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.

The Mighty Riverdale!

Well they are from Redcar!

Y5 and Y6 came together today to take on our STEM boat challenge. Blending DT & Science from the curriculum with a strong emphasis on our key teamwork and problem solving skills they have worked enthusiastically all day to produce a sail boat that will beat all others! Spending some time on control and manipulation of variables has hopefully also focussed their minds on effective iterative scientific method. Which size sail works best? Which hull shape is most effective(?) and so on. Most teams seem to have tested at least two variables in the time that they have had to work on this.

This is what effective teamwork looks like:

And these were the boats that competed:

Follow by the winner:

Which, yet again, was created by an all girl team. I have threatened them all today; if these girls don’t go on to become successful engineers we will have wasted some serious talent!

YOUR future project team

IMG_1577There is a lot of talk about lack of achievement and GCSE grades as being the reason that pupils lack the skills and knowledge to progress into the world of work effectively. I would argue strongly with that and I would be backed up by a fair bit of the emerging evidence that underpins WHY scores on etch doors maybe don’t hit the heights that the government would want to see. The underlying issue is not lack of brain power, it is lack of commitment and attitude to succeed that determines whether a pupil puts in the effort, both in school and out, to achieve well at school. Commitment, caring about what you are doing, showing some enthusiasm: all phrases that occur time and again when I speak to companies across all sectors in the Tees Valley. I don’t think anyone has ever said ‘we need 6 GCSEs’, or ‘2 A levels’ – the focus has always been on the wider skills. Obviously a strong commitment to succeed, even if you aren’t a big fan of school, will result in decent GCSE grades, maybe not the highest, but certainly strong. Our schools have great teachers. I know that some would say that the pupil scores don’t agree but I can honestly say that most of my friends got decent GCSE results and our teachers were on the whole pretty poor. I can now say with confidence as an experienced teacher that it wasn’t just the fact I wasn’t a fan of school, the way that we were taught was pretty shambolic in many lessons. So why did we succeed when the lessons were generally poor while our current teachers are so much better in general and yet the scores seem pretty poor. The research tells us that it is the attitude, the cultural capital, the sense of self and worth that underpins success.

Why the long intro? We have a great bunch of pupils from Unity Academy and Acklam Whin here today (Y8 and Y5 respectively) and they have been brilliant. I’ll be honest, they were pretty quiet when we started the Locomaths session. Nobody seemed to want to put their hand up in front of peers and it was clear that there was a sense of self consciousness in the air. But look at the images below. They have been given an open challenge, an opportunity to take roles that play to their strengths and a timescale to work to. We established what we would expect to see in terms of great teamwork and those principles underlie the day. I told them they could have as long as they wanted for break; most were back within 5 mins, they had stuff to do! What this shows, along with every other activity that we have run here with tens of thousands of pupils each year is that there is something fundamentally wrong if these pupils can clearly achieve so brilliantly at a task that uses maths and English, design, digital skills and presentation skills…..yet the scores at the end of school might suggest that they are incapable. I was delighted to hear from one of the Unity teachers that this more open approach based on challenge tasks rather than just purely knowledge is becoming more and more common in their curriculum and even into the way they set homework. The enthusiasm to succeed in here is palpable and if we can capture even a fraction of that within every day school then we will be some way to helping pupils care about what they do. The result seems obvious…..

And their presentations:

Robotics March 2019

I love LEGO. I mean, other fine products are also available but when LEGO is put in front of me I know that the pieces will fit and the device will work. Our Robotic challenge day centred on groups of children from two schools called St Joseph’s(!) and Acklam Whin working with Mindstorms and LEGO Boost kits. But this wasn’t just building LEGO, they had to work as teams and the focus on what that means to be effective was established at the beginning and referenced throughout the day. It was a tall order to get their challenges to a state of completion by 2.30pm but as you can see from the pictures below we have some pretty committed pupils and most of the robots were being programmed by the time we had to stop.

Scrapheap March 2019

IMG_1484I will never tire of hearing some of the amazing ideas that children come up with in response to the challenge that our scrapheap presents them with. Today we have Y1 Lockwood, Y2 Thornaby CofE and Y3 Newcomen and their enthusiasm and commitment is astonishing. What is even more astonishing is their team ethic. They really have had groups discussions, often without adult mediation, to create a blend of ideas that have now become their models. I cannot wait to see their presentations. As always, the focus on effective teamwork towards a goal is repeated time and time again during these events and the children have responded magnificently. We had some brilliant support today from CUBIC and I believe that Mathew has commented below. Simply meeting someone from the real World of Work statistically has a big impact on young people, helping to develop their social and cultural capital. He seemed to enjoy the day but you can judge from his comments! Thank you Mathew and CUBIC for your time.

Some of the models are actually bigger than the children. Have a look at their engagement below and check out the video after 3pm of their presentations:


And here are the presentations:

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!