I've discovered a simple yet great way to extend the less able and stretch the gifted and talented in KS3 - build your own rainforest. I did this at my former school and I'm planning to do it again this year.
Students started off using books, the internet and pictures to find about the animals and plant life of the rainforest. Then I provided each student with an A4 blank template of the wall with doors and windows sketched in. They spent a session designing the rainforest scene, remembering to include all the key layers in its plant structure. I collected the templates and roughed out the best bits of all the designs onto the wall to provide an outline for painting. Each week for eight weeks two or three students were chosen to paint a section of the forest on the walls.
The project involved Year 8s studying the unit on the rain forest and the Brazilian economy, and Year 7s took part as an extension activity after school. Students made 3D animals and insects to stick on the wall when the painting was finished. It only needs simple materials, including paper, paint and PVA glue. "Spider webs" can be made to temporarily stick on windows. Squeeze some PVA glue onto some wrapping film in the shape of a spider web, and sprinkle on some glitter. Once dry the web can be peeled off the film and positioned on the window.
My students also made raindrops from blue card, to hang from the ceiling, and they wrote key facts about the rain forest on these. Leaf shapes can also be made.
When all the painting and 3D work was finished the students created a height chart with key words to stick to the mural to highlight the different layers, and names of key animals and vegetation. They felt as if they owned the classroom and had great fun transforming it. If you don't fancy creating your own rainforest, you could always chose another biome - perhaps the desert or an arctic exploration.
Geography teacher, Northfleet School for Girls, Kent
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