What an exhilating and unforgettable experience!


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Now that Adriana Meirelles was safely back in this country following her recent travels to Brazil to be reunited with her family and friends, it was possible to organise another multi-schools event.   On board for this ‘amazing Amazon adventure’ were nearly 350 Key Stage 2 pupils and teachers from six schools across the UK, namely Clavering Primary School in Hartlepool (https://www.claveringprimary.org.uk/), St. Peter’s C of E Primary School in Heswall on The Wirral (http://www.stpeters-heswall.wirral.sch.uk/), plus Highnam C of E Primary Academy (https://www.highnam.gloucs.sch.uk/), Norton C of E Primary School (https://www.norton.gloucs.sch.uk/web), Finlay Community School (https://www.finlayschool.co.uk/) and Coney Hill Community Primary School (https://www.coneyhillprimary.co.uk/), all based in Gloucestershire. We also welcomed Jenny Foster and Mark Jacobs from the Global Goals Centre in Bristol (https://globalgoalscentre.org/). I accessed Digimap for Schools (https://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/) and projected a map of the UK on the big screen to locate us all too; you cannot let an opportunity to enhance locational knowledge go by!

The day took a similar format to before, with the content tweaked slightly to cater for our younger audience and incorporate more recent material sent from the Kambeba indigenous community within the heart of the Amazon.

I began by sharing the learning objectives with participants, many of which linked very closely to the National Curriculum Key Stage 2 programme of study for geography and encouraged the development of critical thinking skills, as well as the format of the day.

Each class was given a name based on groups with an interest in the Amazon region, e.g. loggers; miners; conservationists; researchers; farmers/agriculturalists.

In order to ‘set the scene’, I accessed Google Earth Pro and took pupils and teachers on a virtual trip from Bristol in south west England to Manaus in Amazonas, Brazil.  I emphasised the cities, regions, countries and continents being explored at the same time too; many children seem to find it very difficult to grasp the difference between a country and a continent!  I quizzed pupils about how far they thought we had travelled and how long it might take to get there.  This also provoked discussion about the means of transport that might be used and costs involved.  I then showed part of the following movie clip so that the children gained a real insight into ‘what it is like’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JvJCvdqvYs.

Pupils at Highnam C of E Primary Academy exploring Google Earth Pro with me.

Youngsters at Norton C of E Primary School mesmerised by Google Earth Pro!

The morning session, led by myself, had a geography focus, but attempted to integrate literacy, numeracy and a degree of critical thinking too.

Firstly, we looked at the distribution of tropical rainforests.  Within their classrooms, pupils either worked in pairs or independently (whichever their teacher deemed most appropriate given the current situation and their setting).  They were asked to access Google Earth Pro, use an online atlas, such as Digimap for Schools, a hard copy of an atlas or a globe to discover the answer to the question: ‘On which continents and in which countries are tropical rainforests found?’.  Pupils were expected to write their answers around the outside of the map that they had been given.  Next, they were prompted to ‘zoom in’ on South America, Brazil and the Amazon basin to gain a ‘bird’s eye view’ of an extensive area of tropical rainforest.  Afterwards, I called upon different classes to provide answers to the above question and, again, reinforced the difference between countries and continents.

Superb collaborative learning among pupils at Highnam C of E Primary Academy.

Children at Norton C of E Primary School identifying countries within South America with areas of tropical rainforest.

Pupils at Coney Hill Community Primary School accessing Digimap for Schools to discover where the world’s tropical rainforests are located.

Working once more either in pairs or independently, pupils were given a climate graph and data for Manaus, a city located on the River Amazon in the state of Amazonas in northern Brazil.  They were requested to use these sources to help them identify or calculate answers to a number of questions on the sheet that they had been given.  After pupils had attempted all of the questions, which included identifying months with the highest and lowest temperature and precipitation and calculating the range in temperature and annual precipitation, we reconvened to share our findings.

Rising to the challenge! Pupils at Highnam C of E Primary Academy analysing a climate graph and data for Manaus in Brazil to gain answers to my questions.

The third activity concentrated on the tropical rainforest biome.  The children were given a short piece of text to read carefully and expected to select a word from the table to fill the gaps.  I later revealed the answers on the screen and then asked pupils, ‘What have you learnt about the tropical rainforest biome?’.  Not only were they able to recall many details, but also use subject-specific vocabulary accurately and confidently.

Year 4 pupils at Clavering Primary School working together to ‘fill the gaps’. Encountering many new words in the process too.

After a short break, pupils and teachers returned to the classroom for two further activities.  Before we embarked upon our fourth activity, I provided a little background information as to why the tropical rainforests are so important and, since we are still living in the throes of a global pandemic, shared a few facts and statistics about its status as a ‘pharmaceutical wonderland’.

Activity 4 explored deforestation within the tropical rainforest.  I showed a couple of short movie clips (https://www.wwf.org.uk/where-we-work/places/amazon and https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/videos/amazon-story-how-will-it-end) before displaying an image on the screen and using the ‘5Ws + how? approach’ to convey some fundamental points.

Year 4 pupils at Clavering Primary School thinking deeply and discussing the various questions posed to them.

Afterwards, to prevent any eco-anxiety, I projected a list of possible actions that might be taken to protect the rainforest and played a movie clip, which highlighted various viewpoints regarding deforestation (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59088498).

Our final activity of the morning centred on a ‘thunk’ about the Amazon rainforest.  Working in pairs or independently, pupils viewed three images of the tropical rainforest and selected a suitable caption to go alongside each one.  Next, they were asked to consider the following options and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Option 1:             Let the indigenous people live and manage the land as they have for thousands of years.

