How do you turn a Year 6 design and technology unit into a trailblazing project that gives children insight into their world?
Last year, I took inspiration from history and focused on the building of inside toilets in Victorian times (always an attention grabber). This year, Red Nose Day's focus on slums is an excellent opportunity to get children thinking about shelters.
Armed with a random selection of materials and a small toy figure they had 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, I asked them to identify the key characteristics of their shelters. Comments about looks and modern conveniences figured highly - until, to the children's horror and delight, 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 their agenda.
They rebuilt their shelters with a new focus. This became competitive, with groups complaining about some teams having better resources than others. But it also prompted an illuminating discussion exploring needs and wants versus available resources and cost. Given limited materials, what would your home be like? What would it feel like to live in difficult conditions? And what is the true meaning of "home"?
Get pupils to design a shelter to house a family of six to 10 people, who have to cook, eat, sleep and play there, safely and in reasonable comfort. This should stimulate further discussion about what a home is and what is essential for life.
Supersizing the project by challenging pupils to create a life-size slum installation - which could be set up in the school hall - will help them to develop empathy for those who have no choice about where they live. As well as promoting high-quality Damp;T, this task will contribute to PSHE work. The group discussions will no doubt be lively. Certainly it is a novel way to not only enhance learning but also bring a new sense of purpose to fundraising activities on Red Nose Day.
Paul Felts is assistant head at Dulwich Hamlet Junior School in southeast London
This poster will help you to introduce your pupils to daily life in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.