Virtual Primary Humanities Network meeting (Term 6); ‘Taking learning outside the classroom’.


At the request of many individuals, I managed to squeeze in another virtual Primary Humanities Network meeting before the end of the academic year.  The theme for our meeting was ‘Taking learning outside the classroom: Developing geographical skills and fieldwork opportunities and ideas for local history studies’.  If this was a face-to-face session, then I would usually take teachers outside and have them trialling a few of the suggested quick, easy and cost-effective fieldwork activities that I planned to share with them this afternoon.  However, as we were virtual today, I was a little restricted with what I could actually get participants to do.

To begin with, I outlined the aims and structure of the afternoon, namely:

Next, I drew attention to some of the latest developments from Ofsted, the leading subject associations, such as the Geographical Association (GA) (, Royal Geographical Society (RGS) ( and Historical Association (HA) ( and organisations, as well as useful websites and resources that I have come across in recent weeks.

In terms of Ofsted and the Education Inspection Framework (EIF), I suggested that participants regularly viewed the various links below:

The latest version of Teach Primary, published by Teachwire, has some superb articles.  Do have a read of Dr Helen Edwards’ ‘What do they want?’, written after she had reviewed 100 Ofsted reports and which picks out what inspectors are looking for and how to utilise this unique period to get there (  I also drew attention to an announcement about the EYFS reforms that had appeared on Gloucestershire’s Schoolsnet Bulletin Board last week; there will be some ‘early adopters’ of this from September 2020, but it will become statutory for all schools from September 2021 (

The GA have been continually adding to the ‘Geography from home’ section of their website (, and, along with HES School Improvement Services (, have compiled a table of links related to home learning for primary geography.  Richard Hatwood wrote an article for ‘The Start Gallery’ of the summer edition of Primary Geography, entitled ‘Focus on how the world works’, which suggests a number of activities that could be set for pupils to follow at home or in school to aid them in beginning to understand our global connections.  I love the ideas provided in the GA’s ‘Engage, enjoy, explore being at home’ too (; there are a range of hands-on activities that require minimum use of screens and/or pen and paper, as well as encouraging pupils to think more widely about the world and their place within it.  These could easily be conducted in school.  What is great is that the activities attempt to limit, where possible, the need for adult input, thus promoting independent learning, whilst maintaining rigorous academics and remain engaging and enjoyable.  The GA has also responded to the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaigns and protests, emphasising that geography has a distinct role in relation to issues, such as racism and inequality, and that one of its strategic objectives over the next five years will be to ‘promote greater diversity in geography education and the Association’ (  This also links closely with ‘cultural capital’, a key feature of Ofsted’s EIF.  WorldWise Week 2020 resources, pursing the theme from the GA’s Annual Conference, ‘Geography really matters’, can be downloaded from their website (  WorldWise Week is scheduled for the last week in June, but this resource pack could be easily used at other times of the year and has a great section on primary fieldwork.  In addition, there is open access until the end of the academic year to the GA’s ‘Critical thinking in the classroom’ area, which is an effective means of providing ‘stretch and challenge’ (  Here, the section entitled ‘Critical thinking and fieldwork’ is well worth exploring.  Rebecca Kitchen also discusses ‘Critical thinking for achievement’ in the first episode of GeogPod, the GA’s podcast (  CPD packs have been recently introduced by the GA that are designed for teachers to use in-school with colleagues.  Each pack contains a range of practical activities that are flexible to suit different contexts, the amount of time that is available and a school’s needs.  Unfortunately, there is not one related to ‘geographical skills and fieldwork’ specifically, but it was hoped that attendees would gain plenty of ideas to take back to school and share with other staff during our meeting today.

