Wild Earth. I love it when a plan comes together.

I’m really excited about the theme we are starting next week, ‘Wild Earth’. It’s our year group’s contribution to our whole school ‘Great Outdoors’ focus.

The starting point for the theme was taking what worked well during last year’s units of work on rivers and habitats together with evaluations carried out by last year’s class. Whilst teaching rivers, habitats, explanation texts and control had built a solid, coherent theme it hadn’t engaged and motivated the children particularly well. I needed to consider how my current class’ interests could be used to enhance what did work well from last year and in doing so, it was clear they had an untapped love for animals, nature and the environment.

It was at about the same time that I quite coincidentally discovered two resources that would heavily influence the planning for ‘Wild Earth’. The first was this incredibly inspiring recording of Tim Rylands, presenting at the hand held learning conference in 2009. Tim talks about using the Wii game ‘Wild Earth: African Safari’ (about 3 minutes in) to immerse, excite and impact on children and their learning. He goes on to use a variety of web tools and a jungle from the PC game ‘Myst’ to showcase a range of different directions that could develop.

The second was the blog posts and twitter messages by Tom Barrett related to the fantastic ‘Sealife’ theme he introduced for his class. Tom used the Wii game ‘Endless Oceans’ as a central resource which clearly immersed and motivated his class. What I love about both ‘African Safari’ and ‘Endless Oceans’ is that both games go beyond simply immersing and motivating children. There are plenty of learning opportunities within each game, for example ‘African Safari’ gives a huge amount of detail on the animals and their habitats which could have easily been used during last year’s habitats unit.

I think the metaphor ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ is quite apt for core ideas that have led to the creation of the ‘Wild Earth’ theme. Below is an outline of the plan for the theme.

  • The Wii Game ‘Wild Earth: African Safari’ to be used as a central resource throughout the theme
  • Focus of the theme to be on the Serengeti National Park
  • Explanation Texts (including river courses, food chains)
  • Stories From Other Cultures (African based)
  • A focus on habitats and rivers to be merged together, linking with the Zanbezi river, a variety of habitats focusing on those in the Serengeti, playing the Wii game. Lots of opportunities to extend Literacy skills such as note taking, speaking and listening, drama etc
  • Control and DT: Children design and create a working prototype damn system to minimise flooding (researching the Thames Barrier and using Lego NXT)
  • Art focusing on the work of Stephen Njenga (particularly his Picasso esq portrayal of animals)
  • Music and Dance: Children create their own African tribal composition, in dance mixing creative and instructional styles (instructional element based on this)
  • Class Novel: The Last Leopard by Lauren St John. Chosen after discussion with Nicola Stables who has also used African Safari in her classroom.

I will be flexible in the content when the theme moves from Explanation Texts to Stories From Other Cultures. We are lucky to have a day with a creative practitioner where we will be creating imaginary creatures that could live in particular habitats that we focus on. If the children are inspired by this then we will continue down an imaginary creatures line of content, otherwise we will revert back towards the animals of the Serengeti, or perhaps a different direction, dictated by the children.

A few of the online resources I am looking forward to possibly using are:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/africam—nkorho-pan

http://ecodazoo.com/

http://www.switcheroozoo.com/

http://www.tomscott.com/weather/starwars/

http://www.buildyourwildself.com/

A complete set of online links related to ‘Wild Earth’ are here.

Finally. I’m hoping to deck out the classroom in some fabric to mimic a Serengeti woodland area and visit to the local Cuerden Valley Park with the class to investigate a local habitat and river.I will hopefully be writing regular blog posts, updating on what is happening during the theme, reflecting on what has worked and what has not been effective. I can’t wait to find out!

Image courtesy of MazetMan.


Originally published at primarypete.net on April 15, 2010.