Tag Archives: children

‘Let’s go on an awesome, Arctic adventure!’, Abbey Park Middle School, Pershore, Worcestershire

Well, today, I was back with my partner in crime, Sarah Shaw, for an awesome, Arctic adventure, but this time at Abbey Park Middle School in Pershore, Worcestershire.  Melanie Hirst, a Year 6 teacher and Geography Subject Leader at the school, had attended a CPD workshop that I delivered last March and, subsequently, signed up to the Global Learning Programme (GLP). After completing the short, Whole School Audit (WSA), she received £500 of e-credits to spend. A perusal of the courses and events advertised online led her to our pupil and staff offering (amalgamating aspects of a successful Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project and CPD workshop for teachers), which she promptly booked for the penultimate week of the school year.  Emily Hastings, a freelance drama specialist (see www.actinguptheatre.co.uk  and www.facebook/EmilyHastingsactingup for further details) asked if she could pop along to see us ‘in action’ … Sarah, Abbey Park Middle School and I were only too happy to oblige … after all, the more the merrier!

Sarah and I had an action-packed, interactive day planned, so it was straight to work!  Initially, we all gathered in the school hall.  The children sat around large tables in their allocated ‘country’ groups (named after nations lying within the Arctic Circle), ready to tackle our starter activity (a jigsaw puzzle centred upon the Arctic).  By piecing together the puzzle, youngsters were able to establish where we would be sailing to for the remainder of the day.





Next, I launched Google Earth and projected it onto the large screen, so that I could take pupils and teachers on a virtual trip, from their home market town of Pershore to the geo-magnetic North Pole.  We considered the distance, direction and time involved, identified countries lying within the Arctic Circle and some of its key physical (natural) and human features, as well as highlighting pressing environmental issues. The aim was to specifically target place and locational knowledge (with a few teachers and support staff learning alongside the children too).  I then outlined the learning objectives and the proposed format for the morning.

Whilst Greenland, USA, Canada and Russia remained with Sarah for a dance/drama session, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland joined me in a nearby classroom or ICT Suite to further enhance their place and locational knowledge.  In their hour with Sarah, the children entered into the world of the Arctic.  They were transported to the region, became explorers and set off across the snowfields and great glaciers.  On their way, they encountered wildlife, both on land and in the sea, and learnt how their habitats are under threat due to climate change.  Some photographs of the youngsters as avid adventurers can be seen below:







With me, the children embarked upon four, different activities in an attempt to answer the following questions:

  • What are the challenges facing the Arctic today?
  • What will the Arctic look like in the future?

Firstly, working in their ‘country’ group, pupils were given two plastic hoops so that they could create a Venn diagram and an envelope containing facts relating to the Arctic.  They were required to sort the facts into those that they believed to be ‘true’, those that they believed to be ‘false’ and ones that they were ‘unsure about’.  They then had to place the facts at appropriate points on their Venn diagram.  Later, I revealed the answers, correcting those statements that were ‘false’ in the process.



I also posed a question or two to the children:

  • Were there any facts that surprised you?
  • If so, how/why?

They had some interesting comments.  For instance, one individual was surprised that penguins do not live at the North Pole despite its freezing temperatures, others were amazed by the variety of wildlife that could be seen in such a cold environment and several were unaware of the sheer size of a polar bear (up to 4 metres tall when stood on its hind legs and having paws the length of a long ruler).

Secondly, again working in their ‘country’ group, students had to match each image with its caption to discover more about the Arctic region.  Once the answers had been divulged, I asked the youngsters if the Arctic region was as they imagined it to be.  Pupils were keen to contribute, which was lovely to see.  The majority did not realise that so many people lived within the Arctic Circle (around 4 million) and that towns with ‘proper houses’ existed, for example.



It was intended for each ‘country’ group to draw up a list of ten words that they felt best described the Arctic.  However, as time was at a premium, I simply went around the room asking each pupil in turn whilst their teacher recorded their words onto the whiteboard. These words will later be inputted into the text box at http://www.wordclouds.com/ to create a word cloud. This word cloud can then be printed, enlarged and referenced at appropriate points to support further written work in class and help reinforce topical vocabulary.

