GlosGeog’s virtual Primary Teach Meet is a hit!

GlosGeog

This afternoon saw me host GlosGeog’s first virtual Primary Teach Meet. This proved to be a very popular event, with all available places being filled a couple of weeks before the deadline date for bookings. We decided to take the theme of sustainability since it was Earth Day today. Having many hugely experienced and high profile geographers contributing was an asset too; many thanks to all for giving up their time to share best practice.

After providing a formal welcome, introductions and mentioning the usual house-keeping/protocols, I started the ball rolling with a short presentation of Abbots Hall Community Primary School‘s work as part of a virtual multi-schools Amazon-themed event. I gave a little background information, before discussing what we did, paying particular attention to the movie clip of the Kambeba indigenous community and its associated activity, as well as the period of reflection during the plenary session. The optional extension task completed by those at Abbots Hall Community Primary School produced some wonderful work to showcase; postcards with questions to the Kambeba children and movie-clips received in return from youngsters within the heart of the Amazon. It has been truly magical to witness the impact this connection has had on both communities.

Next up was Dr Stephen Scoffham, whose talk was entitled ‘Exploring sustainability‘. I heard Stephen and Steve Rawlings speak at the GA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in April 2023 and knew he would have the audience captivated. Stephen touched upon many themes, including the radical educational disconnect, sustainability as a contested concept, the different ways of knowing, unifying ideas and concepts and the integrated approach that is needed. He also gave his and Steve’s wonderful book a little plug too (Sustainability Education: A Classroom Guide by Stephen Scoffham and Steve Rawlinson).

Helen Russell, Key Stage 2 Curriculum Lead and Geography Subject Leader at Down Ampney C of E Primary School in Gloucestershire, aptly followed, explaining about the development of a sustainability curriculum at Down Ampney C of E Primary School. Stephen and Steve’s book had provided much inspiration. Helen shared a copy of their whole school curriculum and evidence of its impact; some impressive written work, exemplary fieldwork and photographs of the children in action.

Then, it was time for Dr Liam Saddington to make an appearance to showcase a climate action toolkit that he and colleagues have been trialling with primary schools in the east of England. Liam provided an overview of the project and some of the initial findings gained from primary school teachers. It is hoped to extend trials further afield from early June and anticipated that materials will be more widely available from September 2024.

Dr Paula Owens is certainly a natural; she is always so easy to listen to. Paula considered biodiversity in and around your school. She showcased work that she had done with Warden Bay Primary School and the local community. Paula focused on thinking about sustainability, emphasised that language, fieldwork and mapping all matter, as do values and attitudes, deciding and doing (connecting people with nature) and remembering to identify the geography! She linked to Rob Macfarlane’s superb book, The Lost Spell, and the Merlin app for recognising birdsong too.

Unfortunately, Anthony Barlow was unable to attend in real time due to a clash in commitments. However, he really wished to support our virtual Primary Teach Meet, so spent time putting together a short movie clip for me to play this afternoon and some suggested questions to fire at the audience. His presentation, ‘Plastic fantastic!‘, was both interesting and thought-provoking. I referred to a section of the virtual multi-schools and single school events that I frequently deliver in conjunction with Wicked Weather Watch, which uncovers a similar issue (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/arctic-multi-school-events/). I posed Anthony’s questions to educators thereafter, gathering answers via the chat feed, which I will, of course, feedback to him.

Morgan Marshall, based at WWT Slimbridge, spoke about their successful Generation Wild project. Some schools on board today will be eligible to take part in this fantastic, FREE initiative too; a great opportunity to take learning beyond the classroom at no cost. The videos that she played explained more about this unique learning programme and the benefits that it has had to date were very clear.

Despite only just returning from her week’s leave, Sarah Whitehouse offered to deliver a brief presentation about ‘The DRY project: the diary of a water super hero‘. I had heard about this previously through my contact with Sarah, but there were many here that had not. Sarah spoke about the importance of allaying eco-anxiety with regard to the climate crisis, some UK drought myths, taking personal responsibility and demonstrated how the associated book could be used. I loved the concept of DRYkus and ‘hidden water’ is an aspect to ponder with youngsters.

As soon as the school day had finished for Alan Parkinson, he joined us to talk about resetting Key Stage 2. He discussed King’s Ely‘s move from a creative curriculum to time allocated specifically for geography and how he had worked with the Year 3 to Year 5 team to develop new units. Alan referenced an article that he wrote for the GA’s Primary Geography journal too (https://portal.geography.org.uk/journal/view/J003189). Sustainability has been woven into their revised curriculum in some imaginative ways and Alan alluded to some of the challenges that they have faced alongside their successes. He also projected a link to a corresponding blog (https://resettingks2geography.blogspot.com/) and podcast (https://shows.acast.com/humanities-2020-podcast/episodes/humanities-2020-alan-parkinson) should viewers wish to learn more.

Ben Ballin‘s contribution focused on the Change the story project, an initiative with a European dimension. He shared the project’s ambition, its pilot and the many learning resources, which explore the past, present and future. I know I shall be delving into a few of these, as will several other educators here too judging by the comments inserted into the chat feed!

Wishing to ignite some creativity, Verity Jones‘ input centred upon ‘Taking action: meaningful learning through climate craft‘. Many schools engage in craft activities when investigating climate change, but how meaningful are they? Verity showcased a number of things that she has completed with local primary-aged children, which not only involved practising skills to reinforce and reflect the learning, but also had a positive impact on mental health and well-being.

Someone had to go last! However, this suited Alistair Hamill as it followed his teaching commitments and he definitely brought the event to a close with an enthralling and reflective presentation. Joining us all the way from Northern Ireland, he discussed ‘Exploring the progression of a big idea about sustainability and the circular economy through primary school‘. His talk was divided into two parts; the first centred upon geography’s big ideas helping to bring geographical meaning to the content being studied and the second concentrating on using these big ideas to plan for progression in the quality of geographical thinking and understanding.

Some of participants’ ‘concluding comments‘ can be viewed below:

Sadly, I have to dash to my next meeting. Great to see these flash talks!

Thank you everyone, some very useful information.

Thanks everyone!

Thank you to all the speakers, great information, fabulous ideas. Much appreciated.

Thank you everyone. Great ideas!

Wonderful ideas and resources. Unfortunately, I have to leave now.

Thank you everyone for all the wonderful ideas and sharing your knowledge. Much appreciated.

Thank you so much for all this info – lots to take away and use in school. I have to go now, but really appreciate your time.

Thank you so much. It has been very informative.

Thank you everyone – incredibly insightful and thought-provoking.

A wonderful programme, Emma. What a wealth of ideas and experience.

I thought the sessions were all inspiring – a good collection of ideas and thoughts.

Many congratulations on a hugely successful Earth Day event, which was full of interesting and engaging ideas. 

Great meeting!

It was a truly excellent event, full of great ideas and insights.

Great sharing of research and practice to support sustainable- and climate change-related learning.

Inspiring and insightful.

Very informative. Brilliant ideas for how to incorporate sustainability into schools.

Some helpful ideas and interesting speakers.

Was interesting to hear from different speakers and signpost us to new resources.

Insightful; useful; necessary; helpful and informative.

It was great to hear from so many professionals and advice and materials that they recommended.

It was very informative. I really liked the idea of allocating time to a few speakers so we benefit from all.

What a jam-packed, inspiring and engaging couple of hours! Many thanks, once again, to all those who contributed today. We look forward to repeating this exercise in the not-too-distant future. Hopefully, some of you will feel confident to share your best practice then too.

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