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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Learning Programme (GLP) KS2-KS3 transition project – Cirencester Deer Park School (CDPS), Gloucestershire

Today, I set off rather early for Cirencester Deep Park School (CDPS) in order to deliver a whole day’s workshop, centred around the Arctic, to nearly 70, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 pupils and accompanying members of staff.  The secondary school had kindly offered to host the event and their Year 8 selected ‘ambassadors’ warmly greeted youngsters and their teachers from three, nearby primary schools, namely Cirencester Primary School (CPS), Down Ampney C of E Primary School and Rodmarton Primary School.  Rebecca (Becs) Lillington, Head of Geography at Cirencester Deer Park School, had done a sterling job reproducing the prepared resources and booking rooms to ensure that the day went as smoothly as possible.  I was supported by two, other consultants; Kathryn Minchew, a former MasterChef semi-finalist and now a professional chef running her own business (http://www.pyromaniacchef.com/), and Sarah Shaw, an AST for primary dance.  In addition, due to my freelance authoring and consultancy links with Wicked Weather Watch (WWW – http://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/), we were privileged to have a visit from Rob Hudson, a retiree, who had recently completed part of the Polar Ocean Challenge (POC – http://polarocean.co.uk/) led by Sir David Hempleman-Adams, for some of the day.

On arrival at Cirencester Deer Park School, Key Stage 2 pupils were immediately paired with a Key Stage 3 student and given a jigsaw puzzle to complete together.  The intention was to ‘break the ice’ and encourage interaction from the onset, as well as providing a clue as to where we might be heading for the remainder of the day.

Key Stage 3 ‘ambassadors’ helping Key Stage 2 pupils cut out their puzzle pieces and, subsequently, piece together the jigsaw to discover where we were heading off to for the remainder of the day.

After a formal welcome and various introductions, I outlined the learning objectives and format of the day.  Pupils were then allocated to a group, named after countries located or represented within the Arctic Circle.  Next, we embarked upon three, very different activities to acquire some background knowledge and understanding of the Arctic region and promote higher order thinking and communication skills.

Unfortunately, as access to Google Earth was restricted at this point, I was unable to take the children on a virtual journey from Cirencester, Gloucestershire to the North Pole as originally intended.  Instead, I drew on my dependable, inflatable globe and invited pupils to the front to explore it with me, pointing out key physical and human features, explaining certain phenomena and posing a number of questions to them, relating to distance, direction and the time required to reach the region.  The overall aim was to develop their place and locational knowledge.  I also discovered that a couple of students had already ventured to the Arctic, having been lucky enough to go on a trip to Lapland!

Secondly, pupils formed a Venn diagram with two plastic hoops and sorted facts about the Arctic region into one of three categories; those which they believed to be TRUE, FALSE or were UNSURE about.  I later asked students if there were any facts that surprised them and why this was the case. Some did not realise that the Arctic was not a continent, which also helped to emphasise fundamental differences between the North and South Poles, or that it was also known as the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ and why this was.  It was rewarding to see teachers engaging with pupils and learning alongside them too.

Sweden was first to finish and very nearly right!

Great to see youngsters from different schools interacting from the start.

Having experienced, external consultants delivering the workshop meant there was time for teachers to mix with students, supporting them with explanations of topical vocabulary or challenging them to answer more open-ended questions.

Thirdly, pupils worked in their country group to match a series of images and captions connected to the Arctic.  Afterwards, they were asked if the Arctic region was as they expected it to be.  The subsequent discussion revealed that many were surprised by the variety of wildlife that existed, e.g. it is not only the land of the polar bear, that it is not all snow, ice and water and that people actually live there.  We mentioned briefly about the threat to wildlife habitats and the potential for the development of tourism linked to whale and iceberg watching.

Key Stage 3 ‘ambassadors’ taking the lead and helping younger pupils access the more demanding and topical vocabulary contained within captions.

Sitting back to admire their efforts. A first class performance!

As we were a little behind schedule due to the late arrival of one school, we were, unfortunately, unable to complete the final starter activity that I had planned.  It was hoped that each country group would list ten words that they felt best described the Arctic region.  These would then be collated and a word cloud generated by a couple of Key Stage 3 pupils using www.wordcloud.com.  However, it was suggested that this might be completed by teachers with their pupils at school tomorrow or early next week – a great means of reinforcing topical vocabulary and as an aid for any future, themed literacy tasks.

