Due to continued interest and demand from local schools and further funding available from Wiltshire-based charity, Wicked Weather Watch (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/), it was decided to hold yet another ‘awesome, Arctic adventure’ event just before the end of Term 3. High School for Girls (HSfG) (https://www.hsfg.org/), one of the grammar schools located in the centre of Gloucester, very kindly offered to host the event and WWW representatives and various freelance consultants were joined by more than 80 Key Stage 2 pupils from seven primary schools across the county.
The day began with a brief starter in the main hall. Following registration of their school, teachers were allocated a country group and pupils were challenged to piece together a puzzle to discover which nations are found within the Arctic Circle, which they attempted enthusiastically. Once all schools had arrived, Gill Johnson and Vicky Oram-Ahern from Wicked Weather Watch gave a formal welcome and I outlined the learning objectives for the day (quite a long list since we had a number of highly interactive activities planned). Each country group were also given an inflatable globe, so that they could explore the Arctic’s key physical and human features with me. A wonderful movie clip of the Arctic (see https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/the-arctic/) was projected onto the large screen, before I joined countries together to form slightly larger groups and displayed the proposed format of the day. It was planned that each large group would have the opportunity to participate in four separate activities related to different aspects of the curriculum (namely literacy, numeracy; geography; computing; drama; dance; science and D&T: food technology). Towards the end of the day, we would convene in the main hall for a plenary to reflect upon our learning and experiences, consider some pressing issues and review the learning outcomes.
Further detail about each of the activities offered on rotation can be found below.
My session, combining geography and computing, set out to consider two fundamental questions:
- What are the challenges facing the Arctic today?
- What will the Arctic look like in the future?
Once settled in the ICT Suite, pupils’ first task was to access Google Earth and type in ‘North Pole’. This took many to a pub/restaurant called The North Pole within the UK, which had them rather puzzled for a minute or two! I then explained to the children that there are actually four different North Poles. We flew to North Pole, a small city in the state of Alaska, USA, and spent a few minutes ‘zooming in’/’zooming out’ from there to discover what the Arctic looks like from above. We thought about similarities and differences between this and our localities too. Pupils were then directed to travel to Kaffeklubben Island (what a great name!), just off the coast of Greenland and thought to be the northernmost area of land in the Arctic. I encouraged pupils to explore their country too, in order to enhance place and locational knowledge further. Next, pupils formed pairs within their country groups. Each pair was given a laminated card with two satellite images, taken of the same place at the same time of year, but a few years apart. They were challenged to see how many differences they could spot. When sharing the differences that they had spotted with the rest of the group, pupils were prompted to use both locational and positional language, e.g. in the foreground, behind the…, there is no… in image 1, yet in image 2 there is a… . Our third activity involved working with more individuals from their country group. Each small group was given a number of facts relating to the Arctic. In their small groups, they had to discuss whether they believed each fact to be ‘true’, ‘false’ or something that they are ‘not sure’ about and place it in the appropriate section of the Venn diagram that they had created using two, large plastic hoops. Afterwards, the answers were revealed, correcting any statements that were ‘false’. Students were also asked if there were any facts that surprised them and if so, how/why, so as to promote a degree of higher order thinking. Working once again in their country groups, pupils embarked upon the fourth activity, a race to match various images with their appropriate captions, hopefully, increasing their knowledge and understanding of the Arctic region in the process. At the end, I quizzed pupils to find out if there were any images that surprised them and why. Their comments were really perceptive, they used topical vocabulary confidently and recalled numerous points from our initial session in the main hall.
Finally, small groups were asked to list at least ten words that they felt best described the Arctic. They were invited to share their lists with others in the room. Meanwhile, a couple of Year 9 students from HSfG utilised http://www.wordclouds.com/ to create a word cloud, adding the words from each group’s list. Each larger group’s word clouds were then saved and distributed to accompanying teachers, so that they could be printed, enlarged and referenced to support written work once back in their own schools and to help reinforce topical vocabulary.
Sarah Shaw remained in the main hall where she took pupils into the world of the Arctic through the medium of dance/drama. They were transported to the Arctic, becoming true explorers as they set off over the snowfields and across the great glaciers. On the way, they met the wildlife on land and in the sea and came to appreciate how their habitats are under threat due to climate change.
Meanwhile, Kathryn Minchew, a former semi-finalist on MasterChef and now a professional chef running her own company, Gloucester Studio (http://gloucesterstudio.com/), based herself in he D&T:food technology room, where she investigated the different states of water with pupils and emphasised its importance (as a solid (ice); liquid (water) and a gas (vapour); water is needed to sustain life). She reiterated what is happening in the Arctic (ice is shrinking; water is being returned to the ocean; sea levels are rising; there is an increased risk of flooding, especially in low-lying/coastal areas; the effects of flooding) and discussed what is meant by the term ‘global footprint’. Pupils divided into small groups to make biscuit dough and stamped out feet to bake (which I was later told were very yummy!), before contemplating how we all might reduce our global footprint.
Gill and Vicky from WWW, supported by Digby Rawlins, looked at climate change in more depth, including what it is, what causes it and what the three, main, global impacts are, before focusing on different landscapes within the Arctic (polar deserts, tundra and the taiga forest) and what is happening to them, along with the animals that live there. The children became familiar with key terms, such as permafrost and greenhouse gases, and were particularly fascinated by the ‘pizzly’ or ‘grolar’ (the result of a polar bear mating with a grizzly bear as the habitats of both are changing due to global warming). Next, the children drew pictures of Arctic landscapes and animals to place on the giant, green cardboard heart to ‘#ShowTheLove’ for aspects of the region that they do not want to disappear. The heart was added to as the day progressed and looked fantastic after the final group had placed their contributions. Explorer, Digby Rawlins, shared a video and talked about his trip to Greenland, reinforcing the adjustments communities are having to make as a result of climate change, gave a personal insight into what it is like to travel to the Arctic and answered the many questions that the children posed to him willingly.
Pupils had some interesting comments to make during the closing discussion:
‘I hope the icebergs don’t melt because then lots of animals will lose their habitat.’
‘I don’t want to see any animal or aspect of nature go. It is too beautiful to get rid of and it must be preserved.’
‘I really liked the landscapes and the animals.’
Pupils comments during the plenary clearly exemplified that not only had their perceptions of the Arctic region been challenged during the event, but also that important messages relating to climate change had been successfully relayed to them.
Staff comments were very positive as well:
‘Each activity offered the children a different learning experience and kept them all engaged really well.’
‘A really good day – we all enjoyed it. It’s made us think what a difference we can make to help reduce climate change.’
‘The range of activities kept the children interested and practical input. Got the messages in a child-friendly way.’
‘Dance session – wow!’
‘Lovely, informative day! Thank-you!’
‘Great event, would come again!’
‘We’ll be looking at what we can do in our school environment to help.’
All in all, a tiring, but hugely gratifying day, knowing that we have informed and inspired so many youngsters and their teachers/teaching assistants. What a great way to end Term 3 of 2018!
Many, many thanks to everyone involved … it was a real team effort!