Simon Ross and John Davidson have worked tirelessly to launch geography southwest, a resource hub for teachers and students in the south west of England (  There is a section of the website dedicated to fieldwork, with some activities being able to be quickly adapted for use with younger pupils.  I have been asked to have some input into the primary area of the website and would recommend accessing the ‘Primary News’ page on a regular basis (

Radio Gloucestershire’s Ourboretum campaign to grow 2020 trees from seed to sapling is certainly one for schools in the county to become involved with (

WWF have launched a free certificated training that gives a starting point for how educators and schools can help shape a sustainable future through a whole-school approach to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).  Teaching professionals will learn how to prepare students to survive and thrive in the changing world and gain a toolkit for driving positive change within and beyond the school community.  You can register and start your learning pathway at

Global Dimension have just advertised their new wall planner, which earmarks key days and dates around the world (  Again, this has strong links to ‘cultural capital’, as well as promoting global learning.

The Pearson World Changer Awards, which will open later this year, celebrate the children and young people who are taking their learning to the next level to make a positive and tangible impact on the world beyond the classroom (  Do have a look at how to become involved and download the FREE World Changer Activity Kit aimed at 5-11 year olds.

When reading the latest edition of Teach Primary magazine, my attention was also drawn to Adam Jevon-Newman’s article, ‘Let your pupils book your next holiday’, which also integrates topical issues, e.g. coronavirus pandemic, impact on tourism, increase in ‘staycations’, reducing our global footprint; Carey Fluker Hunt’s ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’, a Dr Seuss inspired project to help older pupils make sense of the present and feel hopeful about the future and Vashti Hardy’s ‘Draw your own fantasy story map’, demonstrating how geography, English and art and design can be brought together (  I was also pointed in the direction of the book, ‘Every Second’, which gives a striking portrait of our world in numbers and makes statistics fun and accessible to children.  This could be easily used to promote cross-curricular links between geography and numeracy/maths (  Whilst perusing Twitter recently, I came across Jennifer Holder’s tweet (  Her attempt to use Padlet to identify books suitable for Key Stage 1 pupils can be seen here:  This is likely to be an ongoing project and could be really insightful to Subject Leaders when promoting ‘reading across the curriculum’ links.

The HA has also responded to the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign; it emphasises that tackling racism is a continuing dialogue (  It has also been expanding its ‘resource sharing hub’ to host home-learning resources that the history community have created during this challenging time (  New schemes of work have been added to the primary curriculum section of their website too; George Stephenson and the development of railways for Key Stage 1 and The Elizabethans for Key Stage 2 ( and

The HA has advertised a series of primary subject knowledge webinars, some of which are FREE to HA members (; whilst there does not appear to be one based around local history studies, there are several linked to popular themes covered in schools.  In light of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the HA has made the decision to postpone their Teacher Fellowship programme until next spring.  The residential will now take place in late April 2021 with the rest of the programme to follow in the summer term.  Given the circumstances and rescheduling of the programme, they have also extended the application deadline to Monday 2 November to allow teachers more time to apply (  This is a fully funded programme for primary teachers focused on developing the teaching of local history, in partnership with the British Association for Local History.  At the heart of the programme is the concept of integrating local history into the classroom through the stories of the people and places which make the history of your school’s community exciting and unique.  Through the lens of local history, this fellowship will explore a variety of time periods and a range of sources and approaches, including the built environment, local museum collections, archival documents and digital resources.  Participants will work with historians, archivists and primary education specialists to explore the myriad ways in which local history can be incorporated into their teaching practice.  The course will be led by Bev Forrest, Chair of the Historical Association’s Primary Committee and an experienced primary history teacher and trainer.  I would advise all History Subject Leaders to take a more detailed look at this programme and see if this is something that they could commit to.

The Young Quills Awards for Historical Fiction are organised by the HA annually and aim to recognise the best in historical fiction for young people (  Publishers are encouraged to nominate their new, historical fiction books, copies of these books are sent to schools and the subsequent young peoples’ reviews help the HA to create a shortlist that is passed onto the judges. This year, the HA has had to make a few changes, including opening the competition to all under the age of 18 years old.  Not only is a list of books suitable for 10-13 year olds provided, but also a great scaffold for supporting younger pupils in writing a book review.  This is a great means of promoting reading across the curriculum and writing for a purpose.  It would be a great activity for children to attempt during the first couple of weeks of the summer holidays or you might decide to run a similar competition in school at the start of the next academic year.

