Click here to remove cultural blinkers

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Pupils all over the country will soon be able to turn into virtual Phileas Foggs and go on an online balloon trip round the world. The Learning Journey is designed to teach pupils about global issues at the same time as it fosters independent learning, teamwork and creativity.

The journey can begin anywhere in the world: in the Amazon, where pupils learn about resources and the rainforest; in South Africa, where they learn about apartheid and reconciliation; or Iraq, which many pupils are surprised to learn was once a cradle of civilisation.

In Western Europe, the balloon touches down outside Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam, providing an opportunity to learn about the persecuted. "Pupils learn there are still Anne Franks out there today living in difficult conditions," says John Davies, a former deputy head, now learning futures adviser to Dudley, which is piloting the journey in schools.

Problems and puzzles give a clue to the next destination, arousing curiosity and leading pupils on. "We try to capture the essence of each destination," says Mr Davies.

The project began its own voyage as The Dudley Challenges five years ago.

Today, the authority's advisers and teachers are working with Futurelab, the charity that develops technology for education, to produce an assessment scheme for the resource. It will be available nationally later this year.

The Learning Journey is a collaborative resource: pupils are part of multinational teams which help and advise each other on progressing through their expeditions. Pupils contact schools overseas or locally to ask questions about the culture and the people.

"The idea is to remove the blinkers to international understanding and for pupils to establish their own personal links," says Mr Davies.

"They find out what makes people proud of their own culture rather than looking at it from our own narrow perspective."

The Learning Journey covers some 80 per cent of the key stage 2 and 3 geography, history and IT curriculum. "We have a model for an alternative curriculum more appropriate for the 21st century," says Mr Davies.

Yojana Sharma

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