Tag Archives: evaluation

‘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!

 

Twilight staff training: Abbeymead Primary School, Gloucester

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.

Geographical glasses.

Younger/SEND pupils could use images instead of text, making this an accessible activity for all.

Developing good observational skills.

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:

Mission 19: Collect A to Z.

Great teamwork!

Proposing to be the gifted and talented group … not content with just collecting one image to represent each of their designated letters of the alphabet!

Making use of technology outside the classroom.

Discovering other ways to use their outdoor learning area.

Mission 26: Swatch nature.

A perfect colour match!

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!