Term 2’s virtual Primary Humanities Network meeting goes European!


The benefits of taking our Primary Humanities Network meetings online are becoming visible … no longer do I simply reach out to teachers in Gloucestershire and neighbouring counties, but educational professionals from as far and wide as the Isles of Scilly and Geneva, Switzerland were able to join us this afternoon!

The foci for today’s meeting were very welcome in light of the current situation that we find ourselves in; ‘new websites and resources‘ and ‘promoting diversity in geography and history‘.  After introducing myself to the growing number of ‘newbies’ attending our meeting, I outlined the aims and format of the session, namely:

I began by discussing the latest developments relating to Ofsted (https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/schoolsnet/noticeboard/schoolsnet-bulletin-board/ofsted-update/ and https://www.tes.com/news/ofsted-moves-controversial-school-visits-online), before moving on to explore what the leading subject associations have been promoting of late (Geographical Association [GA]; Royal Geographical Society [RGS] and Historical Association [HA) (https://www.geography.org.uk/, https://www.rgs.org/ and https://www.history.org.uk/).  Within the GA’s last newsletter, there were some superb links to ‘everyday geography’ (including the global food crisis, its associated socio-economic and environmental impacts, and the possibility of bugs becoming part of our everyday diet), ‘geography matters’ (‘Are we losing our sense of place, and does it matter?’), FREE fieldwork ideas and resources, future CPD events, ‘member’s magic’ (Hawkinge Primary School’s Bloom’s hopscotch activity), Primary Geography Quality Mark (PGQM) developments (https://www.geography.org.uk/The-Primary-Geography-Quality-Mark-PGQM) and ‘geography in the News’ (jetting to the future, considering ‘What existing jobs might be revolutionised through the use of technology and how might geographical knowledge be needed?’).  There were a number of interesting pointers in the copy of the GA’s Magazine that landed on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago too, which I shared with participants (https://www.geography.org.uk/Journals/GA-Magazine).  These included ‘Decolonising the Geography Curriculum WhatsApp Group: supporting geography teachers’; ‘Introducing ERA’s new clip streaming service’ (https://era.org.uk/); ‘Let’s count, census 2021’ (https://letscount.org.uk/) and ‘Using historical images to develop geographical understanding’.  It also directed me to some new websites and resources, such as a short movie clip about how the world globe was made in 1955 (https://www.geography.org.uk/Journals/GA-Magazine), the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s coronavirus resource center map (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html), a window on the world in April 2020 (https://www.farandwide.com/s/view-from-my-window-d699c3f2663140c6), Arcgis’ SDGs today (https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/8946bbc4090749c2aa1b6c1c80999bc6), inspiration from the Australian Geography Teachers Association (AGTA) (https://www.agta.asn.au/) and a rather worrying wall of plastic (https://sloactive.com/plastic-pollution).

The RGS’ Plastic Citizen Project, aimed at encouraging students to look at how they and the world around them interacts with single use plastics, should be investigated (https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/plastic-citizen-shaping-the-future/).  In addition, to mark Black History Month, they have shared stories of black geographers from the 1800s to the present day, who have contributed to a better understanding of the world (https://www.rgs.org/geography/black-geographers/).  There is also an opportunity to listen to the lively conversation between Francisca Rockey, Founder and Activist, and Louis Smith Lassey, External Staff Officer, from the group, Black Geographers (https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/a-conversation-with-francisca-rockey-and-louis-smi).

