the young geographers project 2008 curriculum making with primary teachers n.
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The Young Geographers Project 2008: Curriculum making with primary teachers. Simon Catling. The GA’s Young Geographers Project. The Young Geographers Project emphasised these key aspects: ~ engaging in practical ‘curriculum making’ – creating a geography project;

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the ga s young geographers project
The GA’s Young GeographersProject
  • The Young Geographers Project emphasised these key aspects:

~ engaging in practical ‘curriculum making’ – creating a geography project;

~ capturing the motivation of ‘living geography’;

~ learning outside the classroom;

~ education for sustainable development;

~ local solutions.

  • Living Geography is about teaching geography so that it comes ‘alive’ for children. Some defining principles are:

~ embracing young people’s/children’s geographies;

~ being current and futures oriented;

~ often ‘local’, but always set in the wider (global) context;

~ investigating changing environments/places;

~ encouraging critical understanding of sustainable development.

YG site : www.geography.org.uk/projects/younggeographers/resources/

Westminster Institute of Education

creating the film of the true story of little red riding hood in southborough
Creating the film of the ‘True Story of Little Red Riding Hood’ in Southborough

Story board writing

  • The focus was on the Year 2 children’s perceptions of hazards in the local environment [6-7 year olds].
  • Chapters/film sequences for the story were based in different locations around Southborough.
  • It used the story of Little Red Riding Hood’s journey to granny’s house through the children’s own locality of Southborough, with the Wolf helping her to avoid local dangers.

Location choices

  • The children were aware of hazards but had to research the area to identify and determine which were those that concerned them. This was written up as a story sequence. They had to turn the narrative into a film.
  • Using school neighbourhood street maps the children chose specific film locations to use. These were visited to decide on their suitability for filming.” – Jonathan Kersey, Yr 2 teacher

Westminster Institute of Education

year 2 filming in southborough
Year 2 filming in Southborough

Westminster Institute of Education

southborough the children s perspective on local environmental hazards
“We shouldn’t cross the main London Road unless we use the pedestrian crossing. The London Road is very dangerous because there are always lots of cars.”

“Don’t pick up glass because you could cut yourself. The alleyway near Prospect Road has lots of dangerous broken glass.”

“Never climb up places where it says danger on it. The electricity box is very dangerous. There is a yellow danger sign on it. It says ‘danger of death’.”

”You should not sit at the end of a slide in case someone hurts you. There are slides in Crundwell Road Park and Pennington Park. Be careful in the parks!”

“ Some of Southborough is dangerous. You need to be with a grown up to support you and look after you. They can help you stay safe.”

“ Never walk into the woods by yourself. You can have fun there but make sure you are with a grown up.”

Southborough: The children’s perspective on local environmental hazards

Westminster Institute of Education

southborough the children s learning
Southborough: The children’s learning

What did the children learn from their engagement in the Project?

  • Fascinated by the project and motivated to make a film.
  • Discussed their perception of place, considered aspects of their local environment, and very clear about suitable locations for the film.
  • Expressed their views on particular locations about real environmental hazards/issues.
  • Had clear ideas about local hazards/dangers to include and how to avoid them.
  • Used maps to identify specific streets and sites around school to use to tell the story, developing map reading skills.
  • Developed ICT skills using cameras for framing environment film shots.

In what way could the Project be developed?

  • Children to consider portraying the same locations positively. The focus on hazards/dangers saw locations only in terms of their critical aspects.
  • Revisit the same locations to identify positive images to counter balance the images from the film.

Westminster Institute of Education

involved together
Involved together

“It is so important to give even the youngest children a real voice within a school.

  • What adults deem to be of importance to younger children may not actually be the case. For example, a lot of time and effort had been spent in our newly sited Library area, making it bright and attractive, with visually stimulating objects and work areas. However, for many pupils, the effect was overpowering and gave the feeling of claustrophobia. As a result, furniture has been removed and the layout reorganised.
  • Would you have expected the little ‘ego-centric’ 5 year olds to think about the needs of the ‘big children’? One of their recommendations was for larger goalposts on the Playground for the Y5/6 pupils.
  • Do children accept vandalism to school property as just a fact of life? No – they were horrified at scratches and scribbles on classroom furniture and thought that punishment (a school jail) was wholly appropriate!
  • Do younger children value their environment? Absolutely, but not only this, they can also see links between actions and consequences. – They dislike muddy carpets and appreciate plant life and grassy areas and can accept that sliding down the bank to reach the classroom may no longer be acceptable.
  • The fact that all pupils were involved in creating our school Eco-Code hopefully will mean that it will be adhered to, become second nature to them and develop a lifelong set of values to guide them in later life.”

