Our first Arctic adventure of 2024!
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It was time for another virtual trip to the Arctic; rather apt as the weather has turned much colder of late and some places have even seen ‘the white stuff’, snow! On board today were over 125 Key Stage 2 pupils and their teachers from three schools located within the north east of England, namely Newland St. John’s C of E Academy and St. James’ C of E Academy in Hull, East Yorkshire (https://nsj.hslt.academy/ and https://stj.hslt.academy/), as well as Newsham Primary School in Blyth, Northumberland (https://www.newshamprimary.co.uk/). 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.
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!
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.
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 communities, how they rely upon the Arctic and how climate change is affecting the people that are living there during ‘trios’, an oracy activity.
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.
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 posed a number of questions to pupils afterwards, which they answered thoughtfully.
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?
- Freezing; disappearing; dangerous; bitter; melting; mountainous; inhospitable.
- Spectacle; frozen wasteland; jaw-dropping; mountainous; winter wonderland.
How can we slow down climate change?
- Car-sharing; using wind/solar energy; cycling or walking rather than travelling in cars.
- Stop pollution; recycle; limit use of cars/planes; disposing of rubbish correctly; less use of fossil fuels – using renewables instead; electric cars.
- Prevent climate change and pollution; less nuclear power.
- Stop deforestation, littering and power plants.
What surprised you the most about Nanou’s talk?
- The hot springs aren’t hot!
- Her swimming costume froze to her body.
- Plastic found inside the animals.
- The size of the polar bears.
- The whales played with the ship.
- The Northern Lights; that polar bears came close.
- How much plastic was washed up on the shore; how much plastic was found in the fish; how her swimming costume froze to her.
- That there were rules to follow for shooting polar-bears and that none of the guards had ever had to shoot one … thankfully!
Would you like to explore the poles?
- Yes – to experience the Northern Lights; to explore; to see the animals; to see how the daylight changes; to collect rubbish to help the environment; to see if I can find a hybrid bear.
- Yes – because I’d like to see the animals; because not many people get to experience what Nanou saw; fun to explore such a different place to home; because I would only have to wash my socks twice!
- If you don’t go now, there may not be the opportunity to do that in the future; seeing the North Pole; an extraordinary place – we all want to go!
- No – no home comforts (Wi-Fi, showers); too dangerous; too cold!
- Wouldn’t like to go because it is so cold and how long it would take to travel.
Why is polar exploration important?
- We get to see the effect our behaviour is having on the planet; discover new species; know more about animal species and behaviour.
- To discover new things; to experience a once-in-a-lifetime chance; to find out about the effects of global warming; to gather information for the future; to experiment and investigate to improve things; to take photographs for information.
- Because we can keep an eye on the amount of damage being caused by global warming; we can see how differently people live in such a cold place; we could learn from those who live there without the luxuries we have.
Should tourists be allowed to visit the poles when they are such fragile environments?
- No – because of the damage and pollution caused by the massive ships.
- Yes – only responsible ones.
- No to tourism. But people need to see how bad things are – as an education experience.
- Yes, but only to specific parts to ensure the rest are not destroyed.
Some of their ‘concluding comments‘ can be found below:
Unique; informative; intriguing; well-delivered; enjoyable.
We have learned so much about the Arctic. The event has really stimulated our interest and fits in well with our art topic, ‘Environmental Art’.
Enjoyable; informative; interesting; fun.
The Arctic is more amazing than you think. Mind-blowing; very interesting; jaw-dropping; beautiful; fascinating; life-changing; amazing; inspiring.
Really informative and children have gained lots of knowledge. Have enjoyed it.
Thanks very much, we loved it!
The children have had a wonderful day and gained so much knowledge. Thank you.
Our next virtual adventures to the Arctic are scheduled for Thursday 8th February 2024 (fully booked) and Wednesday 6th March 2024. Do get in touch if you wish to be involved; it would be great to have you on board (contact Rhianna Davies-Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org).