And, what a great time we had too!
It was a little bit of a squash and a squeeze this morning as 63 pupils and their teachers packed into Year 5 and 6’s classroom at Birdlip Primary School, Gloucestershire, for another Global Learning Programme (GLP)-related, Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project. This time, Birdlip Primary School were playing host to students and staff from Cranham C of E (VA) Primary School, Coberley C of E Primary School and Ribston Hall High School, and they proved to be exemplary ones at that! We received a very warm welcome and much forward-thinking and thorough planning had clearly taken place to ensure the event ran as smoothly as possible. The day had an India theme since Birdlip Primary School already have a link with School of Scholars in Nagpur in central India and had expressed a wish to develop pupils’ place and locational knowledge of this wonderful country and their understanding of the cultural differences that exist. In order to give students an authentic experience, I was joined, once again, by Sarah Shaw, an AST for primary dance, and Bharti Tailor, a freelance consultant and, currently, Member of the European Council of Religious Leaders and Vice-President and Trustee Religions for Peace UK.
After a formal welcome and various introductions, I brought out my India box of goodies, as I so often do when delivering this country-themed workshop in schools. I invited the youngsters to explore the contents of the box with me to see if they could guess where we might be heading for the remainder of the day. I tried to be quite clever by selecting a few more obscure objects and disguising the bag of rice, poppadoms and naan bread until the very end! Those at Nepalese Chef (http://www.nepalesechef.co.uk/gloucester/), an amazing, local Indian restaurant that we frequently visit, were kind enough to provide an array of culinary ingredients to add to my usual items. The objects proved to be a brilliant stimulus for introducing key ideas, themes, issues and concepts, which were investigated further as the day progressed.
I had hoped to access Google Earth to take pupils on a virtual trip from Birdlip in Gloucestershire to New Delhi, the capital city of India. However, their technical support team had only visited the school yesterday to upgrade the system and Google Earth had been disabled in the process. With little time to download it and restricted administration rights, I had to resort, once again, to my inflatable globe. This did not matter too much, but it does not quite have the all ‘singing and dancing effects’ that Google Earth has! We talked about the direction that we would have to travel, the distance involved and how long we imagined it would take if we were travelling by air. It was also an effective means of showing a different type of map to youngsters … not all are flat and pinned to the classroom wall or found in an atlas! After outlining the learning objectives and format of the day, pupils were placed in mixed -school, -age and -gender groups, named after India’s most populous cities, e.g. Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Surat.
Following our starter, students rotated around three, different sessions within their city group for the main part of the day. One had a geography focus, developing place and locational knowledge via a series of short tasks (a mapping exercise, online quiz, mix and match text and captions activity and similarities and differences challenge).
Another ‘zoomed in’ on the culture and religions of India, classifying various images according to their commonalities, before groups competed against each other to complete the best rangoli, a form of Indian art. As can be seen from the images below, their designs were pretty incredible, especially given the fact that it was the first attempt for many and time was at a premium.
The last activity had a dance/drama element. Sarah worked with groups to re-tell the story of ‘The people who hugged the trees‘. Do read this if you can – it is a lovely, short story with a profound message woven within it. Students from Ribston Hall High School also shared their recent Bollywood dance experiences with younger pupils.
It was intended that the more creative sessions would highlight the ‘richness’ that exists within India; it is not all about ‘poorness/poverty’ as is so often portrayed in images found within the media or by charities/organisations. I think you will agree they managed to do this very well?
The plenary, initially held in Birdlip Village Hall and later back in the classroom, was enlightening. Sarah introduced each group’s dance/drama brief and the youngsters performed their production in turn. Combining their efforts was hugely impacting – the story of ‘The people who hugged the trees‘ was ‘brought to life’ for old and young to truly appreciate. Next, I embarked upon a reflection of learning/experiences with pupils, bringing out my large, bright, infamous dice. They rose to my challenges well. When asked to sum up the workshop, pupils were very positive, stating words such as ‘enjoyable, exciting, educational, interesting, amazing and fun‘. They mentioned skills that they had developed in the process, e.g. the ability to work as a team, organising information, communication. The youngsters also considered how they might transfer today’s learning to other subject areas or activities outside of school; many Key Stage 3 students had learnt new dance moves, for example, which they intended to include in future performances that they choreograph. It was pleasing that they were able to recall much topical vocabulary at this stage too, e.g. deforestation, castes, sari. Many pupils were keen to explore Indian food and traditional dress when asked what they would like to discover more about.
I finished with a review of the learning outcomes via thumbs up or thumbs down signals. Majority of students held their thumbs up high in the air for all to see, demonstrating that the day had been a worthwhile, thought-provoking and stimulating. Teachers were appreciative of our input and added that they had learned something too, which made the workshop even more rewarding.
Many thanks to Birdlip Primary School for hosting the event and for Ribston Hall High School for supplying a driver, minibus, teacher and impeccable students. Thanks, also, to the Geographical Association (GA) for funding the day in conjunction with the Global Learning Programme. Many of the teachers and children here today would not have been able to have such an engaging and inspiring learning experience if it had not been for this project – the cost of three, highly competent consultants would, unfortunately, be well beyond the budget of these small, rural primary schools.