Brrrrr -illiant tales from the north!


Supported by the Geographical Association’s Initiatives Fund (GAIF) and delivered in conjunction with Wicked Weather Watch (WWW) and Hearts in the Ice (HITI).

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

Rhianna Davies-Smith at Wicked Weather Watch (WWW) and myself submitted an application to the Geographical Association (GA)’s Initiative Fund last August with the hope of securing financial support to facilitate a virtual multi-schools event for smaller, more rural schools throughout the UK. In late October, we discovered that we had been successful and were then able to extend the invitation to any small, rural school located within the UK. We were inundated with requests to participate within 24 hours of us advertising the opportunity. The first 12 schools to respond were offered a place; we are hoping that we can apply for some additional funding or are able to seek sponsorship so that we can repeat the exercise in the very near future and other schools on our list are able to benefit.

The workshop was delivered by myself, Rhianna and our guest speaker, Hilde Fålun Strøm, an Arctic Explorer and Citizen Scientist and representative from Hearts in the Ice (HITI). As part of the welcome, I utilised Digimap for Schools to develop a spot of place and locational knowledge. I projected a map of the UK and Europe and identified where each school and the presenters were located and we briefly described our place.

Next, I shared the learning objectives and format of the session.

Since we had a lot to get through and only an hour and a half, I launched a quick starter activity.

Pupils at Cobblestone Primary School jotting down questions to ask Hilde later.

Then, it was time to hear from Hilde. She talked for around 30 minutes about her adventures to the Arctic and showcased audio-visual footage that she had gathered on her travels too. The children (and teachers) were mesmerised.

Longyearbyen, Svalbard, where Hilde is based.
Bamsebu: Trappers Cabin, built in 1930 for beluga hunting.
Snowmobiles, a vital means of transport in such arduous conditions and inhospitable terrain.
Nearing 24 hours of darkness.
Being entertained, once again, by the spectacular Northern Lights.
A very close encounter with a polar bear!
Gratifying to see mother nature at work.
One special bond.
Contract drawn up and signed to finalise their next steps.
Follow their wonderful, subsequent work.
Pupils at Simmondley Primary School watching and listening intently.
Pupils and their teacher captivated at Down Ampney C of E Primary School too.
All enthralled at Cobblestone Primary School as well.

Afterwards, we put Hilde in the hot seat and posed questions to her that the youngsters wished to have answered. Hilde rose to the challenge enthusiastically and answered all their questions confidently and comprehensively. Both Rhianna and I learnt a few new things too!

The children had so many questions for Hilde!
Pupils at Cobblestone Primary School were very eager to pose questions to Hilde!

Now, it was the turn of pupils to be in the hot seat! Rhianna posed a number of open-ended questions to them to encourage higher-order thinking. They had many formidable responses, clearly showing that they had listened intently to Hilde, but also been prompted to do some deeper thinking.

Some really thoughtful answers from pupils. Those at Simmondley Primary School were proud to see their comments displayed on the big screen and shared with the wider audience.

We concluded with the following plenary activity.

Youngsters at Simmondley Primary School reflecting upon their learning and contemplating their future actions.
A time for reflection at Down Ampney C of E Primary School.

In the meantime, teachers were directed to complete an online form to enable us to capture staff and pupil voice.

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

Excellent experience for our children.

Interesting; inspiring; fascinating; outstanding and motivating!

Informative and interesting.

A fabulous insight into an Arctic experience.

Incredibly insightful and a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Adventure; inspiration; bravery; moving; surprising.

Thought-provoking; mesmerising; engaging; informative and captivating.

A fantastic, immersive experience.

Thank you so much for having us. We have all learnt a lot. Much appreciated 🙂

Thank you so much for today! We have really enjoyed the session!

Thank you so much for this morning. So amazing!

A really interesting session! Thank you!

Thank you so much for the session.

Thank you very much – such an awe-inspiring session. The children and I really enjoyed it and listening to the stories!

That was fantastic, thank you so much!

Thank you so much for the opportunity today, the live lesson was fantastic!  I’ve attached some pictures below of our children very engaged.

Thank you kindly for the wonderful experience with Hilda yesterday. The children and teachers thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Some of our favourite quotes/aspects from the morning:

Most intriguing questions (posed to Hilde):

  • What is the coldest temperature that you have been in and how did you survive?
  • What food did you eat?
  • Have you noticed a decline in wildlife?
  • Did you get frostbite?
  • What is the most amazing thing you’ve seen?
  • What did you prefer, 24 hours of darkness or 24 hours of daylight?
  • What did you do for fun?
  • What was the most dangerous situation you found yourself in?
  • Are there any traditions or rituals that you did in the Arctic?

What surprised you the most? (posed to pupils)

  • Having polar bears at your door and needing rubber bullets and spikes to deter them.
  • All the effort needed to just go to the toilet!
  • Swimming in the freezing sea.
  • Living in a hut with no insulation.
  • That it was -30 degrees Celsius!
  • That they built a science laboratory in their small cabin.

Would you like to explore the poles? (posed to pupils)

  • 11/15 would love to do this.
  • 84% = yes!
  • 8 out of 30 would; to be close to nature and see the beautiful scenery.
  • 16/29 would not like to – wouldn’t like to be so cold and not have electricity.
  • The cold and toileting is putting people off!

Why is polar exploration important? (posed to pupils)

  • It’s important to explore the poles so that we can learn more about climate change and the planet and how to save it.
  • To discover new things and plan for the future.
  • It is important because we need to know the whole world is being taken care of.
  • It can teach us more about our planet.

Should tourists be allowed to visit the poles when they are such fragile environments? (posed to pupils)

  • Most of us aren’t sure about letting tourists go because of the carbon footprint.
  • Yes, because it is important for everyone to learn about the regions.
  • No, because they could damage nature/animals and the cost of fuel to travel there.
  • Yes; allow tourists, but if visiting for important reasons!
  • We think no to tourists because not everyone has an understanding of the climate, environment and animals.
  • 90% believe tourists should not be allowed.

Three messages that will stick with me:

  • Describing her time at Bamsebu (‘Little bear hut’) as the period when ‘I never had less, but I never felt richer’.
  • Encouraging youngsters to ‘get outside in all weathers’.  Learn to live in harmony with nature.
  • Promoting activism.  We are all responsible for the changes that our planet is experiencing.  We all have a part to play in ensuring its future.

Many thanks to Hilde for giving up her time today and to the Geographical Association for allowing us to offer this opportunity to several schools who would not usually be able to justify the cost of taking part in a virtual multi-school event due to their small numbers and limited budgets. You have made many teachers and children very happy today!



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