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Professional People

How many times have you walked into a business and everyone was the same age and from the same housing estate? None? Me neither. One of the real strengths of our events at Inspire2Learn is the constant mix of pupils of all ages. The way that we structure tasks means that they are often easy to access for most ages but are then differentiated through the experiences and skills that different pupils bring. Today is a great example. We have pupils from William Cassidi Primary, Unity Academy and Catcote Academy. The age range os from Y5 – Y13! And has that hampered anyone? Has that changed the task in any way? Not one jot. In fact it creates a really purposeful atmosphere. As always the start of the day was focussed on what we mean by effective teamwork. That created a set of criteria which we will be looking for as the day progresses. Completing the task has required the groups to define roles, create a plan for the time available and get on with it. You can see form the pictures below that there have been some really great strategies developed to complete the task and the quality fo the work so far has been exceptional:

Following a few technical hitches, here are some highlights form the presentations!

Thinking Outside the Self

On paper this is called an Enterprise Day but as many people in education will know, ‘enterprise’ is often used as a cover all for a whole range of activities. Our focus falls on two things: teamwork – always; and developing an idea for a particular audience. In this case they have been asked to create a new LEGO set. To be honest, the LEGO is the least of it and we use it as an additional creative element to the day; it helps to formulate ideas. They have been asked to work through a process, identifying an audience (an audience that is not them!), identify what will attract that audience, draw them in – and then create a new set that appeals to those values. It is always interesting that despite a structured walk through of the task, some warm up tasks to introduce the key thought processes to consider and a partially worked example, once the LEGO comes out many children simply disregard it all. They immediately want to create with the LEGO. That is no bad thing in itself but I am pretty sure that the design teams at LEGO don’t start with a pile of bricks most days and then just start building any old thing. The average 6 year old would be just as effective. There has to be thought behind the product, an aim, interwoven with creativity that produces something that is both novel and yet oddly familiar in that it focusses on audience values. The pupils from Rye Hills and Abbey Hill have all taken the end product idea on board and the key audience. To a greater or lesser extent though they have tried to implement the thought processes that we have provided to ensure that the best product that could have been produced has been achieved.

Finally they combined their product development skills and advertising understanding to produce some simple adverts that show the structures that they have been learning about. Not bad for half an hour’s work!

And some of the finished adverts:

Linking the Curriculum to the World of Work

‘Why are we focussing on STEM for our inspiration events?’

I asked that question at the beginning of our STEM in the World of Work day today. They were all pretty clear that maths and English applied to everyone in the room but STEM? Isn’t that just for geeky people? Well of course it very much isn’t. In fact most businesses I work with are very keen on an understanding of STEM either directly related to the work that their employees do or peripherally in terms of the technology skills that they expect.

Northshore, Abbey Hill and Rye Hills had a great day working with support from Analox, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, James Cook Speech and Language Unit , Health Education England and TTE. A huge range of sectors all linked by STEM and a wide range of different activities to be inspired by. Thank you massively to all our company supporters yet again.

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.