ‘break the ice’ and encourage interaction from the onset, as well as providing a clue as to where we might be heading for the remainder of the day.
After a formal welcome and various introductions, I outlined the learning objectives and format of the day. Pupils were then allocated to a group, named after countries located or represented within the Arctic Circle. Next, we embarked upon three, very different activities to acquire some background knowledge and understanding of the Arctic region and promote higher order thinking and communication skills.
Unfortunately, as access to Google Earth was restricted at this point, I was unable to take the children on a virtual journey from Cirencester, Gloucestershire to the North Pole as originally intended. Instead, I drew on my dependable, inflatable globe and invited pupils to the front to explore it with me, pointing out key physical and human features, explaining certain phenomena and posing a number of questions to them, relating to distance, direction and the time required to reach the region. The overall aim was to develop their place and locational knowledge. I also discovered that a couple of students had already ventured to the Arctic, having been lucky enough to go on a trip to Lapland!
Secondly, pupils formed a Venn diagram with two plastic hoops and sorted facts about the Arctic region into one of three categories; those which they believed to be TRUE, FALSE or were UNSURE about. I later asked students if there were any facts that surprised them and why this was the case. Some did not realise that the Arctic was not a continent, which also helped to emphasise fundamental differences between the North and South Poles, or that it was also known as the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ and why this was. It was rewarding to see teachers engaging with pupils and learning alongside them too.
Thirdly, pupils worked in their country group to match a series of images and captions connected to the Arctic. Afterwards, they were asked if the Arctic region was as they expected it to be. The subsequent discussion revealed that many were surprised by the variety of wildlife that existed, e.g. it is not only the land of the polar bear, that it is not all snow, ice and water and that people actually live there. We mentioned briefly about the threat to wildlife habitats and the potential for the development of tourism linked to whale and iceberg watching.
As we were a little behind schedule due to the late arrival of one school, we were, unfortunately, unable to complete the final starter activity that I had planned. It was hoped that each country group would list ten words that they felt best described the Arctic region. These would then be collated and a word cloud generated by a couple of Key Stage 3 pupils using www.wordcloud.com. However, it was suggested that this might be completed by teachers with their pupils at school tomorrow or early next week – a great means of reinforcing topical vocabulary and as an aid for any future, themed literacy tasks.
For the main part of the day, three countries merged to form a larger group and they rotated around three, separate activities. One placed an emphasis on geography, developing place and locational knowledge further through a series of tasks, including a spot the difference, mix and match, diamond nine and card sort activity. These explored recent changes, longer term Arctic climate trends, the impacts of climate change on natural systems and people, as well as questioning whether climate change was real or not.
Another session focused on science and D&T (food technology), looking at the different states of water and considering how vital a resource it is, reinforcing what is happening in the Arctic region at present, making cookie dough and footprint biscuits, promoting issues, such as Fair Trade (since Fair Trade Fortnight is soon approaching), and discussing how we might all reduce our global footprint. When one youngster admitted that this was the first opportunity they had had to bake and how much they had enjoyed it, Kathryn felt all the stresses and hurdles that she had overcome today (a broken boiler meant no hot water for washing up; the temperature of some ovens was rather questionable and equipment was a little ‘stretched’ at times) were truly worthwhile.
The final activity incorporated an element of dance and drama. Sarah very cleverly created a dance/drama to enter into the world of the Arctic. The youngsters were transported to the Arctic, becoming explorers, setting off over the snowfields and across the great glaciers. On the way, they met wildlife on land and in the sea and came to appreciate how their habitats are under threat due to climate change.
At lunch-time, students were invited to meet Rob Hudson, one of the crew from the recent, record-breaking Polar Ocean Challenge. Rob had brought along some of his kit to show the children and shared many, fascinating stories of his travels with them, providing further insight into the Arctic region. Rob later sent me an e-mail, stating that it had been a pleasure to be involved in the day: ‘… I enjoyed helping … it got very busy towards the end, and there was a lot of interest and some very good questions.’
We returned to the hall for the plenary. It was intended for pupils to show their dance/drama productions to each other, but the layout of the room meant this would be too difficult. Instead, Sarah talked through the three scenes that had been ‘brought to life’ by the youngsters, inviting those that had taken part to add their own comments too.
I then prompted pupils to reflect upon the day’s learning/experiences, asking them to identify an aspect that they had particularly enjoyed, something that they had learnt about the Arctic region and a skill that they felt they had developed. Whilst some mentioned baking and eating their sweet creations afterwards, others found the exploration with Google Earth fascinating or enjoyed participating in the dance/drama production. Many were able to cite new facts about the Arctic. Skills that were enhanced ranged from baking, communication, interpersonal, teamworking, decision-making to being able to justifying their thoughts fully. Next, we reviewed the learning outcomes together using thumbs up/thumbs down signals (majority had their thumbs up held high in the air for all to see) and contemplated three, quite probing questions:
- What do you think the Arctic will be like in 2050?;
- What now needs to be done in order to secure a positive future of the Arctic?
- Is there anything that you could personally do?
Students had some interesting responses. One Key Stage 3 student suggested that things will go one of two ways and it is largely down to us – either the Arctic will continue to decline or it will turn itself around as awareness is raised and our actions change. It was agreed that by ‘us’ we are thinking about those at all levels, from governments, international bodies, organisations to individuals, like ourselves. Students were forthcoming with ideas as to what they might do, e.g. simple and easy activities that would reduce their global footprint. Their comments certainly demonstrated that they had absorbed much from the different sessions that they had participated in throughout the day.
Many thanks, once again, to the other consultants and all staff involved from each of the four schools for their cooperation, support and enthusiasm. Hopefully, they gained as much from the day as the students did. Thanks, also, to the Geographical Association (GA), for funding the event as part of their contribution to the Global Learning Programme (GLP).