Scrapheap Challenge May 2019

Leadership and polite enthusiasm. Yes I definitely think that those words sum up today’s challenge. As usual the emphasis is not on what the children produce, it is about how they work, how their interact, how they gel as a team. The brilliantly polite and enthusiastic children from Wynyard Primary Reception class today have been a pleasure to have in the Centre. Alongside them we welcomed the equally polite and enthusiastic Y5 children from St Clare’s. In addition they showed brilliant leadership through their incredibly mature approach not just to their work but also their general demeanour around the building, what a great example to the younger children. It has been a great mix.

Have a look at some of the brilliant interactions and effort that were the key part of

the day and enjoy our presentations in the video below (after 2.30pm).

Animation Challenge 2019

!!!!!Scroll down for children’s work!!!!!

Welcome to the Animation Challenge 2019!

About 10000 pupils worked with us last year across all of our activities focussed on aspiration and developing cultural capital.

Most of the children who get to work with Inspire2Learn are here in the Tees Valley.   Although we do sometimes work with children and teachers both across the UK and even in other countries, the focus is more often than not the amazing area that we live in.

We have a proud and world famous reputation for innovation in technology, especially engineering, but what people often forget is our strong tradition in the Arts. From historical Dresser pottery to our current world leading work at establishments like the Northern School of Art, the cultural scene in the Tees Valley has always been well regarded but often overlooked. This is despite the hard work of our local museums and our nationally important art centre MIMA showcasing just how rich our heritage has been and continues to flourish.

But once in a while some events pop up on the national radar. It helps that artists like Mackenzie Thorpe were not only born in Middlesbrough but is also a huge advocate for the local people and what they can achieve. In April 2019 he unveiled a sculpture based on a painting he created in honour of the everyday people who work to make the area the hidden powerhouse that it is. Mackenzie was particularly pleased to loan the sculpture to the town for the next two years. It sits beneath the Transporter Bridge which is often found in his paintings in one way or another. His 30th anniversary as an artist will include tours around the UK, America and Japan.

So, what is the animation challenge?

We want you to think about the two characters in the sculpture ‘Waiting for me Dad’. Who are they, why are they waiting? What has their Dad been doing or what have they been doing? They live in the Tees Valley so what might they have seen that day? We want you to create a short animation….or a class animation (a scene each?) that shows the day that those children have had….or what the Dad has been doing?

Follow the links below and have a look at other examples of Mackenzie’s work. He was once a little boy in a school just like yours. Use his ideas and style of drawing to make your characters fit with his style. Maybe you can create backdrops that showcase some amazing places in the Tees Valley?

I look forward to seeing how you plan out the story and get to work on your animation. Please send us pictures as you are working. Animations should be finished by Thursday lunchtime so we can showcase them here at the Centre.

Any questions, just ask….

Links that may be useful:

Waiting For Me Dad sculpture takes pride of place at Tees Transporter Bridge

Children’s work!

What a lovely day we have had here at the Centre. Acklam Whin and Riverdale sent a fabulous group of pupils each who have worked tirelessly to make quality work. I stressed for the start that I want looking for a four hour epic but I wanted to say care and consideration to the animation: speech bubbles you can see and have time to read, consistent framing, no ‘Hands of Doom’. You can see that they have achieved that pretty darn well. But the joy of the day is the development of teamwork skills, creative problem solving (they know what they want but how do they make it do that?) and working two a tight time schedule. I am very proud of all of them and using ‘Waiting for me Dad’ as an inspiration has produced a wide range of creative responses. Some images so far and finished films by 3pm.

Lovely to see some work in a puppet animation style from the team at Grangetown Primary being sent in. Well done all of you!

And the videos from the centre today:

Teamwork focus

IMG_2241So what are the skills that show we are working well as a Team?

I don’t propose to answer that but the image here represents what our brilliant students from Rye Hills and St Paulinus thought at the outset today. Getting pupils to realise that exam results are one thing but getting through an interview, beating others into second place to get your dream job (or any job!) is more to do with the skills and attitudes that you bring to the table, not a piece of paper. By defining these skills and making the pupils aware, we create a framework on which the days we run her at Inspire2Learn operate. Today is designing and making boats to race at the end. The winning team can be self satisfied but the actual prizes will go to the teams that the teachers identify as most having embodied the criteria we set out for team work at the beginning of the day.

