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Guest Post: Space Explorers, Space Creators

The latest edition of the Geographical Association’s Magazine is available to members for download today.  One of the articles was written by my colleague Jo Debens (@GeoDebs).  I asked her to provide a summary of the article for this blog.  The project is up for a European Innovative Education Award later in the year.

If you would like to read the article in full, grab a copy of the GA Magazine, or come along to our lecture at the GA Annual Conference in April.

Space Explorers : Space Creators

My name is Jo Debens and I am a Geography Teacher at Priory School Specialist Sports College in Portsmouth. This is a large city comprehensive school on a difficult site and was one of the many schools destined for the ill-fated Building Schools for the Future project.

The original aims of this project were to enable and empower young people at Priory School by developing their confidence with communication, to increase their understanding of spaces, and to use student voice to influence the decision makers. The project initially involved a small group of volunteers, however over time it grew to become part of the core Year 7 curriculum. We conducted a confidence poll using surveymonkey.com to assess how children’s confidence and understanding developed throughout the project and the results were very positive. My favourite quote with respect to this being “I was really nervous before [about speaking to adults] but I am confident now and they are just human”! The young people learned a range of skills through using a range of free technology and having the opportunity to work with professionals and school leaders.

We incorporated a range of software, mostly available for free via the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network. Students investigated their school space and interpreted it using AutoCollage and PhotoSynth, they also created videos as part of the BBC News School Report to share their work with others. Students created 3d digital floorplans of the school as they perceived it, highlighting what improvements they felt would benefit their learning. They were encouraged to consider compromise, to empathise, to consider budgets and to determine what is required – which involved being very perceptive about their own learning needs.

Finally, students’ work was shared with professional architects, school leaders and local councils and the feedback from these was very encouraging – students were seen as “professionally stunning”.

The project was supported in the early stages by the RGS (IBG) Innovative Geography Teaching Grant, The Geography Collective and the 21st Century Learning Alliance. Recently, however, I applied for the Microsoft Innovative Teaching Award and was honoured to be a UK winner for the work involved. After attending the Innovative Education Forum in Manchester and displaying this work I am now taking the project to the European round of the award in Moscow 2011. It is credit to our young people and to the department as a whole.

For more information please contact me, visit the Key Stage 3 blog, or attend the Geographical Association conference in April 2011.

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