Younger Animators

IMG_1458People often don’t appreciate how adaptable and capable young children can be. Today we had children ranging from 5 – 7 years of age. Saltburn and Bankfields Primaries sent some brilliant examples of this today. If you think about it some of these children could barely talk 3 years ago and yet here they are devising a story in a team of three and animating it. Absolutely astonishing. Yes they need some extra demonstration, some extra support but largely they have directed their own work today and produced some lovely examples of basic animation!

Look at the engagement below and the independent team working ethic that children start to develop at that age:

Run Away Animation!

IMG_1439Rascals! Hooligans! Villains! That’s what the children from Newcomen and Acklam Whin are! All I wanted was for them to stick to my session plan: animate some letters, animate a character, take on a challenge …..and what did they do??? They got all enthusiastic at the earliest opportunity and ended up making stories, writing plans, creating scenes – multiple scenes at that and basically just getting on with the real focus of the day – problem solving as part of an effective team. How dare they!

And what have they produced? Well see for yourself below. It was lovely to have the Newcomen children come to this animation two years after they last came here for it. The progression and maturity is clear and the emphasis can be on quality. Not that this didn’t apply to Acklam Whin who have more than held their own despite not having animated before. I set very high expectations today. There was no excuse for speech to be on screen for a nano second meaning you can’t read it, the background should never include the edge of the image, the characters need to move at appropriate speed and by and large they have focussed on these simple marks of attention to detail and really excelled. It certainly hasn’t quelled their enthusiasm!

As always we began the day with a focus on effective teamwork, what it looks like and how we would achieve it. There will be prizes for this again but I would struggle to choose so that will be down to the teachers!

Videos will be here by early evening but you can see from the pics below how engaged these children are.

And here are the videos. One or two of the iPads were being a bit difficult but hopefully all the work is here:

Raising Aspirations

IMG_1411Such a fabulous day here supported as ever by some of our brilliant local companies. The research is clear: give children more opportunities to meet employers and understand the world of work and the more they will achieve both at school and in later life. The current TVCA strategy is helping support the agenda massively and as ever Inspire2Learn are putting on event after event to ensure the widest possible positive impact on children in the Tees Valley. Today is aimed at Y5 children and we have had nearly 300 pupils from Chaloner, St Benedict’s, Newcomen, Oakdene, Lakes, St Paulinus and Wynyard Primaries. They have spent several hours working in 20 minute sessions with: Morrisons, PD Ports, CUBIC, DuPont, Teesside University and Gabriella Grace Cakes.  Before the sessions commenced we discussed what the event was all about. At 10 years of age this is not about choosing a career path but it very firmly IS about widening cultural and social capital so that better choices and opportunities in later life will be made. Well that is what the long term, large scale studies tell us. What we are also told constantly by teachers is that the impact of an event like this resonates far beyond the day they are here. Recent research by the Education & Employer Taskforce backs up this belief and suggests that employer focussed events improve pupil achievement. We are more than happy to do our bit and make a difference!

Marine Engineering at its Finest!

IMG_1382Teamwork. What does that mean? What are the skills required to be a good team member? We start EVERY session here at Inspire2Learn with that question and use it as a thread for the day. What is fantastic is that the list is never the same. Today is no exception. Yes there are similar elements but every group we work with has brought new insight into the term and our understanding of how children work together has grown considerably even as seasoned teachers! Today we have Sacred Heart Primary and Whale Hill in the centre taking on our STEM boat challenge. Starting with some practical joining tasks then moving through some simple scientific method to give the children independence in the challenge, the day just goes so quickly; time management being a key factor of the day. As you can see below the pupils have been so engaged from the moment that they arrived and have worked methodically to make sure that different variables have been tested. Mast size, number of masts, sail size, boat shape and many more variables have been methodically tested and recorded so that hopefully when they race down the test track at 2pm powered by the mighty Tornado (er….desk fan) they will be swift vessels. Great enthusiasm, great engagement, what a great set of pupils. They can come back any time!

The teams finished the day by racing their boats. Team ‘Blue Whale’ from Whale Hill Primary emerged the fastest, week done to them, but it was noticeable how closely matched most of the boats were. Clearly they had all been refined and redesigned really effectively throughout the day.

Design Engineering Masters!