I don’t prescribe a list for any event, I always get it from the pupils themselves and they broadly all come up with the same list.

As you will see from the pics below, there has been some excellent team work in evidence and some of the boats have had a really iterative approach to their development following a input about variable control and testing during the morning session.

As I say to the pupils, ‘If you were the boss, would I really want to pay you money to be on my team with the way you are working today?’ In school teachers simply have to cope, cajole, support behaviours that aren’t focus on success. In the workplace you are simply asked to leave and not come back….if you even get in in the the first place.

Coded Tales

Although we use videos of local businesses and real world applications of coding on our events, we also like to fit the context with curriculum needs. Yes we learned to use some simple programs today, debugging them as necessary when they became more complex but we also created an opportunity for the children from Acklam Whin and St Joseph’s to embed their literacy skills into a task. Working at greater depth relies on creating a range of contexts in which learning in different subjects can be applied. Essentially our Dash robots today represented the character in a simple narrative and the task was to apply the skills in coding gained during the morning to a story that the robot could act out. Time was tight but I’ve included some snippets below to show how the children tried to create a basic story structure whilst simultaneously writing the code to fit. Rehearsal time was practically non existent so well done to the teams who managed to get anything presented.

And some snippets of the tales…

Controlling Technology

IMG_2180I loved being a Y1 teacher. It is the age where children’s personalities really come to the fore and so it was with great pleasure I welcomed Brambles Y1 to our Centre today. Things have moved on quite a bit since my last stint as a Y1 full time teacher and the focus today would have been unheard of 15 years ago. The children came to learn to code.

As ever, the focus here is rarely just on the context, the way that children work, how they behave, how they present themselves is also really important and very much applied to 5 year olds as much as the 15 year olds. Well from the moment these 39 children entered the building, they were a credit to their teachers and their school. They spoke confidently and appropriately when given the opportunities and were amazingly focussed all day. It wasn’t a case of the teachers constantly reminding them to quite down, or remember their manners, these children showed amazing self regulation … from one of the ‘toughest areas’ in the UK. It wasn’t just my opinion either. The whole staff of the Centre made a point at various times during the day to remark on how well behaved they were, how polite without being prompted and yet how independent they were. That extends form sitting and quietly chatting with their friends at juice time, to appropriate use of the buffet provided and exemplary table manners. That sort of behaviour doesn’t come about overnight and it they were a credit to the environment they must enjoy at school.

And then their work! I suppose it should be no surprise, but with such a calm, focussed approach to work and great support from all of the adults who were helping them, they went from having done barely any coding before (many are still only five years old) to create a short narrative and illustrating it through a programmed algorithm that they had created. Their programmes required accurate measuring and an awareness of sequence to ensure the robot danced, changed colour or made appropriate sounds in the right place. Absolutely brilliant. I am sure it happened in many groups but I sat with one for a couple of minutes while they debugged their programme because a dance function had resulted in the robot pointing in the wrong direction for the next function. Amazing.

If anybody has any worries about the potential for children in the Tees Valley area, what our digital economy might look like without the right expertise over the next 10 – 20 years I can assure you that you can sleep easy.

This lot have it covered, both the boys and the girls. See for yourself:

STEM Inspiration

The events come which and fast at Inspire2Learn continuing with our constant theme of developing social and cultural capital, the STEM days are alway very popular. Supported by the Big Bang North Eadst, they are particularly popular because it is a brilliant opportunity for employers to get involved in fun activities whilst raising awareness of what they do. Today we had Primetals, TTE and Teesside University, alongside individuals giving up their time from the medical sector (a doctor and surgeon), a PhD student and Marty who runs fabulous in school computing experiences (please let me know if you want his help!).

As you can see below, over 120 children from Oakdene, Newcomen, Saltburn and St Paulinus had a great range of experiences during the morning session.

