This time, it was a slightly upmarket meeting spot for us due to sponsorship from TUI UK (http://www.tui.co.uk). Usually, a local school offers to host a meeting, but this time we were able to venture to a more spacious venue, with ample parking and no interruptions from children, colleagues or parents/carers (TRAC – Tom Roberts Adventure Centre, near Newent in Gloucestershire) (https://www.tracnewent.org.uk/)!
Following requests from individuals at our previous meeting in June, and a degree of contemplation by myself, it was decided to take ‘Humanities in the News’ (topical items and contemporary issues, from the local to global scale) as the theme for today’s gathering. Although I had planned and coordinated the event, the delivery was not solely down to me; Aly Thomsen from Bricks2Learn (http://www.bricks2learn.com/), Emily Hastings from ActingUp! (http://www.actinguptheatre.co.uk/) and Vicky Oram-Ahern from the Wiltshire-based charity Wicked Weather Watch (WWW) (http://www.wickedweatherwatch.org.uk), kindly offered to have some input. I was also expecting teachers to become heavily involved too … an afternoon of fun, ‘hands-on’ activities lay ahead!
The main aims of today’s meeting were:
- To share resources/ideas so that future teaching and learning of humanities subjects is relevant, purposeful, engaging and links with as many other areas of the curriculum as possible.
- To give individuals the opportunity to network with teachers from other schools (to share best practice and establish future rapport).
- To provide participants with a number of invaluable web-links and free resources, plus time built in to explore these and ask questions/seek advice.
I began with the following activity, entitled ‘Humanities in the News’:
- Are there any items/issues here that might relate to teaching and learning of humanities-based themes in your school?
- Jot down any potential links that you discover.
- Whole group discussion: Items/issues and related themes?
It was suggested that individuals perused the available hard copy material, as well as the websites below:
- BBC News: https://www.bbc.co.uk/
- Gloucester Citizen: https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/
- CBBC Newsround: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround
- The Week Junior: https://theweekjunior.co.uk/ and https://schools.theweekjunior.co.uk/
- First News: https://live.firstnews.co.uk/ and https://schools.firstnews.co.uk/products/Newspaper/
Our concluding discussion provided much food for thought. Many items/issues were identified for easy incorporation into current teaching and learning, e.g. Hurricane Florence, USA – weather and climate; EU migrants – migration/journeys; plastic in the ocean – sustainability/sustainable futures. One teacher summed things up very well: ‘Geography is everywhere; you can always find something to link with what you are doing.’
Next, it was time for me to share a few new resources with teachers. First, it was TUI UK’s Better World Detectives (https://www.tui.co.uk/better-world-detectives/). a geography- and sustainability-focused resource for use with Key Stage 2 pupils. This was co-written by myself, Alan Parkinson (CGeog, FRGS, FRSGS; Head of Geography at King’s Ely Junior School; author & freelance geography consultant; OS GetOutside Champion 2018/19 and Tivy Medal winner) and Daniel Smith (Head Teacher at Queen Eleanor Primary Academy in Northampton). There are six lesson plans, all with accompanying resources, available to download for free (https://www.tui.co.uk/better-world-detectives/resources/primary-resources/). Each has a key question that is explored during the lesson and, whilst there is a strong geography focus, many cross-curricular links are evident too. For example, Lesson 2 asks ‘Why are there fewer fish in the sea?’ and encourages pupils to consider what impact we are having on our oceans. This links with the Key Stage 2 programme of study for geography: ‘Pupils should be taught to describe and understand key aspects of human geography, including the distribution of natural resources’, but English/literacy features prominently within the lesson too. After introducing attendees to the primary resources, I let them access the Better World Detectives website for themselves, download the resources, spend some time browsing and consider when and how they might use them in their school.
