The way that meaningful learning contexts and extended projects can be embedded in the primary classroom has always been a research and pedagogical interest of mine. I have developed many projects during my time in the classroom including the Brer Rabbit Critical Literacy project I ran in collaboration with The Wren’s Nest museum in Atlanta, USA. The most successful projects have included:
- An open-ended theme with a range of text types and curriculum areas embedded.
- An external and relevant collaborator with expertise linked to the theme of the project.
I was very thankful to The Wren’s Nest for being involved in our Year 2 animation project as our live storytelling session was a real highlight to the project and added a global (and historical dimension) to our project.
When I started teaching in Year 5 at my current school, I was interested in developing another project with my class which really added a meaningful layer of collaboration with a thematic approach across the curriculum. That’s how Expedition Everest began…
This project was originally planned as a two-week report writing unit of work. The children researched and learnt about the Himalayas and specifically Mount Everest. We found a wonderful video of Everest explorers successfully summiting:
I took a chance and contacted the uploader of the video – Ben Stephens. Ben then very kindly sent my class a presentation of his journey to Everest and set of photos of his journey from England to the summit of Mount Everest. The children were able to write newspaper reports of Ben’s successful expedition and used video interviews he recorded at various camps to extract direct speech to use in their newspaper reports. There was utter excitement in Y5 Moonstone Class as our children received a reply from Ben on our class blog:
The excitement and engagement of the children through the two weeks of report writing meant that I knew that the theme had further mileage. I therefore decided to continue with the theme of Everest for poetry writing. We used Ben Stephen’s photos as inspiration for poetry work.
The poetry from all ability levels was outstanding and the children made excellent use of figurative language in particular.
I was then very fortunate to be in contact with Tori James, who was the youngest British woman and first Welsh woman to successfully summit Mount Everest. Tori became an inspiration to the children in my class and they were absolutely delighted to be able to interview her on our class blog.
You can read the full interview here and I would recommend reading the comments too as you can sense the excitement when the children replied to Tori’s messages.
After the poetry work I decided to build narrative into the project too, so contacted friend of Y5 Moonstone Gail Terp who works with us on The Book Project with Gail Terp on our class blog. Gail recommended a range of fiction texts but I eventually went with Jack Stalwart: The Hunt for the Yeti Skull by Elizabeth Singer Hunt.
I was also very thankful to adventure cameraman Keith Partridge who agreed to take part in a Skype session with the class to share his experiences of being on the summit of Everest. Keith helped realise an 88 year old promise of taking an Olympic gold medal to the summit in 2012.
You can read reflections of the Skype session on our class blog here and here. This session really helped the children when they were talking part in creative writing. They worked together as a class to create a compilation of stories based upon the theme of Expedition Everest: The Yeti Sightings. At the end of the project my class also wrote a special reflection for Gail Terp’s reading blog. You can read it here.
The project was an exceptionally exciting one and we are very thankful to Ben Stephens, Tori James, Keith Partridge and Gail Terp for making it so special. Their contribution really added value to the project.
You can read all of the children’s Expedition Everest work on our class blog here.
Class Blog – http://moonstone.htrblogs.net