Geography - The spirit of adventure

15th March 2013 at 00:00
Take inspiration for a local trek from an Antarctic expedition

Ejecting teams of young children into the snow is not usually a preferred educational option. But for our Year 6 students, engaged in following the progress of Leo Houlding as he climbed the northeast ridge of Ulvetanna, Antarctica, it was the culmination of a two-month project.

We have become an accredited Adventure Learning School as a result of this unusual, bespoke curriculum and our adventure-based learning programme is now threaded through all activities at our primary school.

The idea for the Antarctica project came from Houlding and the Adventure Learning Schools team six months ago, and has provided myriad opportunities to inspire, motivate and enhance our children's learning. The students were introduced to the scheme at the beginning of November; they worked on a presentation and questions to ask Houlding when they met him later that month.

They carried out extensive research into the expedition during the final week of the autumn term, completed this over the Christmas holidays and by the beginning of the spring term had unbridled enthusiasm for our Antarctica-themed week.

The young team planned their expedition to our adventure learning progress site, a large, natural wooded area, where in January they spent the day "surviving" outdoors in several inches of snow. They then had to secure their belongings (tents, water and food) to sledges before setting off on a trek, following a map of the local area. It was great to see how well the teams of eight worked together, helping each other over the icy terrain.

After the mile-long hike the determined students finally arrived. There were some hiccups but the children solved problems collectively, demonstrating superb communication skills and teamwork. There was also some fun: the students had a sledge race and concluded the day with toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate.

The value of the project continues. Over the past three weeks the students have worked as a media team, interviewing other children and staff, editing footage of the day and producing a documentary - the school's first - about the expedition.

It has been an unforgettable experience in which the children developed self-confidence, strengthened their teamwork and began to appreciate, first-hand, the difficulties faced by Houlding and his team. We plan to repeat the experience with Year 6 again this year, and projects for other years are now on the drawing board.

Field trips can be chaotic and even hazardous, but get them right and the benefits will be felt across the curriculum, throughout the school year.

Sarah Walton is a foundation subject manager and Year 6 teacher at Westfield Community School in Wigan

What else?

Try a resource on outdoor learning with early years foundation stage and key stage 1 classes.


Watch key stage 2 geography specialist Jane Whittle lead her class on a magical journey through the school's own woods in this video from Teachers TV.


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