Tag Archives: contributions

‘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!

 

‘Geography, geography and more geography!’ (Department of Education, University of the West of England, Bristol)

The above was the theme for the Department of Education’s annual geography conference, this year held on Wednesday 14th June 2017 at UWE’s Frenchay Campus.  Mark Jones, PGCE Geography Tutor and UWE Teaching and Learning Fellow, once again invited me to attend for ‘free’ if I was prepared to contribute to the ‘market place sessions’ that he had planned for the afternoon (what a bribe!).  I agreed to this and said that I would take delegates off on an awesome, Arctic adventure, showcasing a recent Global Learning Programme (GLP) KS2-KS3 transition project that I had steered and sharing a number of new resources/web-links related to the Arctic region and climate change.

Following a formal welcome by Mark Jones and Garry Atterton, the Geographical Association Bristol Branch President, it was over to Mary Biddulph, the current Geographical Association President, for the keynote address, entitled ‘Inclusive geographies’.  Mary was actually one of my tutors when I completed by PGCE at the University of Nottingham many moons ago!  It was lovely to see Mary again and chat with her over break and lunch later on too.  Mary spoke confidently and provided much food for thought.  She began by stating that students should be given the opportunity to formulate and share their perceptions of place; this is often shaped by their own experiences, which may be very different to ours.  Mary highlighted the dynamic world in which we live (our world is very different now to simply a year ago) and reinforced that geography has a role to play in explaining this to students.  There is a need to address ‘diversity’.  We should also refrain from labelling students time and time again to avoid them believing they are ‘a nothing’. Some youngsters really struggle to determine who and what they are and this is something that geography can help to tackle.  It is important that we, as geography educators, ‘bring the world into the classroom’; we cannot always take learning outside its four walls.  In addition, Mary emphasised that ‘expertise’ really matters and days like this, when geographers come together, are wonderful.  She shared with us several ‘must reads’ and ended with one of her favourite clips; a lad called Anton, from London, talking about geography.

Next, it was time to update our subject knowledge further.  Harry West and Michael Horswell, both based at UWE, discussed GIS.  They introduced many of us to the amazing Mentimeter tool for the first time (https://www.mentimeter.com), in order to gain some insight into our opinions about, and experiences of using, GIS.  Harry and Michael then focused on the ArcGIS online platform and covered basic data visualisation, spatial analysis and the use of ‘story maps’ to present findings. I found this session to be hugely enlightening and inspiring.  I intend to trial Mentimeter as a means of collating feedback at a forthcoming CPD workshop for teachers that I am delivering.  Now that I am aware of the ESRI schools programme being FREE for secondary schools, I will share this with colleagues at The Crypt School at a geography planning day next week and discuss how it might be used to support fieldwork activities at Key Stages 4 and 5.  It may even be that Harry West can come and work alongside teachers and students on such days.

Delegates were then split into two groups, with one attending a lecture on ‘urban geography’ given by Dr Andrew Tallon, Senior Lecturer in Urban Policy and Programme Leader for BA Geography at UWE, and the other listening to Joan Foley, a Senior Lecturer in Education and PGCE English Tutor at UWE, who spoke passionately about ‘place in literature’.  Both were incredibly knowledgeable and had the audience engaged throughout.  I have done much to promote literacy in geography over time, but it was great to pick up several new ideas from Joan, which will certainly feature in my future lessons with Key Stage 3 and 4 students at The Crypt School.  Andrew ‘zoomed in’ on the city of Bristol, identifying its key contemporary issues and outlining its many urban regeneration projects, past and present.  It was interesting to learn about Bristol’s ‘cargo zone’, a venture involving the conversion of cargo containers into food and drink outlets and so forth, that is now being replicated elsewhere.  It seems that Bristol is no longer a ‘copier’, but an ‘innovator’ of urban regeneration.  Andrew also suggested trying to portray a place through photographs and video clips; this would make a great fieldwork project around the Gloucester Quays with Key Stage 3 students at The Crypt School next academic year.

With rumbling tummies, we were keen to head towards the street cafe for lunch.  As usual, the catering team had done a fine job of preparing and presenting a delicious and varied cold buffet.  There was a real ‘buzz’ about the place too; individuals took the opportunity to catch up with some familiar faces, as well as introduce themselves to others. Geographers tend to be hugely multi-skilled; most are extremely sociable and have very enquiring minds, always keen to discover more!

The afternoon was referenced as ‘subject-specific CPD opportunities – consuming and contributing’ and slightly less formal.  It was divided into four sessions, namely:

1. ‘Future CPD for geographers’, which touched upon face-to-face and virtual networks, as well as communities of practice and the role of subject associations (Geographical Association and the Royal Geographical Society).

2. A ‘market place’, where delegates could trade ideas and contribute to discussions.

3. A ‘Teach Meet’, with contributions given by experienced teachers, NQTs and PCGE students.

4. ‘Final comments and ways forward’.

Since I had been given responsibility for the delivery of two market place sessions, I was only able to ‘dip into’ some parts of the afternoon.  However, it was great to witness such enthusiasm for the subject and have the chance to do a spot of networking.  There will definitely be a few individuals whom I will be e-mailing shortly, some approaches that I will put into practice once back in the classroom, e.g. Frankenstein exam questions, T marking, exit tickets, listening triads and web-links/resources that I endeavour to explore further, e.g. Oxfam: Mapping our world (http://www.oxfamblogs.org/education/mapping_our_world/mapping_our_world/l/home/index.htm).

My ‘market place’ contribution showcased a Global Learning Programme (GLP) KS2 to KS3 transition project that I had recently steered between four Gloucestershire schools (one secondary and three primaries) (see for further details: http://espley.creativeblogs.net/2017/03/03/global-learning-programme-glp-ks2-ks3-transition-project-cirencester-deer-park-school-cdps-gloucestershire/) and shared a number of new resources/web-links related to the Arctic region and climate change, e.g. Wicked Weather Watch (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/) and Charles Rawding et al.’s efforts (https://www.wilabonn.de/en/projects/723-expedition-greenland-sustainability.html).  I took along some fliers about the Arctic Alive project (http://www.canadaukfoundation.org/arctic-alive/) that had been sent to me by the Canada-UK Foundation (http://www.canadaukfoundation.org/), along with a few complimentary copies of The Week Junior (http://offers.theweekjunior.co.uk/), a fantastic, topical resource for use with both KS2 and KS3 students.  Some participants had come across Arctic Alive and The Week Junior before, but all picked up some new resources/web-links and ideas for teaching about the Arctic, the tundra biome, cold environments, climate change, etc.

Time to get delegates working!

A quick starter activity … identifying links to the Arctic at Key Stages 3, 4 and 5.

Sharing teaching and learning experiences.

Many thanks for inviting me along today, Mark and Garry.  Excellent organisational skills ensured that this was a worthwhile, insightful and well-attended event.  I look forward to seeing you all again in 2018!