I then showcased an India-themed workshop, which I had recently coordinated and delivered with help from Emily Hastings and Jessetha Dayanandan at Abbeymead Primary School in Gloucester (https://create2inspire.co.uk/2018/07/13/india-themed-workshop-abbeymead-primary-school-gloucester/). This provided an ideal opportunity for Emily to take over and demonstrate how easily geography/history can be combined with drama. India is not all about poorness/poverty; there is much cultural richness too. Taking the global issue of deforestation as her theme, Emily explored the true story of ‘The people who hugged the trees’ with delegates (an audio-visual version can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2clzYnqOp8). There was no sitting still for very long! Emily had the teachers on their feet, experiencing exactly what Year 4 pupils at Abbeymead Primary School had encountered last July.
After a well-earned break for refreshments, with some yummy, beautifully decorated, home-made cupcakes provided by Sarah, manager at TRAC, it was Vicky Oram-Ahern’s turn to give a shout out for Wicked Weather Watch. Both her and Gill Johnson work hard on behalf of the charity to bring key messages relating to climate change, and with a particular focus on the Arctic region and Greenland, to both teachers and pupils, at primary and secondary level. Today, Vicky shared updated resources, talked about how schools could become more actively involved in combating climate change and highlighted opportunities to play host to a real life explorer in their school or meet one at their forthcoming multi-schools events. To find out more about what is on offer, visit their website, subscribe to their mailing list and a newsletter will filter into your inbox with all the latest news.
Meanwhile, Aly had set up her Lego kits at the back of the room and was ready to challenge teachers. As part of Wicked Weather Watch’s Key Stage 2 resources (Lesson 4), pupils are asked to access the following web-link and explore the interactive image of an igloo: https://www.dkfindout.com/us/history/native-americans/inuit/. They are then challenged to make an annotated 3-D model of an igloo and write an accompanying information plate. Aly wanted to see if teachers could create a 3-D model igloo out of Lego too. A more simplified design of an igloo may be found here: https://thecraftyclassroom.com/crafts/native-american-crafts-for-kids/inuit-crafts-for-kids/sugar-cube-igloo-project. Aly gave each pair a pack of sugar cubes and, in the style of Jenga, they had to attempt to construct an igloo.
A few of their designs can be viewed below:
Aly suggested that teachers could create a mini exhibition of their pupils’ efforts and easily integrate this activity with maths/numeracy, e.g. number of bricks used; measuring length, breadth and height; calculating volume, perimeter and area.
As a plenary activity, I distributed copies of the ‘Give me five’ sheet to encourage an element of reflection:
A few completed versions can be seen below:
I think you will agree that they all learnt something, felt challenged and have action points to address from here.
Finally, delegates were instructed to:
- Take two post-it notes.
- On one post-it note, sum up today’s workshop in five words/in a sentence or two (WWW/EBI).
- On the second post-it note, identify possible themes for future network meetings.
- Add your name, school and position to each post-it note if you wish.
- Stick your post-it notes onto the TRAC backdrop as you leave.
Their concluding comments make all the time and effort in organising such meetings so rewarding:
‘Inspiring; informative; engaging; different; fun.’
‘Useful; communication; resources; varied.’
‘Interesting ideas and resources.’
‘Informative in terms of resourcing and delivery of geography. Being creative to inspire children to physically engage.’
‘An engaging and exciting workshop.’
‘Interactive and interesting.’
‘Engaging; involving everyone; not just sat down; resources.’
Suggested possible themes for future meetings were:
- assessment – tracking history and geography across the school in a simple way (if possible)
- trips/visits/fieldwork (good local places)
- Forest School areas
- EYFS ideas/links
- Primary Geography Quality Mark (PGQM) – collecting evidence/portfolio
- gifted and talented in geography – where to take them next?
- funding opportunities
- local history and geography resources
- best practice in history
- KS1 geography – mapwork skills
- how to read a compass; OS map skills
Now, to get my ‘thinking hat’ on for our next network gathering, which will take place from 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm on Tuesday 13th November 2018. Keep a watchful eye as further details will be posted shortly. Do join us if you can … the more, the merrier!