Yet another virtual trip to the Arctic!


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Time for another virtual trip to the Arctic! Our multi-schools events are still proving popular this year. On board today were over 160 Key Stage 2 pupils and their teachers from three schools located in different regions of the UK, namely Great Bradfords Junior School in Braintree, Essex (; Hayfield Lane Primary School in Auckley near Doncaster, South Yorkshire ( and Glendale Community Middle School in Wooler, Northumberland (  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 I 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!

Pupils had some interesting perceptions of the Arctic!
Such a captivating clip incorporating many facts for our audience to absorb as well.

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.

Youngsters identified the Arctic animals easily. They did, however, learn that there are no penguins to be found at the North Pole.
Quite a demanding activity, but clearly emphasises geography’s cross-curriular links.
Pupils tackled the extension task well, identifying differences and providing a clear explanation for these.

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.

The effects of climate change are very obvious here. Plus, lots of higher-order thinking and many willing and valuable contributors in each class.
An ideal activity for developing oracy skills.

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.

Our nationwide challenge is launched!
Superb teamwork.
Great promotion for Billingtons!

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.

Nanou had her audience captivated. I learn something new every time I listen to her as well.
The colours of the Arctic, which Nanou truly appreciated as an artist.
How you celebrate a birthday when on an expedition in the Arctic! All very relaxed until they were disturbed by the sighting of a polar bear nearby.
The harsh reality of climate change – skinny polar bears.

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

We witnessed several lively discussions in each classroom and had some fantastic comments added to the chat feed.

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:

What is the Arctic like?

  • Shrouded in snow, unspoilt scenery.  (Hayfield Lane, Falcons)
  • [Climate change] will continue to happen if we don’t reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.  (Great Bradfords 6W)
  • Carbon dioxide emissions are not cancelled out by carbon sinks.  (Great Bradfords 6S)
  • Start walking places, stop burning fossil fuels, reduce our carbon footprint, stop using products made from palm oil.  (Great Bradfords 6C)
  • Species are becoming extinct, which could lead to a lack of food for other species and people.  They [indigenous communities] may have to hunt or forage more widely from their homes or relocate completely so they are able to survive.  (Great Bradfords 6S)

What surprised you the most from Nanou’s talk?

  • All of the wildlife she was able to see and the amazing northern lights.  (Glendale Middle School)
  • That she went near Bear Island.  (Great Bradfords 6C)
  • We were surprised by the rough conditions on the boat, meaning it was very difficult to do simple activities, such as cooking.  (Great Bradfords 6S)

Would you like to explore the poles? If yes, why? If no, why not?

  • 15 – Yes – It would be so different to home, see wildlife up close, it looks so different to what I imagined before today.  4 – Would prefer to stay at home and make a positive impact on the environment here. (Glendale Middle School)

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

Brilliant, engaging and fun.

Excellent event covering a biome, climate change, real life interview with an explorer and a fantastic way to introduce children to the tundra biome.

Very informative and introduced us to information we would not have known normally.

Very informative, interesting, fun and challenged our mindset.

“It’s been absolutely amazing!” (child comment)

It has been an excellent, very interesting day where we have learned lots of interesting facts. I really loved the range of activities. It was a great pace and this meant our children were constantly engaged and learning. What a super day! Thank you.

Our next virtual adventures to the Arctic are scheduled for Wednesday 8th November and Wednesday 6th December 2023.  Do get in touch if you wish to be involved; it would be great to have you on board (contact Rhianna Davies-Smith:

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