So as not to exclude any History Subject Leaders in attendance, I relayed news from the education team at the HA too.  The HA has supported home learning through the provision of resources on their associated hubs.  Calls for decolonisation and diversification of the curriculum have been prominent over the summer too.  Whilst face-to-face events have had to be cancelled, they have upscaled their webinar provision.  The HA has also extended their successful Subject Leader area for primary corporate members, launched a new resource for supporting work on significant local individuals and there is now a themed catalogue of their Primary History journal, making it easier to access articles about a specific topic.  I dipped into a couple of new schemes of work (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/resource/9930/scheme-of-work-local-history-the-story-of-our-h and https://www.history.org.uk/primary/resource/7537), emphasised forthcoming CPD opportunities (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/789/news/3876/your-primary-cpd-calendar-2020, https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/668/resource/9959/webinar-recording-a-local-study-using-history-and and https://www.history.org.uk/events/calendar/6799/ha-webinar-his-story-or-her-story), provided an update on the Primary History Quality Mark (PHQM) (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/283/news/3881/quality-mark-covid-update-qm-is-re-starting) and displayed a copy of an article that had appeared in Primary History 86 regarding the setting up of a history club.

Beyond the leading subject associations, I have discovered numerous new websites and FREE resources over the past few weeks.  Do look at Teach Primary’s Book Awards winners for inspiration for class reads (https://www.teachwire.net/bookawards/winners).  The Teach Company Awards 2020 Awards also drew attention to a couple of books and resources; ‘Song of the River’ by Joy Cowley, The National Archives History Toolkit for Primary Schools and Eco-Schools At Home resources (https://www.theteachco.com/uploads/special-issues/TeachAwards2020.pdf).  If you are studying migration, then you must read ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ by Onjali Rauf; Teachwire magazine has a double-page spread on how this modern classic can be used to promote empathy and compassion in the classroom (https://www.teachwire.net/assets/flippingbook/Teach-Reading–Writing/).  A great new read for lower Key Stage 2+ pupils linked to the Victorians and London is Catherine Bruton’s ‘Another Twist in the Tale’ (https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1788005996).  If you are studying ‘space’ and are keen to incorporate some Black History into your topic work, then why not contemplate ‘Look Up!’ by Nathan Byron and Teachwire’s accompanying PDF with a range of activities (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Look-Up-Nathan-Bryon/dp/0241345847/ and https://www.teachwire.net/teaching-resources/books-for-topics-ks1-2-learn-about-black-history-and-astronaut-mae-jemison-with-look-up)?  Teach Primary has some successful strategies for vocabulary development here: https://www.teachitprimary.co.uk/teaching-and-learning/primary-vocabulary-curriculum and their ‘Closing the word gap: activities for the classroom’ is well worth delving into (https://www.teachitprimary.co.uk/wordgap-activities).  The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) has just published their third ‘Reflecting Realities’ report, which looks at diversity in children’s literature (https://clpe.org.uk/publications-and-bookpacks/reflecting-realities).  Rather shockingly, only 7% of the children’s books published in the UK over the last 3 years (2017, 2018, 2019) feature characters from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background.  Whilst there has been some positive progress over the past three years (2017-2019), there still remains a long way to go before representation in children’s books and publishing mirrors UK society.   As teachers, we should be conscious of this and do all we can to address the issue.  Their website also contains a brilliant blog post by Farrah Serroukh, entitled ‘Beyond Black History Month – Integrating the study of black historical figures into the mainstream primary curriculum through literature’ (https://clpe.org.uk/blog/2020/beyond-black-history-month-integrating-study-black-historical-figures-mainstream-primary).