For the main part of the day, three countries merged to form a larger group and they rotated around three, separate activities.  One placed an emphasis on geography, developing place and locational knowledge further through a series of tasks, including a spot the difference, mix and match, diamond nine and card sort activity.  These explored recent changes, longer term Arctic climate trends, the impacts of climate change on natural systems and people, as well as questioning whether climate change was real or not.

Playing ‘spot the difference/s’ together. Looking at satellites images of the same area within the Arctic region at the same time of year, but a few years apart (September 1984 and September 2016).

Quizzing a trainee teacher too!

Considering the impact of climate change on people and natural systems via a diamond nine activity conducted in their country groups. This encouraged pupils to appreciate that not all impacts might be negative and stimulated much in-depth discussion too.

Lovely to see teachers working and learning alongside pupils.

Another session focused on science and D&T (food technology), looking at the different states of water and considering how vital a resource it is, reinforcing what is happening in the Arctic region at present, making cookie dough and footprint biscuits, promoting issues, such as Fair Trade (since Fair Trade Fortnight is soon approaching), and discussing how we might all reduce our global footprint.  When one youngster admitted that this was the first opportunity they had had to bake and how much they had enjoyed it, Kathryn felt all the stresses and hurdles that she had overcome today (a broken boiler meant no hot water for washing up; the temperature of some ovens was rather questionable and equipment was a little ‘stretched’ at times) were truly worthwhile.

Ready for our Great Arctic Bake Off!

Discussing where the ingredients came from, emphasising the importance of Fair Trade, eating seasonal and local wherever possible to reduce food miles and our global footprint.

Seeking guidance from our professional chef.

Great to see Key Stage 3 students having a go too!

Key Stage 3 students watching and advising Key Stage 2 pupils.

Making progress!

Learning new skills.

Cutting out their footprints.

Getting stuck in!

A real team effort.

Proud of their country’s efforts.

And, the best part … time for the taste test!

The final activity incorporated an element of dance and drama. Sarah very cleverly created a dance/drama to enter into the world of the Arctic.  The youngsters were transported to the Arctic, becoming explorers, setting off over the snowfields and across the great glaciers.  On the way, they met wildlife on land and in the sea and came to appreciate how their habitats are under threat due to climate change.

Perfecting their group’s dance.

Preparing for the grand finale.

Putting themselves in role well and being observed by a real Arctic explorer too!

At lunch-time, students were invited to meet Rob Hudson, one of the crew from the recent, record-breaking Polar Ocean Challenge.  Rob had brought along some of his kit to show the children and shared many, fascinating stories of his travels with them, providing further insight into the Arctic region.  Rob later sent me an e-mail, stating that it had been a pleasure to be involved in the day:  ‘… I enjoyed helping … it got very busy towards the end, and there was a lot of interest and some very good questions.’

We returned to the hall for the plenary.  It was intended for pupils to show their dance/drama productions to each other, but the layout of the room meant this would be too difficult. Instead, Sarah talked through the three scenes that had been ‘brought to life’ by the youngsters, inviting those that had taken part to add their own comments too.

Pupils sharing their dance/drama experiences with others.

I then prompted pupils to reflect upon the day’s learning/experiences, asking them to identify an aspect that they had particularly enjoyed, something that they had learnt about the Arctic region and a skill that they felt they had developed.  Whilst some mentioned baking and eating their sweet creations afterwards, others found the exploration with Google Earth fascinating or enjoyed participating in the dance/drama production.  Many were able to cite new facts about the Arctic.  Skills that were enhanced ranged from baking, communication, interpersonal, teamworking, decision-making to being able to justifying their thoughts fully.  Next, we reviewed the learning outcomes together using thumbs up/thumbs down signals (majority had their thumbs up held high in the air for all to see) and contemplated three, quite probing questions:

  • 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?

Students had some interesting responses.  One Key Stage 3 student suggested that things will go one of two ways and it is largely down to us – either the Arctic will continue to decline or it will turn itself around as awareness is raised and our actions change.  It was agreed that by ‘us’ we are thinking about those at all levels, from governments, international bodies, organisations to individuals, like ourselves.  Students were forthcoming with ideas as to what they might do, e.g. simple and easy activities that would reduce their global footprint.  Their comments certainly demonstrated that they had absorbed much from the different sessions that they had participated in throughout the day.

Many thanks, once again, to the other consultants and all staff involved from each of the four schools for their cooperation, support and enthusiasm.  Hopefully, they gained as much from the day as the students did.  Thanks, also, to the Geographical Association (GA), for funding the event as part of their contribution to the Global Learning Programme (GLP).