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Learn by Design Eco Explorer Club

Children at Berwick Hills spent some time this year learning about the environment and how important it is to look after it. As part of the Eco Explorer Club students were challenged to research and explore 4 different topics that are affecting the environment. These were:

  • Remarkable Renewables
  • Transforming Travel
  • Radical Recycling
  • Harmonious Habitats

Berwick Hills “decided to take part in the competition because as a school we want to develop children’s cultural capital where they have an understanding of the world of work and their future opportunities especially linked to global and local issues related to climate change. The competition sounded fun and engaging.” Giving students this opportunity meant that they could learn about important topics through an easy to access approach which made learning fun, as well as the opportunity to present their ideas as part of a competition that was open to both key stages.  As part of this, students took part in an online webinar where they made interactive word clouds to demonstrate their existing knowledge before we made sure they understood what the topics entailed.

During the webinar, the students were also introduced to an industry ambassador who, as part of their job, have to consider their impact of the environment. The ambassador who joined the webinar with Berwick Hills was Jenna-May Hill, a civil engineer at Costain Group PLC. Jenna-May explained what she does as a job, and how the environment is an important consideration for her in her work. The children were fascinated by Jenna and asked lots of questions to help understand her job and were especially interested to learn about bridges. Steven Dunn from Berwick Hills said the webinar was “very informative!! Issues both locally and globally were explored and explained in a child friendly manner that engaged all learners.”

All students at the school took part in the webinar in the morning, and then teachers supported classes to work through the in-school activities for the rest of the day. Activities were provided in online workbooks that were also available to be printed. In key stage 2, students worked in the booklets, but at a key stage 1 level, the teachers produced their own worksheets with more space for drawing and in their school standard font.

Once designs were finalised the school was left with the difficult task of choosing the teams they would bring to the final. To make sure this was fair, the school ran their own competition.

Berwick Hills brought two teams to the final at Preston Park Museum, one team to represent key stage 2 and one to represent key stage 1.  Christine Close, class teacher said that the final event was fabulous for the children to meet other schools, compete, present and practice team building skills”, and Steven Dunn, class teacher said that “children have really enjoyed presenting their ideas and hearing the ideas of others”; across the board, we have found that the event gave schools a much-needed face to face event to celebrate their hard work. The year 2 team from Berwick Hills was chosen as the key stage 1 winners by judges Laura Hepburn and Gemma Siddle at Preston Park because of their ingenuity and originality in their design, presentation skills and outstanding teamwork.

As the winners of the competition, Berwick Hills were given an in-school STEM day, and chose for this to be delivered to the 2 year groups who represented their school at the competition, so involved 2 classes of year 2 students and 2 classes of year 6 students. Steven was given a choice of activities and decided on the robot programming workshop since the year 2 team designed a recycling robot to assist in their school.

The workshop gave the students an opportunity to learn the basics of robotics and coding. It also gave them the opportunity to further develop their communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills. Students were challenged to code their robot to navigate a maze, starting off with coding from check point to check point, eventually ending up with one line of code that would get their robot from the start zone to the end zone without going off the mat or going through the danger zones. One of the students exclaimed “today was the best!!” and a different student was so inspired by the workshop that when asked what job they wanted to do when they get older, said “I want to code computers like today”.

The impact of the competition was felt across the whole of the school community at Berwick Hills. The school is working towards a school-wide inclusive STEM education, and have started to build a STEM room at school for all classes to be able to do STEM and DT lessons over the course of the competition. The core messaging of the competition will continue to be implemented at Berwick Hills because we want to develop children’s understanding of climate change, ECO issues locally and globally and the opportunities they have in the future world of work”, in order to be able to provide local role models to hopefully have a bigger impact on their local community. Steven told us that this was especially important as it “related to our school values of equality, co-operation, determination and courage”.

The competition has explained to students “that the world is a rapidly changing place, where they have a vital role to play, [and] seeing local examples allows them to understand that this is their future and what they can aspire to be when they are older.” Berwick Hills are committed to further instilling environmental topics in to their curriculum and continuing the skills development that was seen as part of the competition, improving “working as part of a team, communication, resilience and creativity”.