Are you thinking about ‘taking learning outside the classroom’?  Why not consider BP’s ultimate STEM challenge: a home for nature? (https://bpes.bp.com/ultimate-stem-challenge).  The National Schools Partnership has recently launched ‘The Edit: Be the change, shape it’, a digital storytelling challenge unlocking opportunity for young people of all backgrounds in the digital world (https://nationalschoolspartnership.com/initiatives/the-edit/).  If you are responsible for steering eco-initiatives within school or School Council, then you may find it useful to peruse the following document: https://worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/resource/talking-to-young-people-about-climate-change/.  There are some fantastic new resources emerging with a climate change focus too: https://worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/campaign/2020-climate-campaign.  Why not try and mark ‘Remembrance Day for Lost Species’ on 30th November 2020 (https://globaldimension.org.uk/event/remembrance-day-for-lost-species/2020-11-30/)?  Global Dimension’s website also highlights some climate related initiatives; https://www.climate-action.info/, https://www.aimhi.co/climate-course and https://www.ceebill.uk/.  Greenpeace’s ‘There’s a monster in my kitchen’ is an empowering resource for 7-11 year olds, which educates pupils on how industrial meat farming is causing deforestation (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1vYWalBtqiwYAmpVs76tvGO96giPTDqKx).  This cross-curricular programme could be delivered as a stand-alone lesson or in conjunction with a Greenpeace Speaker visit, Covid-19 permitting, of course (www.act.gp/speakers).  Although we are coming towards the end of the British Council’s International Education Week 2020, its ‘Climate change’ and ‘Around the world’ resources should certainly be examined (https://www.britishcouncil.org/school-resources/international-education-week).  Jamia Wilson’s ‘Big ideas for Young Thinkers’ teaches children to train their busy minds and think outside the box (https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0711249202).  It has a couple of chapters whose questions link closely with diversity, in addition to highlighting the diverse range of thinkers that exist.  Digimap for Schools is continually adding FREE new resources to its online library (http://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/); look at the ones named ‘Locational knowledge for Primary’ (I wrote these with Simon Catling over the summer).  Keep visiting geography southwest’s primary section too, especially its ‘Primary News’ page, as items are uploaded each month (https://www.geographysouthwest.co.uk/primary/).  New, editable geography and history knowledge organisers with mini-quizzes can be found here: https://www.mracdpresent.com/history-geography-resources.  The mini quizzes consist of multiple-choice questions to help aid the retrieval of key facts from the knowledge organisers.  Do bear in mind what has been said about knowledge organisers in previous meetings.  The CREWS project has just released FREE teaching materials on ‘Writing in the Ancient World’.  These include teaching packs, cartoons and ideas for play sessions, all designed with Key Stage 2 in mind.  They are also offering FREE online training and workshops for teachers (https://crewsproject.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/free-teaching-materials-writing-in-the-ancient-world/).  If you are wanting a local history link, then visit the following page: https://www.younggreatwesterners.com/teacher/staying-on-track.  Although I do not use my iPad to its maximum capacity, I did gain a few suggestions as to how I might benefit more by reading Apple’s ‘30 time-saving tips for teachers’ (https://education-static.apple.com/geo/uk/education/2020/tips-for-teachers/ipad-teacher-activities.pdf).

After a short break to explore some of the afore-mentioned websites and resources, I progressed to the main part of our meeting.  Firstly, we considered what diversity is.

Some participants’ responses can be found below, demonstrating much consensus in their understanding of the term:

Diversity is …

  • our world.
  • essential.
  • understanding that we are all unique individuals with our own qualities.
  • celebrating differences.
  • treating everybody equally.
  • representing all races, religions, gender and abilities/disabilities.
  • including all.
  • inclusive.
  • acceptance and acknowledgement of difference.
  • an understanding that everyone is important and unique.
  • embracing everyone.
  • a range of different backgrounds.
  • including or involving people from a range of different backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations.
  • understanding and accepting that people in our world are different, but no less equal to each other.
  • understanding our differences and similarities.
  • involving and including people from a range of social and ethnic backgrounds.
  • recognising that everyone is unique and our individual differences.
  • understanding and accepting differences. 
  • including differences in social, economic and gender.
  • gender and different socio groups.

