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Enquiry-led Curriculum in Practice

4th Dec 2015

Year 3 and 4 are so excited about Monday 7th December at 6pm.  This is when The Great Exhibition – The Enduring Eye of Antarctica- will be opening for one night only! 

This is the culmination of our study of Antarctica, Shackleton and creation of our company I.R.T (International Rescue Team).  Back in September, the children received a film showing them some stranded National Geographic scientists, floating off on an ice flow to their certain deaths.  We found posters around the playground asking people to apply for the role as rescue team.  We all agreed that we could do it and the children duly wrote their persuasive application letters according to the selection criteria.  After receiving a successful email, we were watched at Forest School by NG representatives to test our team work skills.  Once we were commissioned, we set up our company (I.R.T) and decided what we needed to research and learn in order to complete the mission successfully. 

Forest School enabled us to learn survival skills and research into great explorers such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes.  After watching him train Helen Skelton for her South Pole challenge, we simulated the same conditions by pulling tyres over logs to replicate the conditions of pulling a sled over uneven ice.  We also trained in basic First Aid skills, tent erecting and the use of morse code.

Back in school, we used a text in Guided Reading, ‘Ice Trap’ by Meredith Hooper, which grabbed the children’s enthusiasm and attention.  It was the story of Shackleton’s Expedition to Antarctica which led to near death.  Through weekly drama workshops, we became the crew and it was clear that the children now had a personal and emotional attachment to the story and to their individual crew member/character.  Our writing throughout the term followed our rescue team’s research as did our Geography, Science, Art, ICT and Maths.  There were some unwelcome visitors during the process; a particularly nasty manager of National Geographic came to try and sack the children from the rescue mission fearing that they were too ‘weak’ and ‘inexperienced’ to carry out such a task.  The children worked hard to share everything they had achieved half way through the term and she reluctantly agreed that they could continue with the mission.

Through a newspaper article, the children discovered that this year was the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s expedition and decided to hold their own exhibition about Antarctica.  Agreeing that they would all become experts in an individual area, they set about planning their exhibition board and signed up for writing workshops in the areas of diary writing, biographies, non-chronological reports and poetry.   We decided to write to experts to help us with our chosen fields and soon the replies started rolling in.  Some notable examples was a personal letter from Sir Ranulph Fiennes and a Year 4 boy being made an honourable member of the Royal Navigation Society!  We wanted to know more about the lifeboat – The James Caird – and its astonishing journey across 800 miles of dangerous ocean and we were excited to find it at Dulwich College.  Our guide was thrilled with the children’s knowledge and enthusiasm for Shackleton.

The rescue mission took place on Monday of this week at Forest School and we scoured our imaginary Antarctica at Forest School for the missing scientists.  After setting up tents, cooking our own food, following trails, building rafts across the sea, crossing ice on our own rope bridges, we eventually rescued the scientists!  After giving them first aid, we were able to return to HQ elated!

And now… it’s two more schools days of preparation for the exhibition and dramatic reconstruction of Shackleton’s expedition.  This project has given the children incredible purposeful learning for all of their writing tasks and cross-curricular learning.  They have become superb self-managers and we are extremely proud of them.  We hope their parents and visitors to the exhibition will be equally proud on Monday night.  Watch this space for photos and reviews!

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