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Well, how better to mark World Oceans Day than with a virtual trip to the Arctic (which includes the Arctic Ocean and the eight countries located within the Arctic Circle)! On board today were nearly 200 Key Stage 2 pupils and teachers from two schools located in very different areas of the UK, namely Brooke Hill Academy and Pre-School in Oakham, Rutland (https://www.brookehillacademy.com/) and Westlands Primary School in Sittingbourne, Kent (https://www.westlandsprimary.org.uk/). On their arrival into the Zoom meeting, each class 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 (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 through a continuum line and true/false activity, zooming in on the tundra biome, identifying animals that live there, analysing and interpreting a climate graph for Longyearbyen, Svalbard, as well as investigating what the weather was like in Longyearbyen, Svalbard today and how it was similar/different to our location and the reasons for this.
After a short break, we attempted to spot changes to the Blomstrand Glacier between 1918 and 2022, firstly by detailed observation and later via a 5Ws+ how? activity. Next, we considered what we mean by indigenous communities, how they rely upon the Arctic and how climate change is affecting the people that are living there during ‘trios’, an oracy activity.
It was then time for a change of state and spot of creativity. 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 final 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.
Just before lunch, an image was displayed on the big screen. Pupils were asked to imagine they were one of the individuals in the projected image and were challenged to think and write down a short message that such a person 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 the 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.
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. Others were a little more reluctant, being put off by the cold conditions.
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:
Will the Arctic exist in 50 years’ time?
It depends if we act upon climate change.
Yes, but it will look very different.
What makes the Arctic so appealing?
Because it is unique and different to where we live.
To gain knowledge and understanding of the climate and the animals that live there.
Climate change will affect those who live in the Arctic by: decreasing food sources; increasing sea levels, which cause flooding; ice melting and reducing habitats, which will affect animals’ survival.
What can we do that is better for the environment?
Don’t give up!
Try and reuse and recycle as many things as you can.
Even the smallest changes can make small things happen!
Support indigenous communities.
There is only one Earth. Keep the things we have and not just continue to recycle (re-use instead) as that has an impact on energy usage.
What was most surprising from Nanou’s talk?
We thought she would live/stay on land.
Plastic pollution and the size of the polar bears.
The closeness of the animals and the polar bear photo was our favourite.
Birds with plastic inside them … awful!
Would you want to travel to the Arctic?
24 no; 4 yes.
Many members of Cheetah Class are saying they would be worried about exploring there as it sounds very dangerous. However, some are saying that the experience of watching the northern lights would be awesome. 2/3 of our class would and 1/3 would not.
Mixed reviews. Mostly no, because it would upset them to see the poorly animals. Some don’t like the cold!
I wouldn’t like to explore the poles because I wouldn’t like to see the hurt animals and be unable to help.
14 say yes; 16 say no.
How will you reduce your carbon footprint?
We’ve considered, as a class, which lights we need to have on … .
We have created a class footprint and come up with: reduce single-use plastic; don’t waste paper; turn off the tap when brushing teeth; put litter in the bin and reuse items where possible. Our local environment will, hopefully, have less litter on the streets; globally. fewer trees will be chopped down for paper because the demand will be lower; we would see more butterflies in our fields and globally, we would reduce factory pollution through emissions.
Some of their ‘concluding comments‘ can be found below:
Interesting and active.
Thought-provoking; challenging; inspiring.
This was a superb day full of learning – from maths to geography and everything else in between!
Our next virtual adventure to the Arctic is scheduled for Wednesday 12th July 2023. Do get in touch if you wish to be involved; it would be great to have you on board (contact Rhianna Davies-Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org).