Off to even colder climes!


Our final Arctic adventure of 2023!

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

It was time for another virtual trip to the Arctic; rather apt as the weather has turned much colder of late and the days are becoming far shorter. On board today were around 200 Key Stage 2 pupils and their teachers from three schools located within the southern half of the UK, namely Walsham-le-Willows C of E VC Primary School near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk (; Haberdashers’ Crayford Primary School in Crayford, Kent ( and Windmill Primary School in Headington, Oxfordshire (  On their arrival into the Zoom meeting, each class was given the name of a well-known Arctic explorer and their ‘claim to fame’ revealed.

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

Using Google Earth Pro to take us from the UK to Svalbard within the Arctic.

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 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.

Developing observational skills.
Time to move!
A challenging activity, which pupils at Walsham-le-Willows C of E VC Primary School tackled together well.

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

A visual representation of change. Promoting high-order thinking too.

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.

Teachers collated responses from pupils and provided some fantastic resumés of their discussions.

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.

Getting competitive!

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

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.

Rhianna and I learn something new every time we listen to Nanou as well.
The reality of climate change. Less ice may make the North West Passage easier to navigate, but its impact on the people and wildlife currently living there is very worrying.
The result of a beach clean up in just two small areas. The labels on plastic bottles were in several different languages, giving an indication as to the source of this rubbish and how far it may have travelled.
And, just how harmful to wildlife such plastic can be.
Polar bears in search of much-needed food.
The highlight of Nanou’s trips to the Arctic; the spectacular Northern Lights. The children were mesmerised by her short movie-clip of them dancing across the landscape.

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

So many thoughtful responses from the children (see below for our favourites).

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.

Hearing from our audience confirmed that we have some great young activists!

Some of our favourite quotes from the day were:

Will the Arctic exist in 50 years’ time?

Not if we keep going the way we are going with climate change.

Why will climate change continue to happen?

Because humans are careless in how we behave.  (Harry, Walsham-le-Willows C of E VC Primary School)

How can we stop climate change from happening?

We cannot stop it; we can only mitigate it.  (Haberdashers’ Crayford Primary School)

Indigenous people may not be immune to the diseases that may arise from warmer climates and may not have the skills for different jobs as their livelihoods will be destroyed.  (Miss Rubie’s class, Haberdashers’ Crayford Primary School)

What surprised you the most about Nanou’s talk?

  • The way the whales bashed against the boat.
  • How long you can stay in the water for.
  • They found a bullet casing inside a fish.
  • How cold the water was when she went into it.
  • The polar bear eating its prey.
  • How much plastic was in the sea.
  • The fact she saw more than 58 polar bears.

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

  • Yes, because of the wildlife and it looks beautiful.
  • Yes.  I want to see stuff that I haven’t seen before, like polar bears, seals and walruses.
  • Yes, so I can sled.
  • The majority would like to – to see the Northern Lights, all of the wildlife – especially those that are endangered.
  • Yes, to have whales and orcas as my alarm clock.
  • Yes, to walk on a glacier.
  • No, because I’d miss everyone and I’d be scared of the polar bears chasing me.
  • No, because I don’t like the cold climate.
  • Wouldn’t want to go because it’s freezing, and you couldn’t swim easily.
  • No, because it would be cold and you could get ill or frost bite.

Should tourists be allowed to visit the Arctic when it is such a fragile environment?

  • Most think no – tourists might not have the experience to know what the dangers are and how to deal with them, e.g. polar bears!
  • Yes, because it shows us that climate change is real, it depends on the person and how they behave.  No, because we’ve already done enough damage to the Arctic.
  • If they mess anything up, they are banned for life.
  • Some don’t think there’s a problem with tourists going there as many people already live there and tourists could help with awareness of climate change.
  • Yes, the money from tourism could go towards science or global warming projects.
  • Looking at sights would be great, but it could impact data research and the indigenous people who live there.

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

Fun; interesting; magical; thought-provoking; inspiring.

Our next virtual adventure to the Arctic is scheduled for Thursday 18th January 2024.  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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