Tag Archives: engagement

‘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!

 

Online Safety Mark assessment, The Catholic School of Saint Gregory the Great, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Well, today, I had my Online Safety Accredited Assessor’s ‘hat’ on.  A couple of month’s ago, Ron Richards, Online Safety Consultant at SWGfL, asked me if I would like to pay a visit to The Catholic School of Saint Gregory the Great in the centre of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, as they were due for an Online Safety Mark re-assessment.  The school achieved an Online Safety Mark three years ago and it was time for them to apply for re-accreditation.  Would they be able to step up to the mark once again?

I received a warm welcome on arrival at the school.  I met briefly with the Head Teacher, Mrs Charlotte Blanch, and the Online Safety Lead, Miss Jo Fowler, to confirm arrangements for the day, before discussing the school’s completed 360 degree safe self review tool’s submission with them and the Computing Lead.  The school had undertaken a detailed review themselves, reaching the accredited level or above in all 28 aspects.  There appeared to be several areas of strength and only a couple of aspects that might be gleaned to be somewhat ‘weaker’.  I had a few questions to ask about points that had been noted, e.g. their Digital Online Safety Group, the taught curriculum, staff and governor training, parent/carer and community engagement, and was keen to discover more about their future plans.  Answers to my questions were forthcoming, positive and enlightening.

It was then time for the real interview stint!  Firstly, I met with a Year 4 teacher, who is also the School Council Lead, and members of the School Council, the Online Safety Champion and his deputy.  The children responded willingly to my questions and a lively discussion ensued.  I was impressed by both their level of digital literacy and awareness of online safety issues.

Next up, were parents/carers and governors.  The school’s communication with parents/carers is very good and an openness was clearly apparent.  Parents/carers admitted that they often learn about aspects of online safety following discussions with their child/children at home, as well as via newsletters and magazines sent from school, links displayed on the school’s website or items shared via their Twitter feed.  They also felt very comfortable approaching the school for support in dealing with online safety issues that might arise beyond the school boundary. Having a former Further Education computing teacher and GCHQ employee on the Governing Body is certainly helpful when reviewing and evaluating online safety policies and practices in school too!

After a short break, it was the turn of the support staff, representing a variety of roles, e.g. teaching partners, School Business Manager, Lead Pastoral Practitioner.  They provided additional information about online safety education and training and the expected procedures in school.  Our discussion also gave them a few ideas for areas for further development, e.g. to consider hosting another of SWGfL’s fantastic online safety briefings and inviting individuals from local schools too.

Being a two form entry school, it was great to have the chance to meet with professionals from a number of year groups, plus the Computing Lead again.  Teachers were clearly aware of online safety issues and how pertinent it is to relay related messages to youngsters that they teach.  Not only do they deliver a specific online safety module, but they team teach the eLIN computing curriculum alongside the Computing Lead, referencing online safety at regular intervals, as well as on an ad hoc basis in the classroom.  It was also pleasing to hear the same procedures being reiterated, suggesting that a consistent approach is maintained throughout the school.

I then spoke with Martin Treacher from Hempsted IT, the school’s out-sourced technical support and the Online Safety Lead once more.  Whilst I have liaised with Martin and his counter-part, Mike Webb, on numerous occasions before, I have never had to interview him formally.  Fortunately, Martin was extremely cooperative and did not put me on the spot! Seeing a familiar face, and knowing the expertise and insight that both him and Mike have between them, reassured me that the school is in very capable hands.

A 30 minute break to review the evidence and reflect upon what I had heard throughout the morning was much appreciated before feeding back to the Senior Leadership Team.  Although more material is available to access online in advance of an assessment today than even just a few years ago, it is always useful to have some time in situ to explore other documentation and seek any necessary clarification from the Online Safety Lead.

Following my lengthy discussions and perusal of relevant material, I was pleased to be able to give very positive feedback to those ‘at the top’.  The school certainly deserved to have their Online Safety Mark renewed and it was a pleasure to present them with a certificate of attainment.  I hope that they are able to truly fulfill their ‘next steps’ in the very near future and look forward to reading/hearing about their successes.  Remember to ‘get tweeting’!

It was a pleasure to present the Head Teacher, Mrs Charlotte Blanch, and Online Safety Lead, Miss Jo Fowler, with their new Online Safety Mark.

 

 

 

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.