From 17th July 2020, an updated version of Teachit History’s year planner will be available. This contains hyperlinks to topical, downloadable resources and will help you prepare for the year ahead.  Each of the featured events is linked to a relevant resource; although this is targeted at KS3, there is no reason why some resources could not be differentiated for use with upper Key Stage 2 pupils.  Why not download it to your desktop or print for your class noticeboard? (

Furthermore, Nikki Gamble’s article in the June edition of Teach Primary, ‘How do we know?’, exemplifies how history and English can be combined with great results and is worth reading (

I paused for a few minutes to enable participants to make notes or explore some of the links that I had shared.  It also gave me an opportunity to answer any questions that attendees had and to elaborate on comments that had been left in the meeting’s chat feed.

Next, it was time for teachers to do some work!  I posed the following question, ‘What makes a great geographer?’ and a number of comments were instantly added to the chat feed.

We then looked at the National Curriculum geography programmes of study for Key Stages 1 and 2 (  I focused on ‘geographical skills and fieldwork’ and explained what progression might look like from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2.  The latter is also clearly shown in the GA’s latest version of their progression framework for geography and definitely worth purchasing via their online shop (

Part of the GA’s website concentrates on fieldwork (  I directed teachers to their content on ‘Fieldwork and the National Curriculum’ and ‘Fieldwork ideas and resources’.

Afterwards, I showcased a range of quick, easy and cost-effective fieldwork suggestions, many of which I have used time and time again with pupils of all ages.  Why not use a KWHL grid to initiate an enquiry (pupil-led learning)?  David Weatherly always distributes his ‘Working as a geographer’ and ‘Progression in geography’ sheets at the annual regional conferences that he delivers.  The latter clearly illustrates the range of skills that children should develop over time, e.g. from simply recognising, identifying, describing, observing and selecting at Key Stage 1 to justifying, applying, evaluating, critiquing and hypothesising by the end of upper Key Stage 2.  His Primary Connected Geography series contains a unit on rivers, which includes an opportunity to take learning outside the classroom (  I adapted this for use with 60 Year 4 pupils at St. James’ C of E Primary School in Cheltenham; they undertook basic river measurements and made observations at two sites along Blackpool Brook in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, namely Mallards Pike and then further downstream at Wenchford.  ‘Geographical glasses’ is a great activity for developing observation skills and promoting discussion.  I talked about instances when this had been used and explained how it could be incorporated with the ‘secret street detectives’ activity.  A while ago, Helen Martin wrote an article in Primary Geography about ‘Go the extra mile’ (  Teachit Geography have a similar activity on their website (  I also shared an abridged version that one school had done locally.   Andrea Mosaic is a free project to create digital art using images and computer software enabling you to produce photographic mosaics made with your own pictures (  Not only is it easy to use, but the results can be hugely eye-catching and thought-provoking.

Digimap for Schools is FREE for schools to access until the end of the academic year, so I gave participants a few pointers as to what they ought to do between now and then (  The newer version allows users to explore at the global scale.  There is a library of resources to tap into, with new ones being added as we speak.  I showcased how I had made use of Digimap for Schools to create plan views and detailed maps of the local environment to support fieldwork.

We also discussed journey sticks (, environmental quality surveys (, ‘missions’ (, and and literacy-based local enquiries (  Den Day is a great means of getting young people outside, as well as raising money to change children’s lives around the world (; it could even tick the ‘cultural capital’ box too!

Rising Stars’ new geography and history offering is very much enquiry-led and includes many opportunities to take learning outside the classroom (  It is possible to download a curriculum map and a breakdown of both geography and history units to gain further insight into this.  There is also a section tailored to the local area on Oddizzi’s website, which provides ideas for geographical enquiry in the immediate vicinity of school and home (

The Frederick Soddy Schools Award enables establishments to apply for financial support to facilitate fieldwork (  To date, I have helped numerous schools with their applications (not too arduous) and all have been successful in gaining funding to enable ‘geography days’ or other fieldwork activities to take place.  I focused on three case studies at different key stages to exemplify the impact that fieldwork can have on both teachers and pupils (Hempsted C of E Primary School in Gloucester; Dunalley Primary School in Cheltenham and Drybrook Primary School near Lydney in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire; and

