‘Arctic Alive’ workshop, Christ Church C of E Primary School, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


All ready for action!

I just love the ‘Arctic Alive’ kit bag with its giant floor map, lesson plans and resources (https://www.canadaukfoundation.org/arctic-alive/), and so did the teachers and children at Christ Church C of E Primary School, Cheltenham in Gloucestershire (http://www.christchurchschool-chelt.co.uk/), judging by the photographs and feedback below!

The Canada-UK Foundation (https://www.canadaukfoundation.org/our-story/) aims to foster a greater understanding of Canada in the UK through education.  They have a broad strategic focus and work to create partnerships linking the academic and non-academic worlds to promote an understanding of Canada and its contributions across a wide range of subjects.  One of their three main programmes is ‘Arctic Alive’, which aims to ‘bring the Arctic to life’ for Key Stage 2 pupils and their teachers.

After class teachers had briefed pupils about the day ahead, they then joined both myself and Gill Johnson, a representative from the Wiltshire-based charity ‘Wicked Weather Watch’ (WWW: https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/), to discover more about this incredible region.

The aim of my session was to help pupils understand the effects of climate change on the Arctic and how this affects the world.  To begin with, I gave students a few minutes to simply explore the giant floor map and make their own connections.  I encouraged pupils to look for familiar place names and geographical features.  We then discussed what type of map it was (circumpolar; physical) and what each colour might represent.  I brought out my infamous inflatable globe as well and challenged students to name and locate the continents and oceans and find the United Kingdom. Then, turning the globe so that the North Pole was facing pupils, I identified some countries and points of interest on the globe and asked students to find these places on the giant floor map.

The main part of the session encompassed three or four different activities in order to cover aspects, such as climate change, mapping sea ice cover, global warming and what the UK is doing to help.  Pupils were enthusiastic and worked well together.  Whilst they were familiar with several of these terms and had a good grounding of such issues, most, if not all, students had acquired new knowledge and understanding by the end of my hour with them.

To bring the session to a close, pupils were asked to tell me one thing that they had learnt about the Arctic that they did not know before the start of our exploration together.  Some pupils’ recall was really impressive; more like what I would have expected of a Year 8 student than a Year 5 pupil!  Well done!

At lunch-time, I ran an abridged version of Lesson 1: What is the Arctic? (to understand where the Arctic is located and the many ways it can be defined) from the Arctic Alive resource pack with Year 2 and the school’s Geography Subject Leader as they had recently been looking at cold environments and to give them a flavour of the Arctic Alive programme.  This proved to me that, although the lessons are very much tailored towards Key Stage 2, there is still scope to use this amazing resource with younger pupils, providing the deliverer has some in-depth knowledge and understanding of the region and is confident and prepared to digress from the detailed lesson plans that are included.

Gill looked at ice, ice and more ice and the role that melting ice plays in climate change at both poles.

Her session began with pupils conducting a simple experiment together to determine which type of melting ice contributes to sea level rise.  Half the class put ice into a beaker of water, whilst the other half carefully balanced ice on a gauze over a beaker and both marked the level of the water.  Pupils then has to be patient and wait to see what happened.

In the meantime, pupil’s knowledge of the North and South Poles and the wider Arctic and Antarctica  was tested via the ‘Poles Apart’ activity from Week 1 of WWW’s scheme of work (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/teaching-resources/). Afterwards, Gill focused on the role of melting ice in climate change.  She looked at the different kinds of ice (ice sheet; icebergs; glaciers and sea ice) with the children and considered the importance of the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, including how much sea level might rise if they melted and the global impact that this could have.

Later, pupils returned to their experiment to find out what had happened; they concluded that icebergs, which are melting and are already in the sea, do not lead to sea level rise, but melting ice on land, such as glaciers and ice sheets, add water to the oceans and do trigger a rise in sea level.

Gill rounded off the session with a fun comparison of different polar expeditions using WWW’s explorer sleeping bag race.  It was the Arctic versus the Antarctic and the old versus the new; looking at how expeditions to the poles have changed between the 1800s and today and the impact of climatic conditions upon individuals’ ability to travel to and from the poles.

Gill was really impressed with the participation and knowledge of the children.

After pupils had ‘experienced’ the Arctic with both myself and Gill, they returned to their classroom and discussed what they had learnt with their teacher.  I imagine that there will be some follow-up work targeting a few areas of the curriculum later this week!

Feedback from both teachers and pupils was very positive and makes the time and effort in coordinating and delivering such workshops all the more worthwhile:

‘A fascinating day yesterday.  Thank you so much.  Please pass on our thanks to Gill as well.  I loved the mixture of activities – all very engaging and, as we all know, children learn best when they are enjoying themselves.’ (Year 4 teacher)

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