What a fabulous day here at Inspire2Learn. I know I always write that but it was brilliant to welcome some new faces to take on our Locomaths event. As usual we start the day with a huge focus on teamwork skills and attitudes; asking the children to define them. We use that list as a thread to the activity for the rest of the day and we don’t give prizes for the product of the activity, we look for the process; who has gone over and beyond what we expect from great teammates. It is hard choice and the staff from Hummersea, Acklam Whin and Saltburn were hard pressed to choose. I also gave an additional award for a young lady who never lost enthusiasm at any poi t and was keen to engage in anything thrown at her. I heard her speaking to her group as they stopped for a mid morning break, ‘Let’s have a quick break but we need to get back because there is work to do. But don’t eat too fast or you will get indigestion!’

The planning each team did was very meticulous but what stood out today was the time and effort to really showcase their ideas in their presentation. As a whole group we discussed some familiar faux pas: reading text from a screen, mumbling, etc and you can really see from the way that they presented that they took that on board. Some of their language choices were really professional (see below). On elf the teachers also told me how much she had enjoyed the day and that some fo the children who sometimes find it hard to engage in curriculum tasks for any length of time had astounded her in the way that they had simply stuck to their task today. I think that this is due to the principles on which we base our work and it is lovely to hear some feedback that seems to confirm that focussing on independent thinking, teamwork, problem solving and working to a time challenge (all desirable employability skills) pays off.

If you do nothing else tonight, marvel at the video below!

Back to Reality

IMG_1350It is easy to give out a load of VR kit and watch people enjoy themselves. We could easily do that here but we really would be missing a trick, losing the potential impact on life chances that we have when children re so engaged. So our VR/AR day is a mix of activities. During the morning we worked as a co-ordinated team overseen by two Mayoresses (Erin and Katie) to create a new settlement on a Goldilocks planet far in the future. Of course we can’t actually go there so Minecraft Education edition was the perfect substitute and a great opportunity to discuss how real world developments are often created in VR before a brick is ever laid. Being an essential cog in a well co-ordinated machine is a key part of teamwork and we discussed how effectively we had worked by the time we had created our new world.

After lunch we had more hands on using Google Expeditions, Oculus Go and the HTC Vive kit. Many of the children had never used this type of equipment before and it was important that we highlighted the use of such environments in real world applications as well as the fun gaming side. Forgetting to mention Teesside University’s world class reputation for courses focussed on this type of programming and design would have been a crime and was not missed! Acklam Whin, St Patrick’s and Saltburn children who attended today really seemed to enjoy their experiences but hopefully more than that they understand how important virtualisation is and will be in the future, potentially their futures.

No ‘I’ in TEAM

Another fab day here at Inspire2Learn with nearly 60 Y6 children from Ing Farm in Redcar. The focus was ‘Enterprise’ which we turn into an activity to complete a task given a set of certain guidelines in a given time. The underlying focus of the day are the teamwork skills that the children need to develop alongside their academic qualifications.

As usual we actually started the day with a discussion about what we meant by ‘teamwork’, writing down the key ideas on a Flipchart and referenced throughout the day. The children rose to it magnificently and when pressed to pick out the teams that had stood out in terms of teamwork, the staff were really struggling. All of the children can be very proud of themselves. Their engagement in the task and commitment to getting it done even when there seemed too much to do in so little time was brilliant and a great taste of what many of us feel in our day to day roles. The video is at the bottom showcasing what they managed to get finished for a simple advert but really the story of the day is told by the pictures that demonstrate how well the pupils undertook the tasks. One of the teachers commented on particular individuals who often can find their levels of resilience and engagement wane, in an hour, let alone a day, but today they focussed from start to finish. Many of the videos are not finished but I promised I would post what had been managed so far! Great work everyone and hopefully we will see you again soon:

Inspiring Girls

IMG_1182We have so many events here at the Centre every year where pupils meet and work with employers across many different sectors. It gives us a real insight into what has impact, what people tell us carries back into the classroom, what would work even better. Today we held our annual Inspiring Girls Day. Usually held on International Women’s Day, due to a diary issue we had it a day early. Maybe I should do that more often because the number and quality of speakers that made themselves available to talk about what they do and their journey in life was absolutely amazing.

We had nearly 120 girls from 7 different Tees Valley schools, from Year 8 and upwards  and what a fantastic future this area has if they are the calibre of our young people. St Peters, Abbey Hill, Northshore, Hillsview, Rye Hills, UCA and Huntcliff should be really proud of the way that the girls participated and showed huge enthusiasm. It is that type of engagement that will get them fantastic opportunities in the future. And that is what they heard about today. Attitude and commitment is everything.

