It was time for another collaboration with WeSchool today. WeSchool is a leading European EdTech player and member of UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition that supports over 230 000 teachers and 2 million students in their learning experiences by providing an easy-to-use, accessible and inclusive digital space for learners.
The aim was to bring secondary schools a free, highly topical, engaging and interactive virtual multi-schools event. Throughout this sustainability-themed workshop, which incorporated a number of key themes frequently referenced in geography, science and PSHE lessons at Key Stages 3, 4 and 5, students had the opportunity to explore some of our most pressing environmental challenges and consider how we might overcome them. In the process, they had the chance to develop fundamental geographical and more generic skills, e.g. critical thinking; interpersonal and communication.
After a formal welcome and introductions from the team, I utilised Digimap for Schools (https://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/) to project a map of Europe and pinpoint the locations of the presenters (UK, France and Italy) and the five schools involved today, namely The Joseph Rowntree School in New Earswick near York, North Yorkshire; Park View School in Chester-le-Street, County Durham; St. Peter’s Collegiate Academy in Wolverhampton, West Midlands; Mount St. Joseph in Farnworth, Greater Manchester and Kingsmeadow Community School in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear (https://www.josephrowntree.co.uk/; https://parkviewlearning.net/; https://www.stpetersacademy.org.uk/; https://www.msj.bolton.sch.uk/ and https://www.kingsmeadow.org.uk/). Never miss an opportunity to develop pupils’ (and teachers’) locational knowledge!
Next, I launched our starter activity. Students were asked to work in small groups and discuss nine headlines that had been published in national broadsheets recently. They were asked to write down as much information as they could about each one. Once ten minutes had elapsed, I zoomed into the various classrooms and groups were invited to share what they had recorded down in their notebooks/on mini whiteboards before I revealed more detail about each news story.
Then, I challenged pupils to consider how they might classify these headlines. This led to some interesting discussions; they could be sorted according to the degree of their impact; whether they had a social, political, cultural or environmental connection, by theme, e.g. climate change; cost of living crisis, or scale, e.g. local; national or global.
Students were then given five minutes to rank the headlines in terms of their importance, displaying them in a diamond nine structure. When I visited the classrooms in turn, pupils were encouraged to share the headlines which appeared towards the top and bottom of their diamond nine and justify why they had placed these where they had. Many did this confidently and there was actually much consensus between the classrooms.
I handed over to WeSchool representatives to begin our journey. Building on our earlier news-themed activity, they presented students with some stories relating to three imaginary countries on the fictional planet of Ergon. A brief discussion of the news items unfolded.
Youngsters were then asked to put themselves in role as the leader of one of the imaginary countries on Ergon. Each country faced environmental challenges similar to those that we encounter on Earth. Via a role play and decision-making style activity in small groups, pupils investigated a number of resources and identified the most appropriate solution/s for their country to adopt in order to promote a sustainable future.
After a short break, it was time for small groups to present their proposal to others within their class. Teachers were asked to select the best proposal from their class.
These later went head-to-head in a virtual, nationwide competition. A panel of judges from WeSchool determined an overall winner based upon the most comprehensive, original and relevant proposal.
Congratulations to our winners at St. Peter’s Collegiate Academy (Class 2) and the runners-up at The Joseph Rowntree School.
The workshop was drawn to a close with a period of contemplation. Students were prompted to reflect upon their learning and experiences over the past few hours, as well as consider what actions they now might take in order to reduce their carbon footprint and ensure the sustainability of our planet.
Some of the gathered staff and pupil voice can be viewed below:
Write one thing that you have learned today.
how to work in a team; solar power; solar energy; to analyse headlines; nuclear power does not produce smoke; how a government operates; teamworking skills; nuclear energy; about different types of energy; geography; hydro-electric power; money can solve energy problems; nuclear energy is the most efficient; solar panels do not work when they are dirty; wind turbines take up a surprising amount of land.
If you could describe today’s activities with one word, what would it be?
geography; unsustainable; very interesting; enthusiastic; cool; fantastical; thrilling; enjoyable; good; educational; marvellous; eye-opening; inspiring; informative; smashing; green; fantastic; fun; alright; learning; nice.
A productive way to spend a morning towards the end of a very busy and long term.
We are looking forward to other similar events in January (Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th). Do contact Veronica at WeSchool if you would like to take part: email@example.com