Lastly, it was ‘spot the difference’ time.  In their ‘country’ group, pupils were expected to look carefully at two satellite images that they had been given (of the same place, at the same time of year, but a few years apart) and record how many differences they could spot.  After a few minutes, I selected individuals to share the differences they had observed. When doing so, I encouraged them to use locational and positional language as well, e.g. in the foreground, behind the…, there is no… in image 1, yet in image 2 there is a… .  Pupils were really observant, noting changes to the shape, extent and colour of the ice, in addition to identifying new land. Afterwards, I provided detailed explanations for each observation.

A short break was needed by pupils, staff and consultants before the four ‘country’ groups rotated to complete the alternative session.

Just before lunch, we convened in the school hall for a short plenary.  The ‘country’ groups performed their dance/dramas confidently … Sarah always achieves so much with pupils in such a short space of time!  We then reflected upon our learning and experiences (since I was leading this, teachers were able to gather audio-visual evidence of pupils’ ‘concluding comments’).  We used ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ signals when referring to the learning outcomes.  Both Sarah and I were encouraged by the willing show of thumbs pointing upwards. In order to stimulate an element of higher order thinking, I had hoped to challenge pupils to the following questions, but dinner had to be served and a prompt finish was required :

  • 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?

These questions could be explored with their class teachers over the next day or so, perhaps? Each child was then presented with a geography badge as a reward for their efforts, which they wore with pride for the rest of the day.

Gill Johnson from Wicked Weather Watch (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/) kindly arranged for Digby Rawlins to also pay a visit today.  Digby had just returned from a stint on Northabout (the boat that completed the record-breaking Polar Ocean Challenge between June and October 2016 – see http://polarocean.co.uk/ for further details); for him, it had been quite a challenging voyage from Ireland to Greenland, but well worth it, judging by the first-hand experiences he had to recall and stunning photographs and movie clip that he shared with the students. Afterwards, Digby invited the audience to ask any questions that they had; he was truly put in the ‘hot seat’ at this point, but it did show how engaged and enthused the children were!








In order to make the day as productive as possible, we offered a CPD session/working lunch for staff involved with the day.  They were asked to reflect upon the morning, identifying WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) and consider their ‘next steps’, annotating a pair of feet as a record of their intentions.  This provided instant and effective feedback for Sarah and I too … we are always looking to develop new themes for workshops/improve what we already do. Besides, we love to leave a school feeling confident that they could replicate the sessions with other year groups/classes.  We both shared further resources/web-links and ideas with teachers so that they could take today’s learning a step further or integrate it into their future curriculum planning. Seeing professionals so appreciative and inspired makes what we do all the more worthwhile.



As can be seen below, the feedback from staff and observers to date has been very positive:

‘Thank you for the Arctic theme day.  The children really enjoyed it and got a lot out of the different activities.’ (Year 6 teacher)

‘Thank you very much.  It was very interesting to see.  I thought what you guys did yesterday was brilliant, especially as your audience were pretty tough.’ (Emily Hastings)

Thank you for having us, Abbey Park Middle School!

 

Prayer Day, Hempsted C of E Primary School

A day with a difference, and a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding one at that!  As a Church of England school, Hempsted has tried to establish stronger links with its local church (St. Swithun’s, under the very capable and inspiring hands of Canon Nikki Arthy) over the past few years in particular.  Now and again, Nikki asks members of the Messy Church team if they would be willing to spare some time to support community- or school-related events.  Being DBS cleared and an experienced teacher, Prayer Day at Hempsted C of E Primary School was obviously one of my areas of expertise and an event to volunteer my services for!

It had been intended to have everyone in the school hall at the start and end of the day. However, due to the current heatwave and 30+ degrees Centigrade temperatures, it was decided to be sensible and abandon this idea.