IMG_1187One teacher pointed out one of her Y10s. Apparently the girl had to be really strongly persuaded to attend today. She didn’t like going to other places, she didn’t know people there and she wouldn’t like it, it had nothing to do with her. School is often a struggle for her but going somewhere else was not something she would normally agree to. The reason she was pointed out was that she sat absolutely transfixed and fully engaged in the fabulous opening presentation by Claire Preston. Using a really interactive way of engaging 120 girls in one of the most interesting and varied life stories I think I have ever heard had them absolutely in the palm of her hand. And for good reason. She spoke about opportunities, relationships, regrets, and success. Normally the Q&A is muted at best but we had some really interesting questions that showed how much the girls had been thinking about the situations that Claire spoke about. It set the scene for the day and I think the other presenters in the group sessions found a very open and engaged group of girls as a result. Thank you for the great start Claire.

So the girls got to visit each of the presenters for about 30mins. We had so many presenters that many doubled up or took a session each. This resulted in an impromptu ‘meet everyone’ session in the Auditorium at the end so that all the girls could see all the presenters and hear what they did for a minute or two. The thanks I have to give out go to: Katie Ventress (superstar artist in steel), Louise (BT and lover of maths!), Sarah McMann (HMRC and digital guru), Javeria & Suad (Teesside University Ambassadors), Janet & Janine (Middlesbrough College), Ketki & Becca (Accenture – international software company), Lauren (High Tide – working hard on the same agenda that we are), Loukia Kyriakidou (superstar games artist), Leanne (CUBIC – software systems for the world), Gabriella (GabriellaGrace Cakes), Emma Harbottle (MD of Analox sensing systems), Lily (Intelect), Bev & Rachael (Morrisons logistics and distribution) and last but not least Jessica (Atkins Engineering). And let’s not forget Julie from Inspiron Learning and Ann from the Assist network who help me organise volunteers. Now THAT is a list!

Comments from the teachers have been exemplary and focussed on how many questions it has generated from the girls that they brought. We couldn’t engage every girl in the Tees Valley today but alongside some of the other brilliant events going on this week, we think we have made a significant contribution. One of the teachers did point out that although they often have employers in school, the impact of a day like this, coming out of the school environment, mixing with other pupils from other schools, really bringing them out of their comfort zone, is priceless to her. She can’t build that sort of social capital and confidence in any other way. She said that most of the girls who came last year wore a bit less make up, had a few less issues in lessons and had better attendance after attending our event. I think she was the first to get booked this year!

I repeat myself on here most weeks: developing social and cultural capital is the bedrock on which achievement sits whether it’s in school or beyond. The growing research is clear and becoming extensive and it is getting pupils out of school, into the world, to meet people in events such as the ones we run, that will result in better life chances for all of them.

We are proud to do our part.

Happy International Women’s Day….er….tomorrow!

Linking Curriculum to the World of Work

Across all of the programme that we run here at the centre, these World of Work days I think are the purest manifestation of what the research tells us we should be doing more of to develop social and cultural capital. Today was Maths and we had brilliant help from Jim (PD Ports/Logistics Academy and RHA), Dannielle and Lily (PD Ports), Manuel (Middlesbrough College) and Tedy and Godley from Teesside University. The feedback on the day was as always excellent from the students and teachers who came from St Peter’s, UCA, Abbey Hill and Wyvern Academy. The sessions showed a huge range of applications of maths in both workplace thinking and also people’s private lives and the enthusiasm of the pupils reflected the engagement they had in each of the sessions.

What was also brilliant was that the context had clearly got some of the pupils thinking hard. Lindsey a Year 7 from St Peter’s asked me how we operated the finances at the centre, running in house catering and the room hire. She wanted an in depth understanding of how we use the money from that side of the business to support the not for profit work that we do with schools and the community. Such a great question and the sort of intelligent engagement that we would want in any prospective employee!

Scrapheap March 2019

What a brilliant group of pupils we have had today from Newcomen and St Benedicts Primaries. From the moment they walked in full of enthusiasm we knew that we were going to have a great day. Some of the team from TTE had popped in to see what the event was all about and they thoroughly enjoyed their brief visit, the start of many they believe…

As always the focus is on effective teamwork, working to a plan and then presenting their ideas effectively. The last bit will appear here about 3pm but you can see from the images below that the teamwork ethic is well and truly evident. Well done to everyone, such innovative ideas executed brilliantly.

And you can really see how committed they have been to bringing their ideas to life:

And here are the presentations: