Arctic Adventure Climate Change Day, Tom Roberts Adventure Centre (TRAC), Newent, Gloucestershire


Well, it was back to the Tom Roberts Adventure Centre (TRAC) today;  this time for an exciting, multi-schools, cross-curricular event organised by the Wiltshire-based charity, Wicked Weather Watch (WWW) (, rather than our termly Primary Humanities Subject Leaders’ Network meeting (although it was lovely to see a few of our group members here with their pupils and supporting colleagues too).

Once everybody had arrived, registered and tackled their Arctic jigsaw challenge, Gill Johnson and Vicky Oram-Ahern from WWW welcomed all, shared the learning objectives for our ‘Arctic Adventure Climate Change Day’, showed a fantastic movie clip about the area (see and outlined the format for the next few hours.

The children and staff from various, local schools rotated around three, very different sessions as the day progressed.  The session that I led was entitled ‘Getting hands on with geography!’ and comprised five, short activities centred upon the following learning objectives:

  • To recognise and make connections between different places around the world.
  • To explain how people adapt to living in different places.

Activity 1 looked at ‘How many people live within the Arctic?’.  To begin with, pupils were encouraged to write their Arctic population estimates on small pieces of white card, from which we identified who was the closest.  They were then asked why this figure was an estimate (the area is vast, barren and inaccessible, plus the presence of indigenous people and the migration of people make monitoring and the collection of data rather difficult).  I explained the difference between permanent residents, with reference to indigenous people, such as the Nenets, Inuits and Sami, and temporary residents, e.g. scientists; researchers; explorers and tourists.  We then considered where these people actually live (their distribution).  In small groups, pupils had to match population figures with their countries on an outline map of the region and were introduced to the concept of proportional circles, e.g. where the size of the circle is determined by the number of people living there.  Afterwards, we discussed what proportion of each country’s and the region’s population as a whole were indigenous people (of the 4 million or so people living within the Arctic, only around 10% are, in fact, indigenous people).

Activity 2 explored the question ‘What is it like to live in the Arctic?’.  Here, the children had to look carefully at two images of houses found on the shore at Ilullisat in Greenland.  I asked pupils how these houses were different to ones seen in the UK and their comments showed that they had been very observant (the living area within the houses is built well above the ground as the snow and ice are likely to be very deep in winter; buildings are generally constructed from stone, concrete and corrugated metal since few trees grow to provide wood for construction; peat is often burned on fires).  I also explained that, as many Greenlanders live on the coast, fishing is very important.  Fish and seals are the main items caught.  Seal meat has a very thick layer of blubber, but is extremely high in protein.  Seal skins are also used to make a range of clothes, including coats, shoes, mittens, handbags and slippers.

Activity 3 focused on ways of earning a living in the Arctic.  In their small groups, pupils were instructed to match a number of images with their appropriate caption.  They were then asked to consider how they might sort these images and their accompanying captions.  Some opted for ‘tourist activities’ and ‘jobs within the Arctic’; others went a step further and classified the jobs into those that were more traditional in nature and those that were likely to be carried out by temporary residents.  When quizzed if they had been to any country within the Arctic, and, if so, what activities did they do, one child responded stating that he had been lucky enough to visit Lapland (Finland) last Christmas and shared details of the trip with his peers.

Activity 4 consisted of a gap-filling exercise to highlight how climate change is impacting upon people within the region.  In their small groups, pupils had to slot nine cards with a word/words into the correct place in an enlarged piece of text so that they could answer my subsequent question: ‘How is climate change affecting people living in the Arctic?’.  We concluded that climate change is affecting different parts of the Arctic in different ways, some to a very detrimental extent.

We finished the hour’s session on a very creative note; pairs were challenged to make a 3-D model of an igloo, simply using a base template and a box of sugar cubes.  Any individual who was a Jenga-genius, undoubtedly, had a distinct advantage!  Pairs attempted this task enthusiastically and produced some highly commendable models.  A few of their creations can be seen below:

Meanwhile, Emily Hastings from Acting Up! ( delivered a drama-themed session.  Emily began with a warm up to prepare the body and mind, as well as a quick game to break the ice and help everyone relax.  Next, they did some imaginative thinking together to enable the children to visualise the Arctic, including its colours, wildlife, weather/climate and landscape.  The children were able to provide some detailed descriptions later and these became a platform to work from.  Emily led movement-based activities linked to weather patterns and the various terrains.  In addition, relevant information about climate change was shared with pupils at appropriate points.  The children also became explorers and talked about what they were doing in order to survive the harsh, Arctic conditions. Emily introduced the concept of freeze frames and pupils created organic scenes through still images within their small groups, which proved  highly effective and generated further ideas.  A question and answer session was included to reinforce what had been covered and check pupils’ understanding.  Finally, Emily split the class into three large groups, giving each a topic linked to climate change to discuss and then present to everyone.  When chatting with a number of children over lunch, they said that they had really enjoyed the drama-related activities and felt that they had learnt more about climate change through this very practical and ‘hands on’ approach.

Vicky and Gill took charge of an activity, which focused on the wildlife found within the Arctic (there are more than just polar bears, but no penguins!).  They discussed the impact of climate change on such birds and animals, introducing key vocabulary in the process, e.g. biodiversity; extinction; habitat; ecosystem; biome.

Images of the children, and teachers, in action can be seen below:

An extended lunch was built into the day, so that all groups had an opportunity to climb inside a tent and handling some of the equipment taken on recent expeditions to the Arctic by the likes of Sir David Hempleman-Adams, an avid explorer and the charity’s founder.

At two o’clock, everyone re-convened in the conference hall for a presentation given by Digby Rawlins, who discussed his first-hand experiences of the Arctic (he has made trips to both Greenland and Svalbard, Norway), shared media footage from his travels, as well as giving pupils and teachers time to ask any burning questions that they had.  And, there were plenty, along with some polar-themed jokes!

The day was brought to a close shortly before three o’clock to enable teachers to transport pupils back before the end of school day.

The ‘concluding comments’ from both staff and students involved in the multi-schools event were incredibly positive and make all the time and effort required in instigating such workshops so worthwhile:

‘The class loved the Arctic climate change talk – a brilliant mix of information, questions and photos.’

‘Geography with Emma – children learnt skills and new facts.’

‘Superb sessions – thank you.’

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