VP PAUL TOTTON OF BALLYMAGEE PRIMARY SCHOOL TELLS US OF HIS POSITIVE EXPERIENCES OF USING THE VISI WORLD EDUCATION PACK IN THE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT.
“When I first heard about the Visi’s World pack and the fact that it aims to introduce the whole idea of human trafficking to key stage two children, I was sceptical but yet curious. I imagined myself having a conversation about human trafficking with the 30 ten and eleven year old children in my class and a shiver went down my spine. I wondered what sort of language I would use in the discussions. I worried about how the children may react or indeed would I get complaints about the content from parents. I had no idea where I could discretely fit this into an already crowded curriculum. Most of all I felt that I did not know enough about the subject and felt some feelings of fear and apprehension around my ignorance.
It’s not uncommon for teachers to receive education packs dealing with a whole range of subjects. Many of these, I have to be honest, get filed in the blue filing cabinet marked “recycling.” This isn’t without good reason. Many education packs that teachers receive are well intentioned but are flawed in the fact that they haven’t been written by actual teachers and therefore are unusable in the format they are written in or use ideas which are unmanageable with a class of 30 eager learners. At times, these education packs are so far removed from the curriculum that it is very difficult to integrate into the thematic approach to teaching and the language used can be totally inappropriate for the target audience that they were written for. On many occasions it is actually easier for the teacher to write their own lessons to achieve the learning that the pack was intended to make happen.
This, I am pleased to say, is most definitely not the case with the Visi’s World Education and resource pack. I have used the pack with my P7 children and found that it really is a ‘lift off the shelf and use’ resource. So – what is so good about it…..
Firstly it has been written by teachers. People who know the reality of what life is like in the classroom and therefore the lessons are written with stimulating content and activities, and are manageable with one adult and 30 children. The activities are not just worksheet based. Each lesson has website links which link children to webpages which contain facts and figures or information which they can use for research purposes. There are visuals and video clips which really capture the children’s attention and imagination. The excellent Visi’s World animation, which we have just watched, is a prime example of this. All of the pack is written sensitively with the children firmly in mind and is written using age appropriate language.
I mentioned earlier that I was worried that I did not know enough about the whole subject of human trafficking to confidently deliver lessons with a very inquisitive audience. This pack dispelled all my worries. Each lesson plan is very comprehensive and gives detailed notes for the person delivering the lesson under the “Background for teachers” section and there are useful links to take me to further information. I found these very interesting and learnt a lot myself on the subject.
Originally I had questioned where the learning in this education pack would fit into an already crowded curriculum. After reading the content of the Visi’s World lesson plans, I quickly realised that some of the content of my P7 teaching already touches upon human trafficking and the pack would fit perfectly into my unit of work on Fair Trade which is closely linked to the Financial Capabilities strand of Using Mathematics. It is very cross curricular and can be used as a vehicle to teach Maths, Literacy, Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities, Personal Development and Mutual Understanding, World Around Us – to name but a few. For example, lesson one is about how children can be forced to work in the chocolate industry and leads the children on to see why they should buy fair trade products. This was a variation of a lesson that I already taught but the lesson in the Visi Education pack helped me to incorporate the topic of human trafficking into the lesson in a sensitive and age appropriate way thus giving much more depth to the learning in the lesson. Last year my school achieved Level One of our Rights Respecting Schools Award where we focused on the articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Visi’s World lessons fitted perfectly into this as the children in my class were able to look at the rights which they enjoy in Northern Ireland and perhaps take totally for granted. This led us to look at the fact that not all children enjoy the rights which we in Northern Ireland enjoy. Activity 3 in the education pack helped us focus on this as it deals with rights, needs and wants and links directly to the articles on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This lesson, just like others in the pack, created a discussion and debate amongst the children which has a depth and quality and is pure educational gold for any teacher.
Finally, I had initially questioned whether human trafficking was suitable for children in the primary school age. When I was in P7, I learnt about what was happening in the world in a ten minute programme every week day at 5pm called Newsround. This was a superficial touch of what was happening in the world and shielded me from the gory details of what was really going on. Our children, nowadays, grow up in a technology rich environment where they have news at the tips of their fingers at any time during the day due to 24 hour rolling news coverage and through the many devices such as tablets and smart phones. Children are now very aware of what is going on in the world and know perhaps more than we realise. I regularly am amazed at what children in my class know about what is going on in the world. Early this year, some people were freed from human trafficking in Bangor, just three miles from Ballymagee Primary School. This was on the news and formed some of the conversations between children in my class in the playground the next morning. The Visi’s World lessons gave the children some understanding of what they had heard or read in the news and helped to give them a vocabulary to articulate their thoughts on it in a sensible and educated way. In essence, the children were not too young to learn about a real life problem in our society in an age appropriate way.
The Visi’s World Education and Resource Pack is a very flexible, cross curricular pack which is not only educational but helps with safeguarding our children from the dangers that our modern day world presents. I think that the pack is an excellent resource to help our children learn about a very real problem in Northern Ireland, engaging our children with the world around them and making them into educated global citizens of tomorrow.”