Option 2:             Clear the land for cattle ranching.

Lively discussions ensued in each classroom, which was lovely to witness.

Year 4 pupils at Clavering Primary School matching images with appropriate captions.

Pupils at Norton C of E Primary School deciding which caption goes alongside each image.

Children at Coney Hill Community Primary School considering the advantages and disadvantages of Option 1 and Option 2. They were divided in their opinion, but were able to justify their thoughts fully.

Subsequently, the children were asked to think deeply, philosophically and for themselves about the following ‘thunk’: What would your ‘dream’ Amazon be like?.  I emphasised that there was no right or wrong answer here.  It was suggested that they jotted down a few key words and tried to expand each of these until they had a series of bullet points or paragraph of writing.  They were then asked to share their bullet points or paragraph of writing with one or more of their peers and ponder whether their ‘dreams’ for the Amazon were very similar or different.  During a later discussion, I invited three pupils from each class to reveal what their ‘dream’ Amazon would be like.  I sincerely hope some of these become the reality for the future of the Amazon.

Year 4 pupils at Clavering Primary School brainstorming the features of their ‘dream Amazon’.

Pupils at Highnam C of E Primary Academy working independently and conscientiously on their ‘thunks’.

Feeling brave! Pupils at Highnam C of E Primary Academy sharing their ‘dreams’ for the Amazon with a much wider audience than usual.



Pupils from Highnam C of E Primary Academy sharing their ‘dreams’ for the Amazon with us.

After lunch, we came together again virtually for the afternoon session, led by Adriana Meirelles, a Brazilian film producer and animator with first-hand experience of the Amazon, to learn about the indigenous people’s culture and lifestyle through the medium of art and design and technology.  Firstly, Adriana talked about her origins (Sao Paulo), emphasised the extent of Brazil by comparing it with the area of the UK and highlighted how diverse the country is.   The children were then asked to imagine that they were in Manaus.  Using a series of photographs, she took them into the heart of the Amazon.  Adriana explained that the rivers are seen as roads and she projected images of river boats with hammocks and many people.  She talked about some of the issues people in the Amazon face and asked the children to consider how these might relate to them.  Next, a film about riverside villages and indigenous people was screened.  Adriana explained that people live in the forest and work with nature, protecting it and living in harmony.  They have a simple life, living in communities and maintaining strong traditions.  They live extensive distances from each other.  Such traditions encourage them to meet up, have fun and help each other.  Adriana discussed the indigenous people’s philosophy in order to ensure the sustainability of the tropical rainforest; living within its limits; relating to it in an ‘affectionate’ way; ‘dreaming’ about the forest; belief about ‘forest spirits’.

Pupils in the UK in awe of the youngsters from the Kambeba indigneous community.

Marcella Haddad, a professional photographer and close Brazilian friend of Adriana, had spent a day with the indigenous people in Adriana’s film and has helped her establish contact with the Kambeba indigenous community.   Adriana also shared some incredible footage and information that she has gained from her regular conversations with members of the community.

Adriana referenced some items that she had collected on a previous trip to the Amazon rainforest and demonstrated how she had used these to create her own ‘forest spirit’ and allow its character to be unveiled using her fantastic animation skills.  It was then time for pupils to be creative!  She invited the children to produce their own ‘forest spirit’ using natural artefacts (an English forest spirit, who would become friends with a Brazilian forest spirit).  Teachers were requested to take photographs of pupils’ artwork, so that they could be shared with Brazilian teachers and pupils.

Next, Adriana led a whole group discussion based around the double bubble activity, which challenged pupils to look carefully at two sets of images of the Kambeba children and youngsters within the UK respectively and identify any similarities and differences. This generated some deep and thoughtful answers from pupils.

Fifteen minutes before we were due to finish, we gathered for a period of reflection and shared our learning and experiences.  The children responded willingly, demonstrating that they had acquired much knowledge, in-depth understanding and new skills during our virtual adventure. Both pupils and teachers were asked to sum up the day in five words or a sentence or two.  Some of their ‘concluding comments’ can be viewed below:

‘Pupil voice’ from those taking part at Highnam C of E Primary Academy.

I have learnt about deforestation, rainforests and people who live in tribes in Brazil. I think today was a great day.
Fun to learn about another way of life, interesting and inspiring, fascinating and exciting. Thanks very much :).
So many other areas of the rainforest to explore in our future learning.

A tropical paradise adventure through the Amazon.
Educational, cultural, informative and enjoyable!
Enjoyable, educational, fun, interesting, creative.
Interesting, interactive, informative. inclusive, extraordinary.
Huge thank you from Y5/6 at St Peter’s :).
Loved it, thanks for letting us join you. We learned a lot too!

Thank you so much for today. We all really enjoyed our day! Sorry we didn’t join in for the plenary – we got carried away with our ‘forest spirits’!
Just going from our Year 4 classrooms to a meeting, but I wanted to send you a big THANK YOU for organising today’s session.
Thank you for such a wonderful day yesterday, the children (and myself) loved it! A great range of inclusive activities using different skills.
Thank you so much for a great Amazon Adventure day – Year 5 thoroughly enjoyed the day.
An informative session that the children enjoyed from the start. We loved learning about the Kambeba children and looking at the similarities and differences between us.

A teacher from Coney Hill Community Primary School’s summary of the event.

review of the learning outcomes received plenty of thumbs up from both the pupils and teachers that had taken part.  Another thoroughly enjoyable, rewarding, if not rather exhausting day!

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