Branching out

14th October 2005 at 01:00
A Lake District project at Grizedale Forest offers hands-on experience of global issues, as Jessie Anderson discovers

An innovative approach to teaching global citizenship has emerged from a three-year project in the Lake District. "Going Global at Grizedale" aims to build greater awareness and understanding of the global dimension by incorporating key concepts into activities offered at Grizedale Forest.

"A Survival Pack for Future Citizens" is targeted at KS2 and gives pupils from ages 7-11 an opportunity to get to grips with global issues in an outdoor environment which, to most of them, is unfamiliar. The environment around which the resource pack and the outdoor sessions have been designed is the 2,447 hectare Grizedale Forest between Lake Windermere and Coniston Water.

I joined a session run by Kate Jordan, education tutor with Grizedale Forest, for a group from George Romney Junior School, Dalton-in-Furness.

Their teacher, Adrian Lett, visited South Africa in 2002 as part of the Global Teacher programme, organised by Link Community Development. "The children are faced with some quite challenging concepts," he says. "The outdoor activity session gives them an understanding of resources and an empathy with the lifestyles of other people."

He sees the sessions as a sort of drip-feed. "It's sometimes intangible what goes in," he says. "But days or weeks later it may come out - perhaps in a piece of writing."

From the outset, Kate focused the children's attention on the meaning of "global" and "sustainability". Then they were off into the forest to think about "wants and needs". "Imagine you are living in a very different place," they were told. "No supermarkets, no water out of a tap. What do you need to survive for a long time in a sustainable way?"

Divided into groups, they had to choose from an assortment of 16 picture cards the things they would most need. The cards show such diverse subjects as an electric generator, toilet paper, chickens, a cow, toothbrush, medicine, and so on. Initially, they could choose 12 "needs" and toilet paper featured quite frequently. By the time the number was reduced to six, toothbrushes and toilet paper had disappeared. Down to four, all but one rated shelter as a priority. And that group justified having excluded shelter by choosing tools, with which to build it.

Eventually, through discussion, the basic needs of water, food and shelter emerged. The importance of water was emphasised by giving pupils the task of carrying it in full beakers over a longish, rough forest track. Two bright lads solved the spillage problem by catching the overflow in a plastic bowl as they walked.

Next, the groups were allowed to choose from a limited area of the forest sites on which to build their shelters. They were only allowed to gather material available on the ground. The resulting shelters were impressive, considering these were seven and eight-year-olds, and they had under an hour to complete the structure. Roofs and even damp-proof floors were made from branches and bracken, and standing trees and fallen logs were pressed into service.

Pupils were encouraged to consider food sources by collecting cut-out cardboard apples hidden near their shelters. On the back of each cut-out was information on how far the apple had travelled and also the amount of carbon dioxide produced by transporting each apple the relevant distance.

For instance, transporting one tonne of apples 17,700 kilometres, produces 21 tonnes of CO2.

Rewards - glass beans - were handed out for good efforts and well-reasoned choices. The beans could be spent on an assortment of odds and ends - a hot water bottle, an electric jug, framed pictures, plastic sheeting, a rusty padlock and other oddments. The children were invited to buy goods which would improve their shelters. Plastic sheeting was snapped up to make the shelters more weather-proof.

Then, suddenly, they were told that heavy machinery was coming through the forest and they must run. They had unexpectedly become refugees, leaving their shelters and all their possessions behind. It encouraged them to think about genuine refugees. "How did you feel when we had to leave our shelters in a hurry?" asked Kate. "Disappointed and sad" and "shocked", came the answers.

The project was funded by the Department for International Development, Barrow Community Learning Partnership, the Lake District National Park Sustainable Development Fund and Cumbria County Council. It was co-ordinated by Gina Mullarkey of Cumbria Development Education Centre in partnership with Anthea Stevenson, Emma Bartlet and Tania Crockett of the Forestry Commission at Grizedale.

Outdoor activity sessions, produced as the culmination of the project, are now being offered at key stage 2 and also at KS34, with supporting curriculum packs and CD-Roms.

As well as its focus on global citizenship, there are other key curriculum links with literacy, geography, design and technology, science and RE.

* A session for a class of up to 30 costs pound;60. The activity packs, which include a teacher's booklet and CD-Rom, costs pound;22.

Tel: 01229 480507 For bookings and details, contact Tania Crockett, education and community officer at Grizedale.

Tel: 01229 862023

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