Heading further north, once again!


Hover over the images to reveal captions.  Click on the images to enlarge them.

A new academic year and time to head off virtually to the Arctic for another jam-packed adventure! Over the summer, we tweaked our offering very slightly to take into account comments from previous participants and include fresh material that we now have access to. On board today were nearly 100 Key Stage 2 pupils and their teachers from three schools from different areas of the UK, namely St. Paul’s C of E Primary School in Bolton, Lancashire, whom we have worked with before (https://www.st-pauls.bolton.sch.uk/); Chillingham Road Primary School in Newcaste-upon-Tyne (https://www.chillingham.newcastle.sch.uk/) and High Hurstwood C of E Primary School in East Sussex (https://www.highhurstwood.e-sussex.sch.uk/esussex/primary/highhurstwood).  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!

Introducing teachers and pupils to the historical imagery button within Google Earth Pro.
Time to challenge some of their preconceptions of the Arctic.

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.

Quite a demanding task for pupils.

After a short break, we attempted to spot changes to the Lillihöök Glacier in Svalbard between 2019 and 2022, firstly by detailed observation and later via a 5Ws+ how? activity.  Next, we considered what we mean by indigenous communitieshow they rely upon the Arctic and how climate change is affecting the people that are living there during ‘trios’, an oracy activity.

This activity worked really well, engaging both students and teachers alike.
‘Trios’ activity in full swing at St. Paul’s C of E Primary School!

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.

A national challenge is launched by Rhainna!

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.

Busy composing their messages.
Children at St. Paul’s C of E Primary School were really keen to share their messages with the wider audience.

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.

Such an idyllic way to explore this stunning region.
Micro-plastics in the ocean; a real issue.
The sad reality of climate change.

Rhianna posed a number of questions to pupils afterwards, which they answered thoughtfully.

Encouraging pupils to reflect upon what they had just heard.

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.

Pupils had plenty to recall. They appeared to have learnt a lot and had many realistic and effective suggestions to put forward too. There is a real thirst for activism amongst our young people.

Some of our favourite quotes from the day were:

What is the Arctic like?

Vast; perilous; jigsaw of ice; freezing cold; frosty; frost-coated. (High Hurstwood)

What surprised you the most?

The amount of rubbish collected from the beach.

Needing guards with rifles.

Why is it important to explore the poles?

So that we know what animals are there and can protect them.  To check the ice as it’s a good indicator of what is happening to the rest of the world. (Chillingham Road)

75% of High Hurstwood’s class would like to explore the poles.

50% of St Paul’s class would not.

We’re really enjoying the day so far, thank you! (High Hurstwood)

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

Thank you, we have had a wonderful day. From everybody at St Paul’s.

Inspirational. We loved listening to Nanou and her stories of her Arctic adventures. We have learnt a lot about how cool the Arctic really is!

Thank you so much. From Year 5/6 at High Hurstwood.

Our next virtual adventure to the Arctic is scheduled for Wednesday 11th October 2023.  Do get in touch if you wish to be involved; it would be great to have you on board (contact Rhianna Davies-Smith: schools@wickedweatherwatch.org.uk).

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