May 22

Immersive Learning: A Journey Beyond the Classroom

Katy blog 1

In a recent planning session in the Geography Department, reviewing the Key Stage 3 curriculum and mapping out the knowledge and skills our students develop from Year 7 to Year 9, our talk turned to what best engages our students. We reflected on the experiences that students tend to remember most when they reach the end of Year 13, which is usually when they are actively immersed in their learning. They remember learning about food miles during their pizza-making lesson in Year 8; or the seagulls stealing their apples when measuring longshore drift at Whitstable in Year 9; or the wonder of the ‘Lulworth crumple’, a result of the collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates 30 million years ago which they visit during their Year 10 field trip to Dorset.  

It is wonderful to be able to bring learning to life in this way. For example, our Year 7 students recently braved the elements and engaged in fieldwork in Greenwich, exploring ‘my local area’, a collaboration between the History and Geography departments. The students were introduced to a number of fieldwork techniques to help them investigate the hypothesis ‘Greenwich is a fantastic place’.  

Students in Year 8 were recently learning about the issues of sweatshops in the garment-making industry as part of their ‘Geography of Fashion’ topic. To help them develop empathy and better understand the problems, they took part in a role-play game where they became sweatshop workers. They were able to experience unfair issues, such as losing precious production time when their machinery broke down meaning they made less money, or deciding to pay all their income for urgent medical treatment. All of which enhanced their engagement with the topic.   

Year 9 will soon undertake their fieldwork in Whitstable, completing both human and physical investigations; one on the effectiveness of coastal management at Whitstable and the other investigating if Whitstable is losing its sense of place, a concept which is of great importance when they get to A-level. These opportunities are invaluable - when learners can see, hear, and interact with content, they form stronger connections and develop a deeper understanding of it.   

I always find it heartening when a student in the Sixth Form recalls a fond memory of doing something a little different in Geography Key Stage 3, even if from the outside it may have looked like they were slightly out of their comfort zone at the time - I don’t think our students ever forget dancing to coastal erosion or water cycle songs!  

It is also impressive how our students are eager to learn beyond the traditional classroom setting, especially through immersive experiences like the trips to the Azores and Iceland which are always popular. I know that those heading out on our next Iceland trip this half term are super excited for their adventure! We hope that they can all use the knowledge and skills that they have gained to explore, understand, and appreciate the world around them long after they have left Blackheath High.    

Written by Miss Hickman, Assistant Head (Learning & Enrichment)  

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