Breathing New Life into Old Bones and Fossils – The new primary curriculum and the Cornish Inspire Curriculum
An interesting development we have seen this year is the new 2013/4 primary curriculum, and specifically the Inspire Curriculum packages being pioneered in Cornwall by Cornwall Learning: http://theinspirecurriculum.co.uk/
As these four to six week cross-curricular topic based units of the Inspire Curriculum were only launched in September 2014, we had an unseasonably busy start to the Autumn term with lots of unexpected new requests for visits to the zoo or outreach talks to schools, not next term or Summer but this week or at the very latest next week please!
This flurry of activity was coupled with requests to support topics like teeth, food and skeletons for newly christened workshops like “Why are humans animals too?” (Year 3, Unit 1) and Year 4 Unit 1 “Where Does my Food Go?” Out of the resources cupboard and back into our everyday workshop box have come carnivore, herbivore and omnivore skulls or odd objects like a lion-chewed mangled plastic enrichment ball to illustrate different teeth points. For some of our live encounter animals like African Land Snails a cheese grater or sandpaper is the best way to show what their microscopically tiny radula teeth are like!
Over the next few months as new topics are being first delivered in class, we will update our curriculum workshops and look for new curriculum opportunities in addition to what we already offer.
Although the full curriculum topic packages for schools have to be purchased from Cornwall Learning, there is a glimpse of available curriculum map summaries in published materials online on Cornish school websites. Published to inform parents of the new curriculum, they reveal some interesting possibilities to engage schools with Newquay Zoo’s education and conservation mission.
World War Zoo Gardens and the new WW2 curriculum links
Whilst popular topics from the old primary curriculum like World War Two evacuation seem at first sight to have disappeared, on closer examination they have morphed into new titles like Year 6 Unit 5 “The Battle of Britain – Bombs, Battles and Bravery 1940”. Evacuation crops up in open History questions like “What was it like to be a child during WW2?”
Throughout 2015 we will use this topic and Inspire curriculum map to refocus our existing wartime history talks, still focussed around life in a wartime zoo. You can see our workshop write up for our current wartime zoo workshops.
Below we have put a few interesting zoo links to the new Inspire Curriculum WW2 unit , to which we will add more in future blog posts.
The WW2 curriculum map has some interesting questions to engage learners to read, write and research in different genres – fictional diaries, stories or biographies. For English links, there is for Text Evacuee diaries based around Children’s book Goodnight Mr Tom, or writing war stories with the theme “The Night the Bomb Fell” as well as Biographies of War Heroes. Lots of possible zoo and botanic garden links there, including the short biographies of WW2 wartime careers of Kew staff and London Zoo staff.
I have heard some fabulous sing-alongs, poster displays and seen some great murals when visiting schools on offsites with animals. For Music and Media there is the chance to “listen to and sing popular WW2 tunes”, as well as “preparing and broadcasting their own WW2 radio programmes with songs, message and news items”. Hopefully there’ll be some handy gardening advice and kitchen front recipe tips on the radio (see previous blog posts). It sounds a bit like creating the Kernow Pods wartime garden podcast on our website.
For Art and Design there is a chance to look at examples and design your own WW2 propaganda poster, as WW2 evacuee Benenden School girls did for a 1941 competition for Newquay War Weapons Week (see poster in the background of our workshop display). I look forward on school visits to seeing many “Large scale murals of London during the Blitz using silhouettes” as the Inspire curriculum WW2 unit suggests, hopefully with London Zoo’s escaped Blitz zebra somewhere around (famously painted by war artist Carel Weight). And why the London Blitz , not Plymouth or Exeter or many other blitzed towns?
Another History topic question in the Inspire WW2 Unit is “Why was the Battle of Britain important and how did the use of RADAR help in its victory?” There are many interesting future blog stories to post about around the development of radar, codebreaking and the wartime scientific work of botanists or zoologists like Solly Zuckerman who designed and tested air raid helmets under explosive test conditions on himself and a few unwilling volunteer zoo monkeys.
For Maths – “Exploring Coding and the Enigma Coding Machine” in the Inspire Curriculum opens up some interesting topics. Senior zoo staff in WW1 and WW2 such as ZSL’s Peter Chalmers Mitchell, Julian Huxley and Aquarium Curator E.G.Boulenger were involved in wartime intelligence, often at the vaguely named ‘War Office’ and in Boulenger’s case as a possible codebreaker (often this is not explicitly stated but hinted). Possibly their knowledge of Latin and German as keepers and classifiers of animals, friendly with German zoo directors and scientists, would have been useful.
