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Due to continued interest and demand, we managed to squeeze in another virtual multi-schools adventure to the Arctic before half-term. On board today were well over 350 Key Stage 2 pupils and teachers from seven very different schools located throughout the UK, namely Lane End Primary School in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire (https://www.laneendprimary.co.uk/bucks/primary/laneendprimary); Gloucester Road Primary School in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (https://www.gloucesterroadprimary.co.uk/); St. Paul’s VC C of E Junior School in Shepton Mallet, Somerset (https://www.stpaulsjuniorsomerset.org.uk/); Radstock Primary School near Reading, Berkshire (https://www.radstockprimary.org.uk/); Holy Trinity C of E Primary School in Cookham, Berkshire (https://www.holytrinitysch.co.uk/); Helpringham Primary School in Sleaford, Lincolnshire (https://www.helpringhamschool.co.uk/) and St. James’ C of E Primary Academy in Hull, East Yorkshire (https://stj.hslt.academy/). On their arrival into the Zoom meeting, each school was given the name of a well-known Arctic explorer.
Over the course of the day, we explored the following enquiry question together: ‘What is so cool about the Arctic?‘. Talking about cold environments seemed appropriate given that the temperature had dropped quite significantly here once again.
After Rhianna Davies-Smith from Wicked Weather Watch had formally welcomed and introduced everyone, I took the opportunity to develop pupils’ (and teachers’) locational knowledge by using Digimap for Schools (DfS) to pinpoint where we all were.
I then shared the learning objectives and format of the day so that our intentions were very clear; we had plenty to get through within the space of six hours! We swiftly moved onto the ‘starter’. I launched Google Earth Pro to transport pupils and teachers virtually to Svalbard in Norway and posed a number of questions to them relating to distance, direction, means of transport, cost, time and sustainability. Students were given the chance to access Google Earth Pro themselves and the historical imagery button on the toolbar to see how Svalbard has changed over time. I threw a few questions at pupils to gauge their perceptions of the Arctic, before showing a short movie clip about this fantastic region (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx8sDJ1LMHA). Pupils (and teachers) were also surprised to discover that there are actually four North Poles!
During the ‘main’ session, we looked at what the Arctic is like, zooming in on the tundra biome, identifying animals that live there, investigating what the weather was like in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, analysing and interpreting a climate graph for Longyearbyen, Svalbard and spotting changes to the Blomstrand Glacier between 1918 and 2022.
After a short break, we then considered what we mean by indigenous communities and how they rely upon the Arctic. In addition, we discussed how climate change is affecting the people that are living there, especially the people of the taiga. Pupils were shown two movie clips and then asked to imagine that they were one of the children within them. They were challenged to think and write down a short message that they might wish to convey to the rest of the world.
Teachers selected a number of individuals within their class to come to the front and share their messages with a wider audience, e.g. representatives from Wicked Weather Watch, myself and pupils and staff in other primary schools across the UK. Some of their messages were certainly very powerful.
Just before lunch, Rhianna launched the sugar cube igloo challenge. Rhianna proposed that pupils worked in small groups within their classrooms and, using the template and a box of sugar cubes provided, tried to construct an igloo. Some images of the children in action and their creations can be viewed below. Photographs of their designs will also shortly be uploaded to Wicked Weather Watch’s website to enable an online vote to take place. The winning design will receive some goodies from Wicked Weather Watch.
On their return from lunch and whilst registers were being taken, students were invited to write down three intriguing and rather different questions that they would like to ask a ‘real life’ explorer.
The afternoon resumed with a visit from Nanou Blair Gould, who has travelled to the High Arctic Archipelago by tall ship. Among many extraordinary things, she witnessed the effects of global warming first-hand. Nanou was so invigorated by the adventure, e.g. the people; life outdoors; the sense of purpose; that she rejoined the ship, working among the small crew for almost four months. She talked about her Arctic experience and answered the youngsters’ questions confidently and comprehensively. When asked later if they wished to explore the poles, several said ‘yes’, clearly having been inspired by Nanou and appreciating the need to protect such fragile environments.
The event concluded with pupils contemplating how they might reduce their carbon footprint. We can all have a positive impact upon our planet. Sustainability is certainly important for the climate of the UK, the Arctic and the world.
Some of our favourite quotes from the day were:
We are loving the igloo challenge!
I was surprised by how skinny the polar bears were.
I was surprised by how much plastic there was.
I would like to see the geographical features that I wouldn’t see here.
Because we are all in this together. Everyone is affected by the mistakes that humans are making.
If we don’t make changes, we may run out of natural resources.
Each class were also requested to complete a Google Form so that Wicked Weather Watch can gain pupil and staff voice about the day. Some of their thoughts/comments can be viewed below:
It was fun learning about the Arctic.
There were a lot more animals there than I thought.
It was sad to hear about the amount of plastic.
Amazing day. I loved it! It was very good. It was interesting to learn new things.
It was interesting and fun to learn about the design of an igloo.
Speaking to Nanou and seeing her pictures from the trip was a highlight.
Great photographs. * would like to say thank you for the experience.
It was fascinating to hear about the four ways to deter a polar bear.
The igloo challenge was really fun!
Hearing about Nanou’s experience was really great.
Hearing and learning about the polar bears and what they are suffering from was very interesting.
I thought it was a great experience and I ‘d love to do it all again. I’d love to go to the Arctic and see all the creatures in their natural environment.
We enjoyed all of the activities. Thank you for a wonderful day from Kilver Class.
Thank you to everybody. We really enjoyed it. Lane End.
This day has been great. Loved making the igloos and also hearing about Nanou and her exploration.
We have ambitions for future prime ministers to enforce electric cars as transport to help the environment!
We have some AMAZING igloos to send you!
Thank you all for a great day!
Thank you for today! It has been fantastic.
Thank you very much for the day.
Thank you for a brilliant day!
Thank you for everything today.
Thank you both again. An absolutely amazing day.
Thank you for an interesting session today.
Our next virtual adventure to the Arctic is scheduled for Wednesday 29th March 2023. Do get in touch if you wish to be involved; we would be delighted to have you on board (contact Rhianna Davies-Smith: email@example.com).