Stephen Scoffham, Paula Owens, Peter Vujakovic and Alexandra Bass have all been involved in the ‘Meaningful Maps’ project, which they wrote about in the Summer 2020 edition of Primary Geography.  They are now embarking upon the second stage of the project, so do keep your eyes peeled for further information, e.g. Twitter, GA’s website.  In the same journal, Rebecca Morris shares her ‘Adventures of local place with Digimap’; she modernised a scheme of work to show that adventure is on our doorstep and exploration just a short walk away.  Both ideas could easily be replicated by many schools.  Mapwork is often a challenge for many teachers at Key Stage 1, but, here, Abbie Tedd shares a guided enquiry into map-making, sparked by Year 1’s curiosity about maps, and shows how exploring and engaging with maps really does help us to explain how our world works.

In order to ensure any History Subject Leaders in attendance this afternoon did not feel forgotten, I provided several ideas for local history studies.  After visiting the National Curriculum History Programmes of Study for Key Stages 1 and 2 to identify the specific requirements that need to be met, I pinpointed a number of relevant schemes of work on the HA’s website (  I ‘zoomed in’ on a few units to illustrate the detail each contained and their National Curriculum links.  The HA also has a new set of resources exploring significant individuals in different regions across the country (  Basing a local study around an individual is a great way to bring the heritage of your locality to life.   HA members can use the map to search their local area.  This is an ongoing project, so do look out for new resources over the coming months.

Alf Wilkinson’s article in the summer 2020 edition of the HA’s Primary History entitled ‘What can you tell about the Vikings from a chess piece?’ explores the role of artefacts in the classroom.  Towards the end, there is a list of possible questions to ask an artefact; these could be applied to any photograph, image, diary extract, etc.

Bev Forrest wrote a piece for Teachwire’s website concerning local history as an effective vehicle for developing Key Stage 1 pupils’ skills related to enquiry and the use of sources (  She includes a case study from Stuart Boydell at King Edward’s School in Bath, in which he and Year 2 pupils investigate their school building to see if it dates back to the Victorian era.

The summer 2019 edition of Primary History took the theme of diversity, a key topic for discussion at this moment in time (  Within this journal, there are also some brilliant suggestions for local history studies at Key Stage 1 and 2;  ‘Emerging historians in the outdoors’ focuses on EYFS ( and ‘Using a house for your local history study’ (  In an earlier edition that same year, Tim Lomas writes about ‘Teaching local history through a family’ (, a good way of getting around a sometimes rather delicate topic.

I suggested that local schools should make contact with the Gloucestershire Heritage Hub ( once it reopens after lockdown, in addition to exploring the wealth of online resources that are presently available to access for FREE (  John Putley and colleagues were really supportive when I was leading an HLF WW1 centenary project back in 2014-2015; historic maps, plans, photographs, extracts from parish magazines and school log books were accessed to uncover some fascinating details about life in the village of Hempsted between 1914 and 1918.  Further insight into the incredible achievements of pupils, staff and members of the local community can be gained by viewing various posts at  I also played a photo story that was produced; a picture really does say a thousand words!  Afterwards, many teachers were keen to delve into their own school’s log books to see how they might use these as inspiration for a very personalised local history study.  Additionally, the Gloucester Culture Trust’s website has a brochure to download, which can help teachers to find out what resources, trip opportunities and support are available from cultural, arts and heritage venues across the city of Gloucester (

We took a break for refreshments and I allocated 30 minutes for individuals to explore some of the suggested web-links and resources at their leisure.  I challenged participants to a teaching and learning ‘mission’ to stimulate some sharing of best practice.  There were some great contributions given via the chat feed and subsequent informal discussion.

I brought the afternoon to a close with two plenary activities, namely ‘Next steps’ and ‘Feedback: E-mail or chat feed’:

Some attendees’ ‘concluding comments‘ can be seen below:

‘Thank you for another really useful session.  Lots of ideas and things to work on again.’

‘Thanks for another great course, the fieldwork ideas were really useful and the case studies are perfect examples.’

