What a day, and blessed with some warm, fine weather too!
After a successful application for funding from the Frederick Soddy Trust (https://www.rgs.org/in-the-field/in-the-field-grants/teacher-grants/frederick-soddy-schools-award/), 54 Year 6 pupils and their teachers from Dunalley Primary School (http://www.dunalley.gloucs.sch.uk/) arrived on Monday 20th May at the Tom Roberts Adventure Centre (TRAC) (https://www.tracnewent.org.uk/) for a ‘geography day’ with a difference. Rather than being in the classroom or investigating their local area, the children had the opportunity to explore a contrasting locality, e.g. a rural rather than an urban environment.
We began with a ‘starter’ altogether in the Conference Centre. Here, Sarah Burtwell, the Manager at TRAC, provided a warm welcome and shared health and safety considerations with staff and pupils. Afterwards, I outlined the learning objectives (which very much focused upon the geographical skills and fieldwork section of the National Curriculum for geography at Key Stage 2) and structure of the day. Pupils were allocated to one of four groups, namely willow, horse chestnut, silver birch and oak and our scoring system for the day was explained. At the end of each activity, a winning group would be identified and points awarded accordingly; points meant prizes at the end of the workshop! We also considered ‘What makes a great geographer?’ and I delved into my box of geographical delights to provide some ideas. The small bag of dog biscuits really flummoxed the children (used as a float for measuring the velocity of flow within a river)! Each group was then requested to write down five things that they wished to achieve today on the post-it notes that they had been given. After a few minutes, a teacher went and ‘interviewed’ them. Later, each teacher was called upon to share their discoveries with everyone else. Some of the things that pupils wished to achieve during the day can be seen below:
Pupils then rotated around four different activities, either led by myself or a member of staff from Dunalley Primary School.
Activity 1: Map and compass skills was my responsibility. To begin with, we made use a local OS map and compass to determine north. Next, we played the ‘Ship Ahoy’ game to check understanding of the eight points of the compass, e.g. N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW. The youngsters loved this and asked if they could play it again! Prior to the event, I accessed Digimap for Schools (https://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/) to download a base map of the centre and identified 15 suitable locations to hide coloured ‘pebbles’ within the centre’s grounds. Each group of three pupils was given a copy of this map. When they arrived at each location, they found a question to answer, which related to a local OS map and tested their ability to use four and six figure grid references, recognise OS map symbols and consider distance and direction. Pupils were expected to record their answers on the sheet provided. The first group to answer all 15 questions correctly was declared the winning team!
Activity 2: Investigating biodiversity in woodland was under the guidance of Karen. Firstly, she shared an OS map of the forest area and then discussed with pupils what they might see, hear and smell in this area. They then embarked upon a woodland sensory walk, where Karen also encouraged pupils to think about how the forest made them feel. After discussing the process of sampling and data collection, pupils worked in pairs, identified a suitable sampling area (PE hoop) and used a variety of methods (sketch; label; list; tally; photograph) to record what plants and animals they could see within their hoop. The children enjoyed using the magnifying glasses and pooters to assist them too.
Drew led Activity 3: Traditional tales – settings in woodlands. Prior to their visit to TRAC, pupils had read ‘Du Iz Tak?’ by Carson Ellis and talked about the language spoken between the insects (What are they saying?; How do you know?; Why doesn’t the bug on the last page recognise the new seedling?). Using the book and the nature around for them for inspiration, pupils were asked to recreate one of the scenes from the story. With natural artefacts and string, sellotape, etc., pupils managed to construct forts in trees, holes or ditches. They then produced an animation or took photographs using iPads and plastic insects. The children were even challenged to use sound to replicate the insects’ language!
Supervised by Neil, pupils worked in small groups and, employing simple fieldwork and observational skills, undertook a journey, attaching artefacts that they discovered en route, e.g. leaves, petals, bark, to the strip of card that they have been given. Digital cameras and iPads enabled them to take photographs too. The children were encouraged to use a compass to take photographs of the view from N, S, E and W, as well as utilise the ‘macro’ setting to take images from a bird’s eye/bug’s eye view. On their return, each small group was asked to describe their journey verbally to the other groups. Once back at school, it is hoped that this activity may lead to the production of a piece of descriptive writing (senses and emotions included).
After lunch and ‘free play’, we all willingly rose to the challenge of den building. In their ‘tree’ groups, pupils had to make use of the materials provided by the centre, along with any others that they could source nearby, to build a shelter as sturdy and waterproof as possible in just 30 minutes. Great teamwork was certainly required at this point. One of the Year 6 teachers enjoyed seeking revenge with his water testing too!
To bring the day to a close, we all returned to the Conference Centre. Here, the children shared their experiences/learning with teachers recording their thoughts. I then reviewed the learning objectives and identified learning outcomes. I also asked pupils if they had achieved all the things that they listed at the start of the day. Their responses were extremely positive. Formal ‘thank yous’ were said to Sarah at TRAC and all the teachers involved. Due to time constraints, it was decided to save the presentation of badges/certificates/awards until their return to school or during assembly the next day.
I look forward to hearing about, and seeing, some of the work that takes place following our eventful and enjoyable day at TRAC.
‘Thanks for yesterday – it really was a great day and all the children had a wonderful time.’
‘Was a really lovely day – have had lots of great comments back from the staff who came as well as the children. Thanks again for supporting and hope to see you soon.’