In days of yore, learning history was about remembering and regurgitating facts: dates and names, statistics and sequences of events. Today at Barrow Hills, history is about skills.
Through their study of history our children learn empathy, analysis and scepticism, how to assess the value of a source, how to recognise bias and how to synthesise data. They learn how to write an essay, how to present a balanced argument and how to write persuasively. From as early as seven years of age they are encouraged to question the provenance of the information they are presented with and determine its worth to themselves, as historians.
At Barrow Hills we ask not only ‘what?’ and ‘who?’ and ‘when?’ but ‘why?’ and ‘so what?’. Trips and visits also make up an important part of our history curriculum.
Barrow Hills children enjoy one hour of timetabled history a week and two hours a week in Year 7 as they prepare for the rigours of Common Entrance. Children are taught by subject specialists from Year 5 – Year 8.
At Barrow Hills we believe it is dynamic and relevant, which is transferred into the teaching of the subject. Frequently children will bring in items they have read, heard or discussed with a parent which can create topical and immersive lessons. This, combined with the encouragement of curiosity and investigation promotes geography as an adventure we explore together.
During our geography sessions at Barrow Hills the children gain an appreciation of the world through the eyes of a geographer. From understanding our daily weather patterns, to the impact of natural disasters on civilisation, our aim is to inspire the children is such a way that they are enthusiastic about geography and have a genuine appreciation of the world in which they live.
Geography begins by exploring the local community and using the school grounds to observe environmental features, changing landscapes and climates. Throughout the school year children learn about growth and change and how to care for the environment during their weekly visit to the outdoor classroom. As they progress through the school fieldwork investigations begin to take the children further afield and they begin to study more exotic locations like St Lucia and India, honing skills such as map reading, data analysis and research.
In the final two years, children work through the Common Entrance syllabus; they undertake fieldwork and case studies to complete their coursework and enjoy working in a variety of different ways to learn about tectonic, meteorological and geomorphological processes as well as economics, populations and settlement.
That being said, we don’t foresee it completely replacing good old text books and exercise books for the simple reason; we all learn differently. This should be embraced and as such the first question asked when implementing technology in the classroom is why? At Barrow Hills technology is not used for technologies sake, but instead is used with direct purpose within the humanities department. It may be adapted appropriately for different situations – for traditional word processing, or creating online flashcards. It may also be used to incorporate written work into a power point, or videoing a news headline of a case study they have covered. Using technology as an alternative method of learning, by choice, is critical in the development of study skills, collaborative learning on shared work, as well as developing inhibitory control (the cognitive process of avoiding distraction), a key executive function.
Geography as a subject has already embraced the change that technology brings with geographical information systems (GIS) gaining additional responsibilities within prep-school education. This ranges from interpreting google maps through to the use of digi-maps, interactive OS maps.
Embracing technology allows children to make a greater impact in their learning which is important for a subject which brings a large world into a classroom situation, all whilst developing skills of literacy and numeracy. It provides an opportunity for teachers to naturally differentiate tasks and to guide activities in a multitude of ways.