‘Thank you again for today’s course.  So many useful ideas!’

‘Thank you, once again, for the informative session this afternoon.  I would also love to be kept in the loop about future sessions you might run virtually.  My school is in Manchester, so it is a bit out of the way, but I would love to join some more of your sessions on Zoom if you are running them in the next academic year.’ 

‘Thank you once again for the brilliant Primary Humanities Network meeting.  I love how much ground you have covered in a relatively short amount of time and it has pointed me in the direction of lots of useful resources and journals.’

‘Thanks again for a very useful session.  I have been able to overhaul our geography curriculum over the past few months thanks to your sessions.  As always, today’s session has been extremely useful in directing me towards informative resources, and I really appreciate majority of them are free (as you know schools have a very limiting budget!).  I always leave the meetings desperate to implement something you have introduced to us.’

‘I have been really panicking about taking on geography in my school as it needs lots of development, but this is so helpful.  Thank you!’

‘Thank you for the great ideas again today.  I found the last session really useful, and this one too!’

‘I’ve learnt so much this afternoon and it’s given lots of ideas how to develop things across my school.  Thank you.’

‘A great help; thanks everyone.  So glad you got in touch via Facebook too.  Thanks.’

‘Useful; informative; helpful; much needed.’

‘A very informative session with lots of ideas and things to investigate.  I feel motivated to explore the links and ideas further.’

‘Informative; helpful; supportive; cross-curricular; reassuring.’

‘Excellent, informative ideas to create a strong geography and history intent, based on journals, research and experience!  Thank you.’

‘Practical; supportive; informative; inspirational and great for networking.  Really happy that you are going to offer online/recorded sessions.  Will be so helpful.  Thank you so much, Emma.’

‘Supportive; comprehensive; motivating.’

‘Thank you for today’s session.  Informative and very useful!  So many brilliant ideas with regards to geography fieldwork that I will now try to implement in school.  I’m pleased to hear that you will continue with the online courses – there is nothing like this available in Nottinghamshire!  Thanks again, Emma.’

‘I thoroughly enjoyed the session and learnt a huge amount.  Many thanks.’

‘So many great ideas.  Thank you.’

‘Great take away ideas.  Thank you.’

‘Inspiring; helpful; supportive; clear; concise.’

‘This has been brilliant; the support was perfect timing as new History Lead.’

‘Thank you, a wonderful session.  Please let me know when your next webinar is, I am learning so much from them.’

‘The session was interesting, informative, useful and thought-provoking.’

‘Thank you for the training that you delivered yesterday.  It was fantastic.  I was able to take so many ideas on board from you and the other teachers.  Look forward to more sessions with you.’

‘I just wanted to say a huge thank you for the Primary Humanities Network meeting yesterday.  New to coordinating geography it gave me an opportunity to sit back and think about what my next steps would be.  There was so much useful information which I am looking forward to delving into a little more over the summer and getting my head around.  I definitely feel that your meetings are going to become an important part of my subject coordination – thank you.’

‘I hope today’s meeting went well.  Apologies again that I could not attend live.  Thank you for sending over the recording.  It’s much appreciated.  I’ll have a read through the blog also.  Thank you again for these meetings.  They are very useful!’

‘Thank you for the zoom recording.  Another really useful session, lots to think about.’

‘Thank you very much for the training you did last week.  It was very useful as I am starting my role as Geography Subject Leader.’ 

‘I have only just got round to watching the most recent network meeting and I wanted to say a big thank you for once again making the content so interesting and useful.  I’m looking forward to feeding the ideas back to the staff at my school.’

Suggestions for future themes:

  • Assessment.
  • Book looks/scrutiny.
  • Progression of skills in geography and history.
  • How to plan for an enquiry-based topic.
  • Historical investigations and ideas.
  • Books as a hook for geography/books to support geography/history teaching.
  • Developing vocabulary.
  • Pupil voice.

A successful end to this academic year.  I intend to steer another meeting during the last week of September, most probably with assessment and moderation as foci.  Whether this takes place in situ and/or virtually is something that I will review immediately after the summer break.

Take care, stay safe and healthy and have a well-earned rest!













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