I shared some adult and child-friendly definitions, before analysing what the leading subject associations have to say about diversity.  The GA’s Strategic Plan for 2020-2025 includes three aims and objectives, one of which focuses on ‘creating a more inclusive and sustainable geography education community’ and ‘promoting greater diversity in geography education and the Association’ (https://www.geography.org.uk/Journals/GA-Magazine).  In the same magazine, Alan Kinder, Chief Executive, and Susan Pike, the current President, write about ‘From compassion to action, through geography education’ in the section entitled ‘Policy matters’.  The latest edition of Teaching Geography has a thought-provoking and informative article written by Charlotte Milner about ‘classroom strategies for tackling the whiteness of geography’ (https://www.geography.org.uk/Journals/Teaching-geography).  GeogPod, the GA’s podcast, is often more relevant to secondary teachers and above.  However, episodes 12 and 13 may well be worth listening to as they discuss the issues around diversity within geography and defining and decolonising the subject (https://www.geography.org.uk/GeogPod-The-GAs-Podcast).  This quarter’s Primary Geography journal also mentioned diversity; take a look at ‘Fundamental British Values: Geography’s contribution to understanding difference’ by Fatima Pirbhai-Illich and Fran Martin and ‘Democracy in the classroom’ by Lily Smith (https://www.geography.org.uk/Journals/Primary-Geography).  Further insight into British Values and geography can be gleaned by visiting the following pages of the GA’s website: https://www.geography.org.uk/teaching-resources/british-values-geography.  A useful resource for Key Stage 2 teachers is ‘The UK: Investigating who we are’, part of the Geography Plus series (https://www.geography.org.uk/Shop/Geography-Plus-The-UK-Investigating-who-we-are/9781843772712).  In their ‘Critical thinking in practice’ guide, there is an activity called ‘Odd one out’, which helps to identify communality and reflect on difference (https://www.geography.org.uk/Critical-thinking-in-the-classroom).  I explained this in more detail, before exemplifying how it had been employed successfully within a primary classroom.  Other approaches highlighted within this guide were utilised during a recent multi-schools event, which took 248 children and 20 staff from five schools across the Gloucestershire/South Gloucestershire/Bristol area on a ‘scintillating South American adventure’ (https://create2inspire.co.uk/2020/10/15/lets-go-on-a-scintillating-south-american-adventure/).  Whilst the day explored the tropical rainforest ecosystem, deforestation and climate change, attention was also given to the indigenous people and their culture, beliefs and way of life; an effective means of highlighting how diverse our planet is.  Teachers were in awe of what had been achieved within a single day and many expressed an interest in being involved in the next multi-schools event.

The Autumn edition of the HA’s Primary History journal also concentrated on diversity; ‘On Black Lives Matter’ by Jake Subryan Richards and ‘History in the news – George Floyd protest in Bristol: Colston statue toppled’ by Paul Bracey (https://www.history.org.uk/publications/categories/299/resource/9943/primary-history-86).  The HA’s website has a whole section on diversity: ‘How diverse is your history curriculum?’ is an ideal starting point, posing many questions for professionals to ask themselves, before providing a number of links and websites suitable for primary teachers.  We looked at some of these in more detail, as well as attempting a short activity based around four historical images (https://www.history.org.uk/publications/categories/299/resource/9647/primary-history-summer-resource-2019-diversity, https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/7/resource/9102/why-is-diversity-so-important-and-how-can-we-appro, https://www.history.org.uk/publications/resource/9818/migration-to-britain-through-time, https://www.history.org.uk/publications/resource/9210/ideas-for-assemblies-refugee-stories, https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/455/news/3848/tackling-racism-a-continuing-dialogue and https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/7/resource/9343/womens-history-month-female-voices).  The latter activity stimulated much higher-order thinking among teachers:

  • No representation of other ethnic groups in the RAF.
  • Mary Seacole is the only black face.
  • Our history is very white-centered.
  • All are white except one (who is a woman).
  • It looks predominantly like white history – even the image of Mary Seacole has been made to look white.
  • Not clear of Mary Secaole’s race due to it being a black and white picture.
  • White, middle-class history.
  • Not very gender or colour diverse.
  • Elizabeth is being walked in by a man.
  • The pictures/paintings were most likely to have all been taken/painted by white men.
  • The women look decorated, the men are ‘doing’ things.
  • Viking raiders – suggestion on overseas invasion being negative.
  • Vikings portrayed as fighters.

