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:
- 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!