At their allotted time, the children came into the hall in their class group and with their teacher and any teaching assistant/s.  They had the opportunity to explore up to five different prayer stations in the time available, all centred upon a specific theme, e.g. family; me; friends; world and school.

Mrs Middleton and myself’s role was promoting ‘Love for the world’.  Our focus was on Psalm 8: 1, ‘O Lord, our Lord, your greatness is seen in all the world.’  We explained to the children that Christians believe the world was made by God and it is beautiful.  At one time, it was perfect, but things have gone wrong and the world is not the great place it once was.  This is not how God meant it to be.  Sometimes, children are particularly damaged and hurt by the things that happen in the world.  To begin with, the youngsters were asked to look at the inflatable globes on the table and try to identify places that they had been to, places that they had heard about and places that they would like to visit.  Next, they were encouraged to think about the pain that God feels when he sees his perfect world going wrong.  Then, pupils were prompted to consider children in other parts of the world.  They were asked to hold or hug an inflatable globe silently for a short while, thinking of all the children in the world and particularly those who were suffering.  Afterwards, each child was given a tag with a globe and children printed on it.  On the reverse, they were invited to share their thoughts, e.g. who would they like us all to say a prayer for.  These were then placed at an appropriate location on the world map that covered the table.

Other activities on offer to the children included creating class prayer paper chains, making beaded friendship bracelets, writing teaspoon (TSP … Thank you; Sorry; Please) prayers and decorating gingerbread men/women to hang on a small branch of a tree.

At the end of their session, Mrs Hill encouraged the children to come and sit in the centre of the hall for a time of reflection together.  A number of the children’s prayers were shared and pupil voice was collated about the activities that they had just taken part in.  Many of their prayers focused on family, friends, their school and events that had featured in recent News bulletins. The children clearly enjoyed completing the various tasks, especially the very ‘hands-on’ ones. Perhaps, this is something to consider when planning a future Prayer Day?  Less writing/drawing and more handling/talking, which would make them more accessible to less able and younger pupils too.

Parents/carers were also invited to participate, with sessions available to them both before and after school. Not only did this give them the chance to see what their child/children would be/had been doing, but it also provided them with a few quiet moments for reflection or to discuss any thoughts or feelings that they had, if they so wished.  Days such as these are an effective means of engaging with many sectors of our local community and certainly showcase the delightful school that we are so lucky to have within our village of Hempsted.

A ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’ to all who helped organise and deliver the day.

Thinking about our world …

And, different classes’ responses …

‘Teaspoon prayers’ (TSP … Thank you; Sorry; Please).

Making beaded friendship bracelets.

Thinking about our school community …

Each class’ prayer paper chains.

Thinking about our family … (with wisdom and support from Cath Wain).

A later e-mail from Mrs Hill stated:

‘Thank you so much for all your help on Wednesday and all your preparation.  The children are still talking about it today and wearing their bracelets, so thank you.  A beautiful day with beautiful weather.’

What a lovely and very genuine summary!  It was a pleasure to have been able to assist her and other staff at the school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symposium, University of Worcester

Maggie Andrews, Professor of Cultural History at the University of Worcester, invited me to speak at a symposium that she was organising, entitled ‘Children in WW1: Histories and engagements’, during the afternoon of Monday 8th May 2017. The remit was to deliver a presentation, of approximately 20 minutes in length and aimed at undergraduate and post-graduate students, about our recent WW1 project, how we engaged youngsters, the impact that it had and what we discovered about children during the time of the First World War.  I was told to be prepared to answer any questions that the audience may have too.

Well, considering the time that I had to talk and all that we achieved throughout the timescale of our project, I had to be incredibly selective as to what material I showcased.  I decided to focus on our WW1-themed week’s activities and related events and then ‘zoom in’ on our jam-packed, cross-curricular day.  I included a viewing of our photo story as well since I think this really does ‘say it all’.  I felt rather emotional watching this again a year or so down the line.  It really brought home how much we had done and the positive impact that it had on our local community.  Several in the audience stated that they would have liked to have been part of such a successful initiative too.

