Nadine Finlay shares how she and her school have been adapting to the ‘new normal’.
How do you enrich your curriculum?
Have you ever asked yourself how you could provide that little extra for the children you spend each day with?
These questions have been pondered recently by leadership teams all over the country including my own and personally, I have been desperately seeking to enrich the areas of the curriculum that I’ve been developing in my own setting. Aiming to not only cover the three I’s but to also captivate the children while making it relevant to our cohort and local environment is a real challenge. We found ourselves asking an array of questions:
What can we do in our local area?
What do we need to cover in the curriculum?
How do we do it?
What do we have nearby that can be used to enhance the curriculum?
Each time we come back to the same thing… What benefit is it for the children? This has been the crux of everything we’ve done. Writing a curriculum is challenging at the best of times but when faced with a pandemic we’ve needed to get a bit creative and I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learnt, in the hope that it helps others who are working on their curriculum too.
I try to keep the children at the heart of everything and when I reminisce about my own education it’s the fun that sings out to me. I don’t really remember the details about algebra for example and history was unbelievably dry but I know every element of the science lesson where the teacher blew his eyebrows off and the route we took on the geography expedition hiking around Wales. The enrichment that these life experiences brought to lessons made them not only enjoyable but memorable and that is what I want to bring to the children I spend my days with. I want them to not only remember the topics that we focus on but also learn the key information, be excited about it, and more than that… I want these experiences to help shape them and the person they will become in the future.
When writing the curriculum and planning a unit of work I’ve made a point initially of looking at the families we have in school. Are there some careers that we could tap into? It’s always good to get parents and grandparents to come into school and share their own experiences. We live in a multicultural society, my particular school has links with many countries in the commonwealth, so when it comes to festivals such as Fiji Day it is always wonderful to explore full traditional dress, taste test real foods cooked using traditional techniques and learn dances that are unique to the Fijian islands.
Covid has provided another level of enrichment that I had not appreciated before. I’ve found that companies have staff that are sitting around, desperate to be working and doing things but unable to get out and about. As I planned a geography unit focusing on renewable energy I emailed as many different people as I could find who were in some way related to renewable energy, from large well-known companies to small independent land farms. This led to one of the UK’s largest household named, electrical companies running a Zoom meeting with the Year 4’s about how offshore windfarms are built. Something which many children had not encountered before and are not likely to during their own time. What was magical about this was that the person at the other end of the Zoom call was in Stirling, Scotland while the class were in Wiltshire.
When planning a geography/ science unit for the Year 2’s that compares conservation of local wildlife in Wiltshire compared to the Fijian coral reef I once again contacted everyone I could possibly think of. I wanted to provide the children with the understanding that although conservation work is happening for different animals, it is similar in so much as people are protecting wildlife all over the World. The response I’ve had has been amazing, from large organisations reaching out, to the smaller animal support groups who are as eager as I am to captivate these young minds. We now have packages for the children arriving through the post with supporting work in preparation for our virtual visitors. One visitor will focus on the conservation of our local area, one is a cartographer who will teach the children how to make maps, while one is in Fiji, focusing on rebuilding the coral gardens.
I am swiftly beginning to appreciate how the world of virtual visits provides the children with opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have had. I could never have taken my class of Year 2’s to Fiji to see the coral garden conservation work and yet through the wonders of technology, they are going to be able to see the amazing work that is being done, ask their questions, and form a link with this fantastic organistion.
What a truly wonderful way to enrich the curriculum and bring learning to life! Isn’t it wonderful that something good has come out of this pandemic and I hope this new form of enrichment can be maintained and developed even more?
Admittedly nothing quite compares to a real-life visit however in the current situation we find ourselves in, if you’re developing a unit of work or looking to enrich next term’s units, I recommend that you start emailing companies. They may have links they are happy to share with you or point you in the direction of others who could be a virtual visitor and the children in your class will not only love it but learn so much. Good luck ☺