Bear necessities for a modern life

15th September 2006 at 01:00
How can teachers create successful learners, confident individuals, responsible global citizens and effective contributors? TES Scotland reporters look at innovative methods being adopted in the steady drive towards A Curriculum for Excellence

Two Argyll primary teachers have come up with an innovative idea to develop communication skills between their P2s - a teddy bear exchange.

The project came to fruition after Marlyn Moffat and Morag Macdonald met four years ago at the Masterclass programme of SETT. The two bears - Campbell Bear and Spencer Bear - set of from Campbeltown and Tighnabruaich respectively.

"Initially we put our P2s in touch by exchanging the bears. Each one took goodies to the other school - a map and pictures of his area," explains Mrs Moffat. "We had to go to the sorting office because he was being posted.

The children had to sign for the bear when he arrived and telephone the other school to confirm his safe arrival.

But Mrs Moffat, a teacher at Castlehill Primary in Campbeltown, and Mrs Macdonald, a teacher at Tighnabruaich Primary, who now teaches in Dunoon , wanted to develop their pupils' ICT skills.

The children took the bears home and made a diary and documented the visit.

Mrs Moffat's pupils took digital photographs and videos and used the mind-mapping tool Kidspiration.

"Inspiration is the better known one for further up the school," says Mrs Moffat. "It's a terrific program for mind-mapping - categorising your thoughts - and stimulating writing.

"We sent a digital camera home from school if they didn't have one. The parents got right in behind it."

The children took Spencer on trips. "They did everything from climbing trees to quad-biking."

The project covered many currciulum strands, from language and ICT to geography, as each school learned about the other.

"I persuaded Loganair's press department that Campbell was a VIB (very important bear) and he deserved a trip to Islay," says Mrs Moffat. "The pilot had him in the cockpit and all the P2s and P3s went to the airport to see him off."

This was organised through another Masterclass contact, a teacher in Islay.

The pupils there had to show Campbell around as though he were a tourist.

The P2s then moved into P3. "This time Spencer got to drive the Calmac ferry.

"We started a blog with the P2s and P3s. They learned how to take photographs, crop photographs in iPhoto and upload them to Blogger. Each bear had his own blog account and the children had a class account.

"We got our maths out of the site meter on the blog and we tracked where all the visitors to the site came from."

There were hits from all over the world, including the Russian Urals, Chile and Canada, and the P3s were invited to do a home project on one of these places, finding out about the country, currency and what children do there.

They also filmed an iMovie.

Mrs Moffat, who is "always wanting to put the C in ICT", says the project "massively improved their ICT skills" on a need-to-know basis. Her P3s learned so much that some of them even advised the P6 year group about internet safety.

However, the greatest achievement was the improvement in the standard of the children's writing. "The volume of it, their self-analysis and their peer support were remarkable. Once they found the spellcheck, they would write much more."

Ultimately, she says the real strength of the project was its promotion of independent learning. "That's what you're aiming for; I just didn't think I would come across it in a P3 class. You just have to have the confidence to say to a P3, 'Here's a digital camera, go and do it' and away they go.

"I really hope to see more of this as A Curriculum For Excellence kicks in: more cross-curricular projects, less isolation. It's about effective use of ICT for a purpose, not just for the sake of it."

At the end of the project, in May, the children from both schools had a teddy bears' picnic on an Argyll beach. "They all knew each other from their blogs and photographs," says Mrs Moffat.

Mrs Macdonald now hopes to set up a similar project in Dunoon.

Miranda Fettes


Infants Can Communicate! by Marlyn Moffat and Morag Macdonald, Wednesday 5pm and Thursday 10am

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