My task this afternoon was to deliver a twilight training session centred upon ‘taking learning outside the classroom’ for all staff at Abbeymead Primary School on the outskirts of the city of Gloucester. Fortunately, the weather was fine and dry, so we were able to spend some time outside replicating a few of my suggested activities … this does not always happen when fieldwork is planned, believe you me!
To begin with, we based ourselves in a classroom. Here, I outlined the aims and format of the session, before promoting the importance of fieldwork. I shared some research conducted by a group of primary Head Teachers on behalf of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), which listed the ‘hallmarks’ of an ‘outstanding curriculum’, many of which have strong connections to a powerful geography curriculum. It also helped to signal the ways in which geography can contribute to the aims and values of the whole school and the personal development of every pupil within it. We accessed the National Curriculum programmes of study for geography at Key Stages 1 and 2 and ‘zoomed in’ on the sections entitled ‘geographical skills and fieldwork’. Next, I projected the Geographical Association’s (GA) ‘framework’, which exemplifies progression very clearly and includes age-related expectations in geography, as well as communicating their thoughts regarding fieldwork. I briefly talked through the enquiry approach, which is fundamental in geography. I referred to the updated Ofsted handbook and the direct implications that this has for geography, along with a recent geography survey visits report and a couple of outstanding school case studies. These items were added to a folder on the school’s network in case teachers wished to delve into them more deeply at a later date.
With time at a premium this afternoon, I was keen to move on. My prime aim was to showcase quick, cheap and easy activities that could be conducted beyond the four walls of the classroom and the achievements of similar schools locally, many of which have been supported by funding from the Frederick Soddy Trust. Examples included:
- ‘geographical glasses’;
- ‘secret street detectives’, with case study material from Calton Primary School in Gloucester;
- Andrea Mosaic;
- emotional mapping with Quikmaps;
- den building;
- journey sticks;
- The Geography Collective and Mission:Explore;
- ‘Go the Extra Mile’ competition run by the Frederick Soddy Trust and the Geographical Association, with an ‘abridged version’ from Hempsted C of E Primary School in Gloucester;
- Digimap, including reference to a Year 2 geography day for pupils based at The Christian Adventure Centre at Viney Hill in the Forest of Dean.
After providing an overview of the application process for a Frederick Soddy Trust School Award to unlock the potential of the local environment for fieldwork, I decided to take staff outside and challenge them to a few ‘missions’ from the original Mission:Explore book. The aim was to demonstrate how they too could easily take learning outside the classroom, even if there was only half an hour to spare. The teachers appeared to really enjoy this, as can be seen from the photographs below:
We came inside ten minutes before the end of the session for the ‘plenary’. Each member of staff was handed a set of footprints. They were asked to use the footprints to record their next steps once they left the room, starting from the big toes and working outwards. Each step could be as simple or as complex as they wished. Later, participants were asked how far they managed to reach and many voiced their ideas/thoughts in the short discussion that pursued.
Finally, each member of staff was given a blank postcard. They were invited to sum up today’s twilight training session in five words/a sentence or two. It was suggested that they might take the WWW/EBI approach, although this was by no means compulsory. They could add their name and position or remain anonymous. Instant feedback such as this is really useful for me when planning future CPD sessions, in addition to giving SLT some indication of any further support that might be appreciated or required.
‘Very informative and fabulous. Thank you.’
‘Lots of simple, practical, yet inspiring ideas for excellent teaching and learning in geography. Thank you.’
‘Interactive; helpful; interesting; pacey; creative.’
‘Valuable; helpful; interesting; useful; resourceful.’
‘Practical outdoor ideas for children.’
‘Range of ‘cheap’ tasks. Practical. ‘Outside the box’ missions. Revisiting geography. A stronger focus on Upper KS2 depth, perhaps?’
‘Explorative work outdoors with technology!’
‘Informative; eye-opening; practical.’
‘I enjoyed the practical activities.’
‘Great ideas for getting children into geography.’
‘Fun; hands-on; informative.’
I sincerely hope that teachers now feel far more confident about taking learning outside the classroom and look forward to hearing about, and seeing evidence of, their mini adventures shortly!