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Thursday 24th January 2013
The So What? After School Club
This evening, the first So What? club of 2013 took place at Navigation Primary School in Altrincham, Manchester. I have been particularly looking forward to the start of this club for some time now as it is based upon a species which I absolutely love – the lion! In addition to this, I also thought it was an excellent opportunity to write a weekly blog entry to keep you updated on how the children were doing in the club, as well as giving you a small insight into what happens during an entire 9 week So What? after school club. Over the upcoming weeks, I will keep you informed about the many achievements which I am sure the children will be making during their time at the club, from the very first session to the very last.
After starting the session by announcing to the children (much to their delight!) that we will be spending this term learning about the lion, it was time to assess their prior knowledge. In my opinion, this is one of the key elements of running a So What? after school club. In this activity, I give the children around 3-4 minutes to write down, on a sheet of A4 paper, everything they already know about lions. At the end of the club, I will repeat the same activity to assess how much they have learnt over the 9 or more sessions. By doing this, I will gain an understanding of how successful the club has been, as well as knowing how well I have taught it. This is paramount to fully understanding the impact of So What? and how it enables children to learn more about some of the world’s most spectacular animals, such as the lion.
However, this particular activity did not go how I envisioned it would go. In my opinion, lions are iconic creatures and I would have expected all of the children attending the So What? club to have had some prior form of exposure to them in the past, be it through a story, television, factual book or the internet. Consequently, I was fairly confident that the children would be able to list a series of facts about lions to illustrate what they already knew about them. Despite this, I was shocked to find that many of the children struggled to even note down any basic facts about lions. If the club was full of children new to the activity, I could claim that it was because they were nervous about starting the club, possibly worried about making a mistake, or even because they struggled to understand what was being asked of them. However, even some of my regular club attendees found it difficult to list more than two or three facts about lions. I was taken aback to say the least!
However, whilst I would normally let the children immediately start their research in order to find the answers to the many questions they had just developed, I felt that it was necessary to inform the children of the lion population figures recently announced by LionAid. I did this because many of the websites which I knew the children would be visiting online contained predominantly out-of-date population figures. I felt this was vital to ensure that the children fully understood how the threats facing lions had impacted upon their numbers over the last 50 years. Whilst I informed the children of the basic facts behind these new population figures, they hurriedly made notes on their research sheets.
After this, the children were away. Before I could speak, they were head deep in lion facts and making notes with coloured felt tip pens on A3 sheet after A3 sheet. Some preferred to work independently; others preferred to work in pairs or threes. In order to ensure that the children were actually digesting what they had been researching, I occasionally stopped the group and asked them to share some quick fire facts which they thought that the other children would like to hear. If the children used rather technical words or phrases, such as “trophy hunting,” we discussed its meaning as a group so all the children fully understood what information was being shared with them. As each child or group read out their facts, their peers “magpied” (a nice “primary school” term for stealing!) any information that they liked the sound of and noted it down on their research sheets. By doing this, the children became even more eager to learn more facts about lions in order to share them with the rest of the group.
The children were also keen to learn facts about the basic biology of lions. However, I do have to point out that the girls within the group were particularly unimpressed by male lions, whom they quickly denounced as “cruel” for committing infanticide, despite my best attempts at trying to explain the males reasons for it. This is something I will definitely have to return to as I have a strong feeling that the girls didn’t fully agree with what I was saying and left with a rather low opinion of male lions.
Before we knew it, the session was coming to a close and the tables in my classroom were literally littered with dozens of A3 research sheets, crammed full with interesting facts about lions.
At the very start of the session, each child had struggled to list even three basic facts about lions. Now, I had every child in the club telling me about the various threats facing lions, telling me that there are only 15,244 lions left in Africa and telling me that lions only have a possible future in 14 countries. I even had a girl shout “Chad!” at me in burst of excitement, when I asked the children if they could remember any of these 14 countries.
What the children do not know is that I will be hounding them now until the next session in a week’s time, asking them every day the same quiz questions to ensure that all this amazing knowledge is retained.
Posted by Chris Macsween at 12:08
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