Collaborative projects with other classes or schools are not unusual, but Gilmerton Primary in Edinburgh has gone one step further with its partner in Malawi. The two schools are connected through Link Community Development, and together they will use teaching resources that have been written and developed by Link to cover the curriculum in eight countries, so that partner schools can work together.
Gilmerton has been linked with Chidewere Primary School in the Dedza region of Malawi since 2007. Pupils have written letters and teachers exchanged visits. Soon they will be able to work on projects together, comparing notes on their carbon footprints, and making a learning book to send to their partner school.
Gilmerton Primary is one of 64 Link schools in Scotland which have received a Teaching Resource for Global Learning in School Partnership, the first in a series of six resources on Millennium Development Goals. Each one will contain six lesson plans, including references to Curriculum for Excellence experiences and outcomes. The first in the series covers the environment, and case studies for each country are provided, with key facts and viewpoints.
Pupils learn through brainstorming sessions, debates and homework tasks. They carry out investigations to find answers to a particular question, or what people in their community think about a certain issue.
Today staff from Link and its partner organisation Janeemo have come to the school to deliver one of the lessons on the environment.
The P7 children are joined by children from the school's eco-committee, and Link's Louise Stuart starts them off thinking about their own hobbies and the effect they may have on the environment. Drawing round their own hands, they must write their favourite pastime on the drawing, and use the fingers to write ideas on how this impacts on the environment.
Janeemo's Charlie Henderson has the children discussing their answers, and several demonstrate an impressive knowledge of the science behind electricity and pollution.
A short film entitled Joseph's Road sets the children thinking about how life is different in Malawi, but also similar. Limited tree supplies is an issue for Joseph in the same way rising fuel costs is for us.
Nine-year-old Logan McIntyre is a member of the eco-committee and already knows a good deal about Malawi from writing letters to the pupils there. "I enjoyed today a lot and learnt more about Malawi. I did not know that they have to pay to go to secondary school; we don't. I'm surprised that they walk for so long to get to school. I'm looking forward to finding out more."
Teacher Gillian McDonald has ideas in mind to get the children started: "We are going to describe our environment and think about the environment of our partner school, before sending this to Malawi."
Ms McDonald appreciates the fact that the resource contains so many ideas for lessons. "It is so appealing and ready-made. Before this, we had one topic a year on Africa and we had Africa weeks but this allows us to do more."
The class has run out of time to watch the Janeemo film explaining more about its work and why it is important, but it is left with them to watch another time.
Considerable thought has been put into the resource to make it appealing to all countries and to ensure that it is easy to dip into for ideas.
"Each themed resource is of a similar format," says Ms Stuart. "We piloted them in schools in other countries before redesigning them. Teachers have said they are easy to follow and just what they have been looking for to integrate global citizenship into teaching and learning."
The resources and some of the work so far is being showcased at the John Hope Gateway Real Life Science Centre at the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens until May.