Author: Gemma Eden, Watercliffe Meadow Community School
“My name is Gemma Eden, and I am currently working in year 5 at Watercliffe Meadow school in Sheffield. I joined the Geography and the Global Dimension Project in its second year, as my school role as coordinator of Knowledge and Understanding of the World, and my personal interests in geography and global concepts, made it appeal highly to me.”
Year Group: Year 5
Quick outline of project
My project, entitled `Water, Water Everywhere’, began with a change of the children’s environment as they walked in on a Monday morning to a blue hue with lots of water facts!
View the Powerpoint
PowerPoint Download: Water, Water Everywhere
I took a Philosophy for Children (P4C) approach of introducing a stimulus, which was the classroom change, a letter and chest from a well-known water charity. This is the relevant part of the letter:
‘Raising awareness of how other people live around the world is all part of our work, and so we are sending to you the attached package containing statistics, story books, facts, maps and objects. We hope that you and your class can find the time to study this ‘chest’ of water related things and do some research into what’s in there.’
I’d made the letter up, telling the children that it had been sent by Water Aid. We had been accessing the games on their website the day before, and this had triggered their interest.
Having discovered the 8 key concepts of Global Dimension earlier on in the Geography & Global Dimension Project, I wanted to ensure that these concepts became more thoroughly embedded in our current curriculum so I added sustainability, social justice, and ‘recognising the impact of unequal power and access to resources’ into the planning for my current topic.
Child led – by introducing a stimulus the children were able to take a lead in their own learning, and constantly refer back to the selected Global Dimension concepts as these remained, in part, in their minds.
Here as well as there – We started off with ourselves and water use at home and then, the letter pointed to two localities referenced in the chest. In addition to the 8 key concepts, this had the biggest impact on the children, their perceptions and their learning.
The letter said this: ‘We have three requests, if you can find the time to do this:
- That you learn about the two places referenced and find out more about what happened there.
- That you refer to the Global Dimension statements enclosed, and draw conclusions from it.
- That you produce a piece of learning that shows what you have looked at, and can be sent to us.’
We then viewed newspaper articles, video clips and photographs of the devastation caused in these two localities by water. These focused on:
– Bangladesh and the Tsunami in 2004; chosen as I remember sitting in my Auntie’s living room on Boxing Day that year viewing the footage, and
– New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina and the overflowing of the levee; something someone else involved in our project suggested to me.
The children found out how each natural disaster had been formed, and studied maps, diagrams and understood how the distance above sea level, or the placement of water in and surrounding the locality had an impact.
Assessment – The children were shocked, seeing devastation in two completely different places. Prior to viewing the video footage they had learnt as much as they could about the countries from atlases and other the resources provided. You can see in the picture them using not only the atlases, but a globe to gain this knowledge.
The actual reality of expectations against outcome was the most shocking of all. The USA and New Orleans appeared so rich and well-resourced in comparison to Bangladesh. It enabled them to question their own ‘single story’ perceptions. One of the questions from the children that will always remain with me was, “Why did Bangladesh get support from Water Aid, and New Orleans not? It’s not fair, they needed help too!”
The whole experience spurred them into action, and we assessed against the selected key concepts of global dimension what we had learnt and how we could make change and create awareness. As you can see one group chose to create a poster promoting the saving of water, reflecting on the statement about Sustainable development: ‘recognising that some of the earth’s resources are finite and therefore must be responsibly used by each of us’
Reflection – Reflection is an important part of anyone’s learning, and we use it very effectively in our school. We did this in many ways, reflecting on what we had learnt and what further action we could take.
I myself learnt that in order to fully embed geographical and global understanding that planned activities have to be engaging, child-led as far as possible and include at least one aspect of global dimension and learning from one of geography’s `big ideas’ (or key concepts).
One of my wishes was that the project could have gone on for longer, as the children were full of questions, and about the things they had learnt. I will leave you with one of their thoughts:
Two children debating the use of the levees in New Orleans, questioned whether its place in the environment made the flooding worse by providing a barrier to the flood water retreating back into the river, or helping as it took longer for it to flood.
and two of their questions:
‘What determines a country getting help or not getting help? `How else can we make people understand that these things matter?’