A teacher’s perspective - putting NRW’s educator training into practice

Megan Hughes, a year 3/4 teacher at Ysgol Sychdyn, Flintshire, has taken part in several of Natural Resources Wales educator training days, so we asked her for some feedback on whether the training had been put into use.

What we heard back was so enthusing and stimulating that we asked if we could share it wider.

Here, Megan talks us through how taking part in one of our professional learning events ‘Protect or develop a natural area’ at Halkyn, Fintshire inspired a new teaching perspective. Megan told us:

I absolutely LOVED the training session that was delivered. Honestly, at first I was apprehensive about how I could use what I had learnt to deliver a learning project focussing on the local area. Halkyn is rich with history and natural wonders; something that I didn’t think I could replicate in Sychdyn. How wrong I was! Learning about our park, how it came to be, alongside the memories and love felt for it in our community was enough for this project to be successful.

This learning project was delivered as part of our Welsh Week in February. I really wanted to move away from the things that I usually do because I wanted my class to really value and appreciate where we live in Wales. I have always loved the concept of cynefin and thought that my class would respond well to the possibility that their cynefin (connectiveness to their locality) would be disturbed by such a huge proposal. I would usually run a project like this off timetable over a week. However, due to time constraints, I was able to pick certain activities and timetabled them in for each morning session and every afternoon.

I initially researched the development of Broughton Retail Park (a big out of town shopping retail park) as a starting point; exploring the news coverage and community opinions of this from 25 years ago! From there and feeling inspired, I set to work with writing my own newspaper article, as a way to engage my class.

With my planned project and activities, I delivered to my Year 3 and 4 class, who were hooked from the off! Although focussed on my class, we had some very keen Year 5 and 6 children who heard about what we were doing and became very invested in the prospect of protecting our park/field from this development proposal too!

Day 1

We began the week by exploring the tranquillity of Wales and factors that may disturb it. Following this, I shared the latest news from our local newspaper, The Leader (made on Canva), alongside the planning permission for Bagnall's Retail Park and a map of Sychdyn. At first, my class were really excited about this proposal; ecstatic about the prospect of a new Nando's and cinema, until they realised where the retail park would be situated... in their beloved park! The excitement soon turned into outrage. They circled the pitch chanting 'save our school!' and even evoked emotional responses from the Year 5 and 6's who continued to protest with them.

To further develop the experience, I printed 'site safety' and 'work in progress' signs and attached them to the area surrounding the field and park. Then, I enlisted the school builders to take on the role of workers; they visited the park and cordoned it off. However, the experience was not over. Back in school, our headteacher received a phone call informing him of these new plans, explaining that there would be a 10% discount for teachers! At this point, my class were ready to protect their cynefin!

Day 2

On the second day, we began to outline this news story by writing our own newspaper report. In the afternoon, we took on the role of historians; researching the history of Sychdyn. We learnt that Sychdyn Community had been gifted the land by local landowner Mr Banks in 1952, and that the committee had worked exceptionally hard to raise enough money to build a park so that children could play. After learning this, even Tweets from Barry and Bethany Bagnall explaining that they would build a new park did not deter them! We also heard from members of the school community who commented on our Facebook post - we did have to pre-warn the community that this development proposal wasn't real... even we forgot sometimes! 

Day 3

On the third day, we became Landscape Advisors; conducting traffic surveys on the local area and using compass directions to highlight the beauty of this natural space.

Day 4

Finally, on the fourth day, we set to work analysing the sound and light quality of this area, alongside carrying out nature surveys and using their mathematical skills to try and allocate parking spaces to different types of vehicles. Here, the children realised that the space required for the development would not be big enough and that the people living in the houses behind may need to relocate. Back in class, they used Canva to create visual representations of the retail park and car park, as well as writing sound recommendations.

Day 5

On the fifth day, as part of our Eisteddfod, we demonstrated our learning to our families. Here, we asked for parent views regarding this development and urged them to also make a stand to protect the park!

To bring the learning together we role played a meeting involving all the interested parties. For the council meeting, my class were grouped into different roles such as a member of the community, the landowner Mr Banks, Landscape Advisors and so on. Everyone planned and discussed what their role wanted to say beforehand. Then they argued for or against the development of Bagnall's Shopping and Retail Park. As a result of their hard work, the development was stopped, and our park was saved! 

I ran this project in the park opposite from school. This park evokes so many memories for both our children and the wider community. Grandparents recall taking their own children and grandchildren to play in the park. I didn't realise just how important the park was to the whole school and wider community, so I was very lucky to have such a strong hook.

My class responded incredibly well to this week. This project is centred on real-life experiences and lends itself well to the UNCRC Article 31 - the right to relax and play. My class learnt the importance of taking a stand for what they believe in, empathy, the importance of community and their unwavering cynefin became very poignant.

This project lends itself exceptionally well to the Four Core Purposes. This whole project is centred around real life experiences, and even though my class knew that this wasn't real, they continued to express that what isn't real now might be real in the future. And it delivered across the 6 Areas of Learning and Experience. I could only fit a certain amount in the week but there is a wealth of learning opportunities waiting to be explored in this project.

  • Languages, Literacy and Communication - newspaper reports, letters to the council, cynefin poetry.
  • Mathematics and Numeracy - compass points, coordinates, percentages, addition and subtraction, calculating the area and perimeter of the site.
  • Expressive Arts - visual representation art of the Retail Park, nature symphony, working in role as members of the community/workmen.
  • Humanities - map work, history of an area, notable people, learning more about why Wales is listed as one of the top 3 tranquil places in the world.
  • Science and Technology - pH levels of soil, types of trees (can be linked with what trees are protected), iMovies.
  • Health and Well-being - Rights of the Child, taking a stand for what you believe in, disturbances to tranquillity (litter, anti-social behaviour, overcrowding, cost of living - these were all discussed by my class!).

Taking part in this mantle of the expert style training day has changed my teaching practice. My teaching is completely different now. Taking Welsh Week as an example, I knew that I wanted to do something different. Having had this training, I had a different mindset of how I could deliver it in a way that was purposeful and relevant to my class. The training sessions delivered all follow a similar sequence and this is what I tend to do now when introducing theme works/topic.

Sign me up to any new training opportunities you have please!! ❤️

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