Woburn Abbey housed a “Wrennery” in its attic, accommodating WRNS women linked to the Wireless Intercept stations as part of the Bletchley Park network. Kew Gardens had some equally ‘secret’ staff missions such as William W.B. Turrill writing documents on the vegetation of various wartime areas, whilst Herbert Whitley’s Paignton Zoo’s bird collection housed a secret carrier pigeon loft as part of the National Pigeon Service and Royal Corps of Signals. Other zoos such as Blackpool, Port Lympne, Marwell and Knowsley had interesting wartime pasts (airfields, tank training, crash sites) as declining estate gardens before conversion post-war to zoos and safari parks.
Another Science question in the Inspire curriculum WW2 unit “How was light important during WW2? (the Blackout, searchlights etc)” and “How does light reach our eyes?” links well with our nocturnal animal / in the dark talks. Animals at Newquay Zoo have some super senses ranging from echo-locating bats at nighttime over the zoo lake to vibrissae (otter whiskers), super-sensing snakes which listen to the ground without ears or ‘ground radar’ cockroaches who listen through their ‘knee ears’. Even the humble carrot reputedly eaten to improve the night sight of fighter pilots like ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham was used as cover story for the secret development of RADAR. Strange sound locators (below) were widely publicised as cover for the success of this secret invention, such as this image from our collection:
Planthunters and gardens
There are also gardening and plant links that open up interesting possibilities for connecting to our World War Zoo Gardens wartime allotment such as Year 2 Unit 6 – “Sowing and Growing” whilst planthunters such as George Forrest make a surprising appearance in Year 1 Unit 6 “The Potting Shed – Buried Treasure”. An amazing adventurous character, George Forrest, as you can see from the RBGE magazine, a real life Indiana Jones like many planthunters! Time to think about plant trails and workshops for 2015 or 2016, maybe?
Cornwall has a rich heritage of plants received from famous planthunters. Some were Victorian figures like William and Thomas Lobb. There were many explorers from the poles to planthunting who were actively exploring into wartime such as Reginald Farrar, Frank Kingdon-Ward and George Forrest. Their wartime careers in WW1 and WW2 is something I’m researching for a future blog post. Their amazing adventures in tropical forest and mountain valleys were being reported back through garden journals magazines alongside news of WW1 which saw many gardeners enlist as we have covered in other blog posts.
Some of the wartime exploits of ageing plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958) included teaching jungle survival, surveying secret escape routes for pilots in Japanese held territory and searching for missing planes through Asian jungles (whilst collecting plants en route). A secret silk escape map of SE Asia in our collection illustrates this story well.
Evolution, Dinosaurs and Fossils
There are also other welcome new titles such as “A Voyage of Discovery” (Year 6 Unit 5) bringing Darwin’s life, voyages and discoveries back into the classroom and also a chance to look at fossils and dinosaurs in Year 3 – “Shake, Rock and Roll”. Our Darwin 200 bicentenary resources from 2009 including our Darwin stamp blog with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo have another life with this chance to discuss evolution and extinction, highly relevant to the modern zoo conservation mission of any of our Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust sites at Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo or Living Coasts.
Modern Foreign Languages are embedded in topic maps throughout, so a chance to freshen up our basic Spanish and French offerings about animal names, habitats, travel and conservation projects. Lots of possible links here – Maybe a ‘crash course’ in French for lost secret agents or downed airmen to survive in occupied France to complement the WW2 unit? Maybe some simple Spanish as Charles Darwin had to learn to find his way around South America on his Beagle journey?
Other old favourite topics, snappily retitled include these which complement our workshops:
Classification (Year 1 Unit 8 – “Animal Allsorts”)
Habitats (Year 4 Unit 9 – “A Place for Everything”)
Rainforests (Year 4 Unit 7 – “Amazing Amazon”)
Life Cycles (Year 5 Unit 5 – “Round and Round”)
There are others well as several focussing on human and animal senses:
(Year 1 Unit 7 – “Brilliant Bodies”)
Sound and sense (Year 4 Unit 6 – “Sounding Off”)
Other slots include current affairs (Year 6 unit 2 – “What’s Happening Now?”) and an interesting ‘The Apprentice’ style Young Enterprise unit Year 6 Unit 9 “You’re Hired” (a possible link to business studies?)
We also like the links to journeys, navigation, maps, travel and explorers across many Primary years (such as Year 5 Unit 3 – “Poles Apart”) whilst “Dragons – Fact and Fiction” in Year 4 Unit 4 might bring some interesting reptile requests!
Not all Cornish schools have adopted this Inspire Curriculum package yet; some I know intend to use it to develop a Cornish or more regional focus to some aspects of the curriculum, using the local area and history. This was pioneered through the Sense of Place initiative.
Inspire, Sense of Place and the new primary curriculum are all good opportunities to spot what old, new or unusual topics we might be asked to support the delivery of during an outreach animal encounter or school visit to the zoo.
Watch this space! The zoo education team can be contacted on 01637-873342 or via the zoo website.
Happy New Year from all the Education team!
Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, and Education Manager Newquay Zoo .