Sue Parsons, Years 1/2 teacher

Westminster Institute of Education

our school a view for a school in another country
Our School – A view for a school in another country

A child-led topic

  • “We have just established links with a school in Tanzania and the children are keen to find out about school life and the life of the children in Tanzania. Based on this we decided that it would be nice to send a book to Tanzania that tells them about our school and our lives. This was a very child-led project with the children choosing the location visited as places that were important to them and their lives. We did map work and field work, both in and outside the school. This was a project that was thoroughly enjoyed by the children.”

Our evaluation

  • “The children were very enthusiastic from the outset and the project was led by them and their enthusiasm. I was surprised by how interested they were in their local area and the perceptions they have of it. I was surprised by the children’s ability to sequence photographs and identify areas from photographs that they have visited and then locate them on a map. Most of the children needed a starting point (the school) highlighting on the map and they were able to find the streets they lived on, the park, plan a route to the shops and the main high street. They proved to be very critical thinkers and this project promoted the use of geographical vocabulary.”

Jemma Leach, Year 3 teacher

Westminster Institute of Education

curriculum making for teachers
Curriculum making for teachers
  • involves giving responsibility to teachers to make choices and decisions about the focus of studies;
  • requires careful, partial planning, and open-mindedness – planning for flexibility and adaptability: changes in direction and/or emphasis;
  • involves creativity, discussion and debate, openness to opportunities, challenges, risk-taking, flexibility, divergence, critical reflection of what did and did not work;
  • requires knowledge of and confidence in the children – to engage them in the planning and/or in choices about and the organisation of activities;
  • involves the capacity to harness and channel children’s enthusiasm;
  • evidently engages the teacher’s role and skills in teaching;
  • requires a level of confidence in yourself as a learner, with the skills of listening and observing, and of responding and leading;
  • involves experiential learning in and outside the classroom, connected teachers and children, high levels of motivation, and practical engagement with geographical topics that have meaning for and impact on all involved.

Westminster Institute of Education

the value of the young geographers project
The Value of the Young Geographers Project
  • Teachers had permission to do something different, try a new approach, be a little risky, and actively motivate and engage their children.
  • Curriculum making proved a liberating, demanding and much valued context and approach. Teachers felt they regained control. They modified their required plans or devised a new geography topic, while involving the children.
  • Teachers’ eyes were opened to the environmental awareness, capabilities and potential younger children bring to geographical studies – their everyday geographies – and they harnessed this.
  • It encouraged going out into and using the school grounds and/or the locality – local fieldwork – and seeing its greater potential for enquiry.
  • Geography became more visible in school to everyone: the children’s effect.
  • It improved teachers’ understanding of sustainable development to a limited extent. Some children moved beyond litter and traffic studies to the impact of people’s lifestyles in poverty and wealth on the environment.
  • Time for geography teaching – among other factors – was a constraint.
  • Teachers felt that sharing their ideas, experiences and outcomes through formal and informal (ICT based) networks was very supportive and encouraging.
  • The Project Leaders played an invaluable initiating, encouraging, responsive and supportive role – and who modelled the principles of curriculum making.

Westminster Institute of Education

five elements in successful primary teacher curriculum making
Five elements in successful primary teacher curriculum making

In school, what enabled the teachers to initiate and carry through their curriculum making projects?

  • The attitude and willingness to take curriculum responsibility, to take opportunities and to seek solutions to problems;
  • Active support by the head teacher, allowing flexibility to be creative, change direction and develop new avenues for study.
  • Time to develop ideas, and opportunities to put them into effect, reflect on them and learn from their practice.
  • The support of like-minded colleagues in or beyond school to bounce ideas off and to provide encouragement and support throughout.
  • A real sense and clarity of purpose for and focus in the curriculum making project, to bring it alive for themselves and the children and which involves the children as active contributors.

Westminster Institute of Education

influencing primary colleagues about curriculum making does not have to be too direct or directive
Influencing primary colleagues about curriculum making does not have to be too direct or directive
  • “Leading by examplein a non threatening way can be extremely effective. I gave the class teachers a copy of the detailed Medium Term Plans so that they could see the sorts of activities that their pupils had been engaged with.
  • Putting up a display as a sort of ‘Working Wall’ in a shared area is an easy way of showing what is happening in your classroom and making it easy for others to replicate. By ensuring that stimulus materials, key questions, subject-specific vocabulary, pupil work, instructional text, maps & photographic images are all included in the display, colleagues can quickly get the feel of the approach taken.
  • Make a presentation to the rest of the school, with the pupils themselves describing what they had been involved with and explaining the outcomes of their work.”

Sue Parsons, primary geography subject leader

Westminster Institute of Education