As part of the ‘Shaping the Future’ project, NBHA has developed educational resource material linked to the National Curriculum, enabling the teaching of Black British History in the classroom.  Five titles have been produced that can be used by teachers in both primary and secondary schools since they include Black British History in children’s learning, thus providing a gateway of resources and allowing teachers to develop their own activities in relation to the National Curriculum at a range of levels.  The activities in each pack refer to a selection of original document sources and photographs and can be utilised to develop and strengthen historical enquiry skills.  Some are FREE, whilst others are available to purchase directly from NBHA or Amazon (https://www.northamptonshireblackhistory.com/education).

We took a break for refreshments and I gave participants time to explore the many web-links and resources that I had previously emphasised.  Whilst they were busy doing this, I answered any questions that individuals had, as well as responded to comments typed in the chat feed.  It was lovely to see that teachers had replied to each other’s comments too; a means of sharing best practice during these very strange and uncertain times.

After thirty minutes, I brought everyone together for the ‘plenary’.  Here, we completed the below activity and shared our thoughts afterwards via an open discussion and the chat feed.  Majority appeared to have learnt lots from the session and could identify several items that they found particularly interesting.  I tried to ensure that any remaining questions were answered too.  However, if anyone had a question that had not been answered, then they were urged to send me an e-mail and I would respond within the next day or so.

Finally, I asked for the usual feedback:

Attendee’s ‘concluding comments’ can be viewed below.  A productive way to spend a Friday afternoon in Lockdown 2, it seems!

‘Always a useful, relevant and thought-provoking session, with a chance to network with other teachers and led by a super-knowledgeable, but practical practitioner.’

‘Awesome resources and links!’

‘FULL of ideas for me to plough through and send out to staff.’

‘A super informative session, as always!’

‘Very useful and informative; great ideas.’

‘Very informative, clear and precise.  Has given me loads to think about – thanks!’

‘Very useful and informative, with great links to explore and food for thought.’

‘Useful, informative and thought provoking.’

‘A huge diversity of resources.  Thank you.’

‘Informative; resourceful; lots to read.’

‘Lots of ideas to take away and explore.’

‘Informative for someone new to this Subject Leader role.’

‘Very informative and lots of great, interesting information.’

‘Useful information, resources and links shared.’

‘Very resourceful and lots to use and explore.’

‘As always, Emma, you give me endless ideas, so much support with resources, and enthuse me with ideas that I need time to process and tackle!  Brilliant!’

‘Lots of really useful resources, as always.’

‘Brilliant knowledge acquired to use in the classroom.’

‘Enlightening; educational; eye-opening; exciting; effective.’

‘Mind-scrambling – so many good ideas and links – need more time in the day to follow up and share with staff.’

 Thank you so much, it has been so useful.  I can’t wait for the next one!’

‘Thank you.  It’s been very useful.’

Really great session.  Thank you Emma.’

‘Many, many thanks for the fantastic network meeting today.  I’ve been the Geography Co-ordinator at my school in Croydon for a few years, but haven’t been to a network meeting for many years!’

‘Thank you again, a brilliant afternoon!’

‘Thanks so much for today.’

‘Thanks so much for the plethora of information in the last humanities meeting!’

‘I just managed to catch up with the meeting from Friday.  I just wanted to email to say thank you; it was very informative and gave me some great ideas, lots to think about and some great resources to feedback to other members of staff.’ 

Suggestions for themes for future meetings included:

  • Outdoor learning across the curriculum.
  • Fieldwork ideas with Covid-19 restrictions in mind; for example, how can I best use the school grounds?
  • Cross-curricular links, e.g. using geography in maths, English, science, etc.
  • ICT in geography.
  • Assessment and how we can assess progress across the school.
  • Themes – EYFS.
  • Retrieval practice.
  • Key skills in geography.
  • Developing vocabulary.

I will get my thinking hat on and advertise our next meeting shortly; it is likely to be on Friday 15th January and, again, virtually.  Perhaps, we will reach out to a few more teachers on the continent or further afield too?







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