And a huge thanks to Poz who brought the car Tesla had loaned him while his was being serviced. It gave a brilliant context for his coding session to see such a huge robot in action:

And following a fab lunch we finished the day looking at the science of energy.

Scrapheap April 2019

It shouldn’t surprise me how popular the Scrapheap Challenge is. From the very first one where a teacher who had taken part literally stopped her car in front of my house so she could jump out and tell me what a great event it was!

Today we have brilliant pupils from Newcomen, St Benedict’s and St Clare’s. As usual the focus is on teamwork, making sure everyone has a key role, co-operating on tasks, making compromises and so on. We build this into every event here, clear articulation of those skills, attitudes and expectations and we rarely have any pupils disappoint. There will be prizes at the end of today for which team from each school worked most effectively. You can see below the level of engagement and focus that each team are showing.

It is easy for teams to lose focus on a long task with multiple mini tasks within it but it is great to see how the pupils rarely fall into this trap. I think some of this is due to the teamwork focus from the very beginning. Team members do not allow other team members to simply sit out, they actively try to engage everyone. In creakingly we are talking this up and pointing out its relationship to developing leadership skills. There are some more images of models followed by the presentations.


Virtually Perfect

It looks like a mixed reality day.

The pupils get to experience lots of mixed reality hardware and software. They even get an insight into the fact that the companies who make this stuff are often based locally (thank you Animmersion for your video intro…😀), so why would anyone suggest any different?

Well the focus of the day here as ever is developing cultural and social capital. The context is useful, engaging and opens the children’s eyes to future careers but the way we structure the tasks and experience means there is also a huge focus on developing team working skills. The narrative underlying the day is a team task to create a new society through Minecraft. Acklam Whin, St Josephs and Saltburn each elected a Mayor who then had to work as a three person team to ensure that their constituents helped the community in a co-ordinated way. Such brilliant leadership skills being shown and developed from each of them. The other children took on specific building tasks as part of the community and a short design phase then led into the building. Some of the builds can be seen below:

It was interesting that a real community ethic began to emerge with agreed rules (they even wrote them down!) to ensure there was fair use of the space and resources. Alongside this the children were given wider experiences using an IMAX style projection space, Occulus Go and Vive VR. Sadly the children are only here for 5 hours and cramming it all in is always an issue…but what an amazing experience they have had. You can see from the images below the reaction from the pupils:

Judging by comments on the way out I think Middlesbrough Council had better get the next phase of the Boho digital campus built pretty quick!

Team Engineering

IMG_2089Easter has gone and now we head on to the final frantic few months in the Summer Term. Today we have fabulous pupils from UCA, Acklam Whin and Saltburn taking on our popular Locomaths Challenge. The activity is based around developing the best route and facilities for a new train line across a piece of UK countryside. Sound familiar? The day is couched in terms of the challenges that the design team for HS2, or similar, face when creating a new route across a very well used and populated countryside. The challenge is to work out the costs of three different options through mathematical modelling, build in an understanding of environmental/social concerns, and come up with the best option to pitch. Presenting their ideas is a key aspect of the day and will appear at the bottom of this post by 3pm.

The context is important but the learning outcome of the day is crucial and we always focus this on the key skills that they will employ to ensure the task is accomplished well. Essentially the team has to work effectively and a discussion of what that looks like kicked off the day. There will be prizes as usual for the pupils who really stand out in this regard. One of the things that has really emerged from running this and similar events this year is that the opportunities to develop leadership skills is a key part of the team ethic and we have highlighted what that looks like for the pupils to help them recognise it in themselves. Below are some of the images from the morning session to give an idea of the process behind the final presentations that will appear here. Look out also for innovative station designs and feature laden trains that are designed to entice the motorist off the road and into public transport!

Code masters

Another brilliant day here today at Inspire2Learn with pupils from Ormesby and Acklam Whin programming our robots and devices in a range of ways. Coding is now an integral part of the primary curriculum but it is often hard to move beyond using scratch based programmes on screen due to cost of kit. When schools come to our coding days the children get to apply their computational thinking to new contexts, really embedding what they understand in new contexts. You can see for the pics below some of the brilliant activities they got involved with.