The replica Endeavour which arrived in the Pool of London this spring from Western Australia will set out for the United States from Plymouth on December 18. In the mean time, Endeavour is calling at British ports during the summer. A major highlight has been the ship's arrival at Whitby,the birthplace of the original Endeavour, where a crowd of up to 100,000 welcomed the ship.
Among the crowd were six young Western Australians and their teacher Ms Debbie Gibson from Richmond primary school, Fremantle, who had established an information exchange with Whitby's West Cliff primary school and the headteacher Janet Bell.
Since last year the children had exchanged information about their countries and their schools, maintaining contact by using the Internet and e-mail. While the Australian children were in Whitby for a busy two weeks, the two schools, half a world apart contacted each other via video conferencing.
I caught up with the girls and their teacher on a hectic 12-hour visit to London to see the "sights". History had certainly come alive for these youngsters but they were making sure that the entire school back home was benefiting from their visit through the focus on IT. Richmond school's Web home page is one of the links included on the Endeavour Project Web site.
During the Endeavour's voyage from Australia, the log kept by the Captain Chris Blake could be read and the course followed on a chart on the Web site. The crew included four Travel Buddies - soft toy animals - Betty Bilby, Ned Numbat, Penny Platypus and Walter Wombat.
These four intrepid voyagers could be sent questions by e-mail and their on-line diaries read on the Internet so children could learn about life on board a square- rigged ship and the perils that faced Captain James Cook on the Endeavour's voyages.
There is still a chance to see Endeavour and go aboard as she visits various ports until September. Details of arrival and departure times and entry fees are on the Endeavour Web site.
The Travel Buddy or Travel Mate is a good way of encouraging children's writing, as the soft toy "character" can be given a journal which travels with it either in an exchange between schools in different parts of the country or different continents.
North American teacher Jane Moore has described on the Net what she thought her children got out of the experience: "One of the most important lessons my classes have learned from their Travel Mates is that there are many, many kinds of strangers in the world. Our Travel Mates travel through the kindness of strangers for the most part. The wonderful stories they collect in their journals, the postcards, and the souvenirs all tell the kids that there are many adults in the world who care about their education." She provides a letter to parents explaining how the scheme works and a pattern for a small backpack to hold the traveller's journal or items of interest.
Children can make use of their map skills to plot the buddy's voyage, and curriculum areas such as English, history, geography, and art can all benefit from the activities encouraged by such a project. For some children, providing a background and adventures for a soft toy character may prove easier to do than writing about themselves to a pen friend who, to begin with, is a stranger. Buddy projects seem to be an activity which provide an alternative or additional way of children writing to other children, involving imaginative as well as informative elements, in which the children become eager writers as well as eager readers.
The Oz-teachers Web site has a Buddy project providing advice about how to prevent parcel mishaps when sending Buddies on their way. It suggests the need to get the complete postal address, not just details from e-mail correspondence. It also recommends making use of airmail for inter-country posting; completing custom label declarations; securely packing the traveller and making sure the receiver knows of anything else going with them such as a journal; always notifying the sender as soon as the traveller arrives. If these are done, the children can breathe a sigh of relief that their Buddy has arrived safely.
Requests from UK schools posted to the Oz-teachers list to find a Buddy partner usually get a good response from Australian schools, with more schools volunteering than are needed.
Endeavour Web site:
Oz-teachers Web site: http:owlqut.edu.auoz-teachernet
Beth Goodacre is emeritus professor of education at Middlesex University