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DTPSE - Shelter from the storm

What it's all about

How do you turn a Year 6 (P6) design and technology unit into a trailblazing project that gives children insight into their world? This year, Red Nose Day's focus on slums is an excellent opportunity to get children thinking about shelters, writes Paul Felts.

Armed with a random selection of materials and a small toy figure to house, my class worked in teams to fashion model shelters. Having completed their models, and been given a friendly critique by their rival teams, they identified the key characteristics. Comments about looks and modern conveniences figured highly - until, to the children's horror, I produced a watering can and an electric fan. As they watched their structures collapse under the force of "rain and wind", there was a sudden realisation that perhaps they should have put strength and safety higher up the agenda.

They rebuilt their shelters with a new focus. This became competitive, with groups complaining about some teams having better resources than others. Given limited materials, what would your home be like? What would it feel like to live in difficult conditions?

Get pupils to design a shelter to house a family of six to 10 people, who have to cook, eat, sleep and play there.

Supersizing the project by challenging them to create a life-size slum installation - perhaps in the school hall -will help them to develop empathy for those who have no choice about where they live.

What else?

A poster to introduce your pupils to daily life in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. bit.lyRNDPoster

Ask children to fill in a pledge to explain why they are taking part in Red Nose Day. bit.lyRNDPledge2013.

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