Off to colder climes!

Virtual multi-schools event, Wicked Weather Watch (WWW)


Due to continued interest and demand, we managed to squeeze in another virtual multi-schools adventure to the Arctic before the Easter holidays.  On board today were over 600 Key Stage 2 pupils and teachers from nine very different schools located throughout the UK, namely Linton-on-Ouse Primary School near York, North Yorkshire (, Bilsdale Midcable Chop Gate C of E (VC) Primary School and Carlton and Faceby C of E (VA) Primary School in Middlesbrough, Cleveland (; Spindle Point Primary School near Bolton, Lancashire (; Birkdale Primary School near Southport, Merseyside (; The Marist Catholic Primary School in West Byfleet, Surrey (; Wroxall Primary School near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight ( and Bishop Sutton Primary School and Stanton Primary School situated within the Chew Valley near Bristol (  On their arrival into the Zoom meeting, each school was given the name of a well-known Arctic explorer and their ‘claim to fame’ explained.

Over the course of the day, we explored the following enquiry question together: ‘What is so cool about the Arctic?‘.

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.  Otherwise, they could watch my screen to observe the changes and then add their comments to the chat feed.  I threw a few questions at pupils to gauge their perceptions of the Arctic, before showing a short movie clip about this fantastic region (  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.

A rather challenging task, but an effective means of introducing and reinforcing subject-specific vocabulary.

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.

Some great teamwork was witnessed in several classrooms.

An impressive effort from pupils at Linton-on-Ouse Primary School.

On there 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.

We were all excited to be joined by Nanou Blair Gould, 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.

Nanou is an artist (among other things) and was struck by the formidable colours.

One of the many glaciers that she witnessed on her travels.

The rubbish collected from the clean up of just two, small beaches. Much of the waste was later used by artists in their work.

Nanou’s home for a few months.

Birthday celebrations, later interrupted by the sighting of a polar bear.

Nanou’s sleeping quarters; rather compact, to say the least!

A rather skinny polar bear and her cub.

A much healthier-looking polar bear.

The reality, unfortunately.

The highlight of Nanou’s trip; the Northern Lights.

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.

Sharing the annotations on their footprint with a wider audience. Some simple actions, when completed by many individuals, can make a big difference.

Wow! You certainly did learn a lot in a day! The working wall in 6L at The Marist Catholic Primary School.

Some of our favourite quotes from the day were:

  • We are still causing climate change.  Humans are not bothered to protect.  We need to make huge changes.  People who make fossil fuels are not listening.

Questions for Nanou

  • What was the toughest challenge?
  • What is one thing you would change to help the environment?
  • What did you miss when you were there?
  • What inspired you to visit the Arctic?
  • Did you write anything based on your journey? (or illustrate)
  • Did your shoes ever freeze on your feet?
  • Did you ever fear for your life?
  • What’s the most precious item you have taken home from your adventures?
  • We were shocked by how skinny the polar bears were – we didn’t know how big they should be.
  • It was shocking to see the result of climate change.

Would you like to explore the polesIf so, why?  If not, why not?

  • Most of us would like to explore the Arctic to see the impacts of climate change.
  • A big yes!  Because it would be an amazing experience.  Once in a lifetime opportunity, would be nice to see the different animals.
  • I’d love to explore the Arctic because it’s an experience you couldn’t get anywhere else.
  • It’s important to explore the Arctic to learn what is going on around the world, help pick up plastic, so we can understand how beautiful it is before it disappears.

Should tourists be allowed in the Arctic?

  • 60% say yes; 40% say no.
  • Yes, because they could help monitor change, tidy up the environment and teach future generations, but also no because they could damage it further.
  • It’s important to be sustainable to monitor and try to control change.  Make changes in our own lives, to teach future generations and use less cars and less plastics.
  • We can refill our bottles and use less plastic!
  • We must recycle, stop littering, stop burning fossil fuels, plant more trees.  If everybody does something, then we can make a difference.
  • We must be sustainable because it has an impact on the whole world.  If we continue as we are, there may not be any land left.
  • We must make sure these things are alive when our own children are adults.
  • To conserve our world for future generations and keep it pristine to protect us all.

Some of their ‘concluding comments‘ can be found below:

  • Interesting; inspiring; lovely photos!
  • Fun; brilliant; fantastic; extraordinary; fact-filled.
  • We loved Nanou!
  • Informative and interesting for the children.
  • Interesting; inspiring; entertaining; mind-blowing; eye-opening.
  • Really good – can see the impact of climate change, which is shocking.
  • Really interesting.
  • Scary how little things can make a really big impact.
  • Amazing; geography; wonderful; interesting; magnificent.
  • We learnt a lot of new knowledge and enjoyed using geographical skills.
  • Informative; great to see someone that had been there.
  • An informative, interactive and educational experience.
  • Good; spectacular; amazing; learning; awareness.
  • Interesting; exciting; informative;  worrying (about the environment); excellent.
  • Thank you – it was great!
  • Thank you so much!  It has been great!
  • Thank you very much.  We learnt a lot.
  • Thank you for such a wonderful experience, the children have loved it.

Our next virtual adventure to the Arctic is scheduled for Wednesday 25th April 2023 in conjunction with GlosGeog, Gloucestershire’s local Geographical Association (GA) branch (you do not have to be a GA member or Gloucestershire-based school to participate, however).  Do get in touch if you wish to be involved; we would be delighted to have you on board (contact Rhianna Davies-Smith:

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