My input was followed by a presentation from Julia Letts, an experienced, freelance oral and community historian. She shared creative ways to teach children about WW1, exhibiting some of her latest work with schools within Worcestershire.  These ranged from an hour’s lesson, providing a ‘hook’ for future teaching and learning about WW1, to a themed day, cross-curricular fortnight and a HLF project involving collaboration between four, local schools.  Whilst our projects displayed some similarities, I certainly picked up a few fresh ideas and new approaches to explore with those schools that I have regular contact with.

Comments and questions were very forthcoming from the floor, so a shorter than planned coffee break took place.  I did have another opportunity to speak with Paul Sutton and Max Allsup from c&t (http://www.candt.org/), however.  I am hoping to meet with them next week to see if we can work together with schools straddling both counties.  I am keen to discover more about their immense creativity and the global dimension to their work, especially after all the Global Learning Programme (GLP) activities that I have been involved with over the past four years.

Unfortunately, I had to leave shortly afterwards due to prior school commitments. Nevertheless, I am led to believe that the remainder of the afternoon was just as interesting and inspiring.  Rebecca Ball, a post-graduate student from the University of Wolverhampton, talked about the experience of working class children in WW1.  Afterwards, consideration was given to Worcestershire children in WW1, focusing on themes, questions and histories.  Finally, Maggie Andrews discussed and explored future plans, including the ‘patriotism or/and pragmatism project’.

I look forward to attending/contributing to the next event … I always return home with greater knowledge and understanding of this period of history and feel truly inspired to share this with others.

 

 

 

 

The Education Show, Birmingham (16th to 18th March 2017)

Despite it being the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, a Friday and endless roadworks on the M5 with speed restrictions in place, my journeys to and from the NEC were bearable.

It was not Young Voices calling this time around, but The Education Show (http://www.education-show.com/)!  I try to visit annually or bi-annually to keep abreast with developments within the realm of education, attend keynote speakers sessions and meet individuals whom I have had contact with via e-mail, tweets, etc. (it is always lovely to be able to put a name to a face).

The NEC was heaving this year as there were three shows in the neighbouring atrium to The Education Show, plus the Big Bag event that numerous schools appeared to be attending judging by the amount of minibuses and coaches in the car park!  It threw me somewhat having to park and exit from the north side … usually I approach from the east side.  The shuttle buses were very frequent and soon took us to the exhibition halls, however.

Once inside, there was a real buzz.  It can be quite bewildering at first as the stands seem to go on forever.  Nevertheless, once you have viewed the floor plan and identified the zones that are most applicable to you, it does become more manageable.  I negotiated a good half of the exhibition before stopping for a well earned coffee break.  Not only did I seize some great offers on educational supplies (stocking up for private tutoring), but also spoke with several people manning stands that I felt might be relevant to my freelance consultancy and authoring work, e.g. British Council, Artsmark, Ministry of Defence schools, Jack Cherry.  It was also good to catch up with representatives from organisations that I have recently provided services for, e.g. Ed-Coms, Canada-UK Foundation.

What did strike me is how much emphasis is placed on maths/numeracy, English/literacy, SEND, online safety/technology and outdoor spaces.  Foundation subjects seemed somewhat marginalised … I think I only saw one stand linked to history!  Perhaps, a target for 2018 should be to have a greater range of exhibitors displaying their products/services?  Often, with so many budget cuts, it is foundation subject leaders that fail to gain the support that they require.  In my opinion, and this was also reinforced at a primary geography conference I attended a fortnight ago, achieving mastery in maths and English is far more effective when it has a clear purpose, e.g. links to a real-life situation/context that children are able to easily relate to.  There is still room for foundation subjects … after all, we should be aiming to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum in our schools.

Now, back at home, I must pursue leads that I have made and sift through the various leaflets/brochures that I have been given.

Be brave … it is worth the trip if you have yet to experience a show!