Ignite Zoo Curriculum project

At Ignite, we have worked with 83 schools from primary and secondary phases to build a ‘knowledge rich and humanity rich’ curriculum around the conservation themes that drive the work of the Zoo. Not only has this provided an inspirational and compelling focus for schools to build a curriculum around, it has fitted perfectly with the new inspection focus. As you will be all aware, the curriculum is a core part of the new inspection framework and the project will prepare schools for this. Content around Ofsted requirements, knowledge, memory and learning from cognitive science will all be included.

To support this journey we have worked with internationally renowned Debra Kidd and Hywel Roberts. This has brought an exciting dimension to the work as colleagues have developed their own pedagogy and built dilemma led approaches to learning in their classrooms. Debra and Hywel have written a number of books around curriculum development, the most recent one, ‘Unchartered Territories’ – link attached. This has developed our thinking around engagement in learning and to date, we have found some really exciting changes to learning behaviours in schools involved in the project. Soon to be published research is currently being undertaken around the impact of this work.

Links to Hywel and Debra’s biogs and work are here.

What the project looks like:

Over 13 sessions across the year you will:

  • Develop a coherent curriculum around conservation to include all NC areas.

  • Develop a ‘knowledge rich’ and ‘humanity rich’ curriculum.

  • Explore dilemma led learning approaches in your school.

  • Work with leaders to develop a curriculum fit for 2019 and beyond. Completely Ofsted ready.

  • Work with Chester Zoo to develop a passion for conservation

Staff will be able to attend sessions addressing leadership development across the school. This will include specific training for:

Senior leaders

KS2 teachers

KS1 teachers

EYFS leaders and teachers

English leads

Geography leads

History leads

Music leads

Art & Design leads

Resources will be shared and a community of inquiry created through Google Classroom.

In addition to this, all schools can also send staff to watch demonstration lessons by Dr. Debra Kidd and Hywel. During these sessions, colleagues will watch best practice and unpick the pedagogy following lessons. All sessions will be recorded and shared with staff across all schools. Lessons will be hosted by two lucky schools from the project.

Also, there will be a session around campaigning with Chester Zoo and Voice 21. Helping our children become the change the world needs to see.

Finally, to showcase work completed over the year, there will be a celebration of work at an event towards the end of the year. This will be a great opportunity to share your curriculum and learning from the project.

As part of the curriculum building, sessions will be led for english, maths, history, geography, art & design, EYFS and music leads. These are delivered by consultants who have developed a range of resources around the conservation themes that Chester Zoo has at the centre of their work.  During these sessions, schools have worked collaboratively to produce high-quality resources, that are engaging and inspiring whilst meeting the requirements of the National Curriculum, as well as working with resources provided by the zoo. As development for middle leaders, this has been invaluable.

We have also developed a research strand at the heart of the project, where schools have been encouraged to run a small-scale project around a focus of their choice.

For schools participating in the project, Chester Zoo has offered a greatly reduced entrance fee during peak times. Some schools have also had in-school sessions led by the Chester Zoo team for staff and/or pupils and their staff have provided input into the curriculum development process, as well as supporting with research design and analysis. This has ensured all schools are able to access the incredible resources available. Visits to the zoo have been ‘bespoked’ so that schools get the most out of their visit. The partnership with Chester Zoo has been incredible and one that is quite unique. As world leaders in conservation, we are lucky to have such skilled and passionate colleagues to work with. Their commitment to supporting our work through this project has been a key to its success so don’t miss out on working with them next year with Ignite.

Feedback from project schools:

A fantastic project to be part of. Thank you to all involved.

Thank you for this opportunity to really transform our teaching and learning. It has had a truly positive effect on our setting by lifting the staff with their teaching and given our pupils the platform to really show their passion for conservation. This project will be talked about for years not just at school but in our wider community.

We loved the Zoo project as it has given us the evidence and confidence to focus on what we know is right for our children. Working in partnership with other schools that share the same ethos also gives us the confidence to continue along this path despite the barriers we will face.

This project has really given the teachers in our school the ownership to improve the curriculum for the community we serve. It has encouraged them to be more creative, with a focus on the arts more than we did before. It continues to develop the thinking and enquiry skills of our pupils, along with allowing them to be more creative, but not losing the basic skills of reading, writing and maths.

The project was a huge success; the parents, carers and other visitors were so impressed by work that the children produced for the exhibition that we held. The enthusiasm shown by the children and staff was infectious.

Teachers could see the importance and benefits of an immersive theme and how invested out children became. SLT noticed a drive and enthusiasm and a sense of achievement from staff in regards to the work they were doing with their children and what their children produced. If only we could bottle that energy and buzz! We have tried to by implementing some of the strategies below.

We used the project as a starter to re-write and develop our whole curriculum. It has been incredible!

Pupils still talk about palm oil to this day. They found the emotional aspect most memorable. The writing that the children produced was of a higher standard than normal due the emotions involved.

The children were motivated, no matter what the task, so enthused they continued to campaign at home and brought their independent work in to show their teachers. They felt empowered and showed an increasing amount of empathy towards the plight of others.

Children were ‘bothered’ by what they did and how it made them think. They talked more about their learning and they shared at home more. They wanted to make a difference and that was obvious in the work they produced For instance, the viewpoint in writing was strongly established leading to some very meaningful pieces.

Every single child engaged with the project and some children are still bringing information into school- the learning did not stop when the project stopped. Within two days of the Year 5 children learning about the impact of plastic on the creatures in the oceans, all single-use plastic in school had been banned. They even held a meeting with our cook to ensure that the small plastic containers used for grapes could be replaced with something that was environmentally friendly.

Staff have more autonomy for the curriculum with an emphasis on the arts more than there used to be within the school. With the palm oil project, the pupils engaged with a worldwide issue and were able to emphasise and change their way of thinking as well as their parents at times. They became very passionate about the topic and who and what it affects.

The whole project has had a significant impact on the whole school community and we are now hoping to build further on the successes and apply them to other projects.

One of our project schools who was had Ofsted in February had the following section included in their report:

“New approaches to teaching writing are reaping rewards. Teachers now make writing more exciting for pupils. Recently, pupils engaged in an initiative with Chester Zoo. Linked to the project, pupils have written interesting factual texts on the impact of the production of palm oil on animal habitats in the Amazon and the migration of displaced farmers. Such initiatives are securing pupils’ engagement and improving their grammar, punctuation and spelling.”

In addition to the above we have included the following for your information:

·         Guardian article detailing St Bernard’s work for saving the songbirds.

·         Singing for songbirds youtube video

·         www.chesterzoo.org/learningresources – links to Chester Zoo’s growing bank of learning resources including those focusing on their key conservation campaigns

·         www.actforwildlife.org.uk – links to Chester Zoo’s conservation campaign website

To get involved please contact Emily Reid (ereid@stbernards.cheshire.sch.uk) 

There is no cost to be part of this project.