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Building brilliance

When I heard that I was teaching a "homes and houses" topic to my Year 1 class that would include visiting a new housing site, I was very excited.

"Poundbury, in Dorset, the home of Prince Charles's vision of affordable housing." But then I thought about the dangers - the holes, falling tiles and children falling off buildings.

My fears were allayed by a visit from an officer from the local building and schools partnership. She brought with her 31 small hard-hats, some steel toe-cap boots and a wealth of knowledge. She talked about safety procedures and the dangers on a building site, and the children told her the dos and don'ts they had learned through topic work.

When we arrived at the village, we identified the types of building for data handling. Steve, from C and J Fry, the building company, told the children about insulation (a science topic) and let them lay bricks with cement to show them the cavity between the two skins. We learned about tessellation this way and pupils laid bricks using various bonds to see which was stronger.

We discussed height and weight by comparing a 17-metre fork-lift with a 12m one. The site manager asked the children to guess how high up the building the fork-lift could reach and which cases of bricks it could manage.

It was a fascinating day, which produced some really rich language and a depth of knowledge that no amount of picture-showing or discussion in the classroom could have replicated.

Helen Irving Year 1 teacher, Prince of Wales School, Dorchester

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