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It was time for another virtual trip to the Arctic, and it was a biggie! On board today were over 300 Key Stage 2 pupils and their teachers from seven schools located throughout the UK, namely Holy Trinity C of E Primary School in Cookham, Berkshire (https://www.holytrinitysch.co.uk/); Radstock Primary School near Wokingham, Berkshire (https://www.radstockprimary.org.uk/); Saltdean Primary School near Brighton (https://www.saltdeanprimary.org.uk/); Broad Hinton C of E Primary School near Swindon, Wiltshire (https://broadhintonschool.org/); Federation of Bishop Sutton and Stanton Drew Primary Schools near Bristol (https://www.bishopsuttonstantondrew.co.uk/) and Forest of Galtres Anglican Methodist Primary School in Shipton-by-Beningbrough near York (https://fog.hslt.academy/).
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. I later displayed an image 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.
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 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.
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:
Why is the Arctic appealing?
- We think it is appealing because it’s awe inspiring, it looks beautiful and you could get famous by travelling there! Unique wildlife lives there.
- Northern Lights.
- Makes you want to paint pictures of the landscape. The animals are intriguing.
Why will the Arctic continue to get warmer?
- Nobody is taking charge and trying to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
- Because we keep burning coal and fossil fuels.
- We’re not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions.
- We aren’t doing enough to change; it takes the leaders to make decisions too.
How can we stop climate change from happening?
- Walk instead of driving.
- Produce more electric cars.
- Burning less fossil fuels.
- [Stop] Fast fashion.
- Use less oil/petrol. Use more electric-powered vehicles; use wind turbines.
- Save energy; take more responsibility for our actions.
- Stop using plastic so much. Raise awareness through posters and billboards. Stop burning fossil fuels.
How is climate change affecting the people living in the Arctic?
- It affects people because the heat can make the surroundings melt, meaning it may be harder to travel on/across it. Because the ice is melting, sea level is rising. Animals are losing their homes, which means people may lose a source of food. People are dying due to extreme weather. Their homes may be built on top of ice/rocks; if these melt or erode away, they will have nowhere to go to. If the ice melts, there will be less available space for both animals and indigenous people to live.
Questions to Nanou:
- What made you want to visit the Arctic in the first place?
- How much did the excursion cost overall?
- Was the temperature colder under the snow or above the snow?
- What colours were the Northern Lights in person?
- Did you ever feel as though you were in danger while you were in the Arctic? What was the most dangerous situation you found yourself in?
- Which species are suffering the most due to their inability to adapt to climate change?
- Who inspires you?
- Have you ever suffered from frostbite?
- What is your favourite memory from your Arctic experiences?
- Did the boat get stuck in any ice?
- What’s your favourite Arctic joke?
What surprised you the most about Nanou’s talk?
- That Nanou went in the water when it was freezing!
- That the bird was faking being injured.
- Seeing a pod of orcas.
- The fact that Nanou’s swim made her costume freeze to her!
- The different ways to stop a polar bear and that you cannot kill one.
- We were surprised to see the plastic from inside the fish that the chef had caught in the Arctic Ocean.
Would you like to explore the poles?
- We would definitely like to explore the poles! We would like to see the wildlife that is so different to where we live. We would also like to explore polar day/night.
- Yes, because it’d be great to see the glaciers or have an Arctic swim and to see wildlife. Some of us think no because of the extreme cold or chance of getting eaten by a polar bear!
- Yes – you would get to see lots of different colours of the Northern Lights; it’s a once in a lifetime experience; you would get to see different kinds of animals that you don’t normally see in England.
- Yes! I didn’t know someone as young as 14 had been and I’m really inspired by this. Such a once in a lifetime experience!
- No – I can’t play cricket (follow my dreams)! Would miss family too much, because of climate change.
Why is polar exploration important?
- So people know about these regions, animals and can do things to protect them.
- It is important so we can see what wildlife live there; to see the effect of climate change; so we know whether it is a safe place.
- So we can get first-hand information on global warming and pollution.
- So people can understand the effects of climate change. It could encourage people to change their behaviours and become more involved in eco-issues.
- Otherwise we wouldn’t know as much about the poles as we do now, including about animals and nature; we wouldn’t be able to find any new settlements; we wouldn’t be able to find out much about climate change and the habitats of animals.
- So people can see how different life is there, learn how to preserve it and be aware of how climate change is drastically affecting our planet.
Some of their ‘concluding comments‘ can be found below:
Very informative, challenging and some good fun!
Interesting; factual; engaging; educational; fun.
A well-led, fascinating experience, which the children all enjoyed.
Eye-opening; thought-provoking; inspiring; exciting; inclusive.
Very informative; engaging; interesting.
Thank you for a super day.
Thank you for a great day.
Our next virtual adventure to the Arctic is scheduled for 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: email@example.com).