Can I make a difference?
Age Group: Key stage 1, years 1 and 2
Selection of Content: One long term aim of the school is to become a ‘Green Flag’ Eco School, which meant that as well as building on the previous silver work by the Juniors, the newly amalgamated Infant department and Autism Provision also needed to be brought ‘on board’. Most of my teaching experience has been with KS2 pupils and part of my remit this year has been to develop the KS1 SoW, resources and approach to geography.
This project has given me the opportunity to challenge myself to create a new unit of work for Y1/2 pupils and to link both of these strands together.
Teaching & Learning Activities
‘Can I make a difference?’ was the title of this project – well the answer has been a resounding ‘YES!’ With the minimum of effort, nine of the children’s suggestions for improvement have been acted on and the others are now part of our whole school Action Plan. It’s amazing what can actually be achieved in a very short time – I’ve been fretting about a leaking drinking water tap for weeks, but as soon as my Eco Reps made a negative comment about it, it was miraculously mended!
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 will hopefully 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.
Going straight to the top was definitely worthwhile! Having spoken to my supportive Head, I requested an agenda item in a Governor meeting and gave a PowerPoint presentation about becoming an Eco School. This was well-received and elicited offers of support, contacts and ideas. I also gave a similar presentation to my colleagues, including TA’s, Site Manager and Cleaners which again led to positive feedback and means that everyone now has a basic understanding of this ESD strand which will hopefully partly underpin the ethos of the school.
Influencing others does not have to be too direct. Leading by example in 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. In addition, 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 & 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.
‘What do you think we should do to stop people spoiling the planet?’ Y1/2 pupil responses (following discussion of the book Wonderful Earth):
- It will spoil the environment
- Tell them off
- Tell the police
- Clear up after them
- Why should we clear up after them?
- I would tidy up after myself
- Have a boot sale to get rid of it
- Stop the factories making bad things
- Make sure that everyone knows where the dump recycling places are
- Maybe they’re too lazy to drive their car to the recycling centre
- You could make it a law to not litter
- Make people pay if they drop litter
This unit of work can now underpin our ESD strands throughout the school and means that all pupils now have a voice on our Eco School Committee and have had input in the schools’ Action Plan. It feeds into Y3/4 work on ‘Investigating improving our environment’ where similar surveys are carried out, but extended to make the data analysis more detailed and involving field sketches instead of relying on photographic images of areas studied. This will ensure the continuity of geographical concepts & progression in skills.
Once funding has been secured (the timing of this project was quite close to the end of the financial year and so budgets were tight) I aim to ensure that at least one of the mini projects suggested by the pupils involved will actually be led by them – the ‘Welcome to our school’ sign in the entrance hall and/or gardening spaces seem obvious choices.
In retrospect, an obvious thing to have done would have been to 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. However, there is an eye-catching display in a shared area that details the work from start to finish which has caused a lot of talk from pupils and staff alike.
- Citizenship – developing confidence and responsibility, preparing to play an active role as citizens
- Science – variation in species and habitats
- RE – different religions’ views of the world and its creation
- Numeracy – data handling, collection of real data, appropriate presentation methods and analysis of data sets
- Literacy – textual clues to ‘hidden’ meaning or moral conveyed in a story or poem.
Background Information about the School
We are a recently amalgamated Primary School (previously a separate Infant School, Junior School & Autism Provision) in the coastal town of Whitstable, Kent. We have extensive, but currently under-developed grounds and the school buildings themselves are quite a labyrinth of rooms, spaces and new-ish extensions. Currently we have 11 classes with a wide range of abilities and experiences in each.
Geography and ESD have a high status within the school – the pre-amalgamation Junior School being awarded silver status by the Eco School organisation and a Gold Primary Geography Quality Mark in August 2006. We are currently in the unusual position of geography as a subject being taught by a ‘specialist’ teacher throughout the school during colleagues’ PPA time.
This material was contributed by Sue Parsons.