Beat the Flood challenge …a primary teacher promoting global learning Context

Beat the Flood challenge…a primary teacher promoting global learning
in science as good practice
Claire Seeley is a charter science teacher, science co-ordinator and a primary school teacher, with responsibility for
school centred initial teacher training (SCITT). She’s recently used Practical Action’s Beat the Flood challenge with
her year 5 and 6 class at Sandlings Primary School in Suffolk. This case study reflects her experience of running the
challenge; its impact on her pupils, and why she recommends the challenge to other teachers as an example of good
Claire first came across Practical Action’s materials at the annual Association of Science Education conference in
Jan’2013 where she describes herself as ‘always on the look-out for real-life learning contexts’.
Beat the Flood challenge
The challenge itself is the first in a series of online materials aimed at key stages 2-3 pupils
(ages 7-14), produced through Practical Action’s EC funded Make the Link project . The
materials are based around Practical Action’s development work to help people living in
areas affected by changing climates prepare for change, in this case flooding.
Pupils are tasked with researching into parts of the world most affected by flooding and to
explore existing technologies that are used by communities to prepare for floods. Their
investigations into material and structures are then applied to help develop their designs and
subsequent models for a flood-resistant home.
The materials have been designed in a way that they can be delivered through the formal Science, Technology,
Engineering and Maths (STEM) curriculum or as part of the wider school’s curriculum in STEM clubs and for
curriculum enrichment days.
Introducing the Beat the Flood challenge
Claire describes how her choice of using the challenge to integrate global issues into a science-based water topic led
to greater resonance that she’d anticipated...
‘In October 2013, our part of the UK was battered by a large storm leaving many
of our rural children without power for three days. Then, as autumn progressed
into November, the Philippines were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. Every day,
the children were watching, as the images of the destructive power of intense
weather systems decimated whole areas, powerfully leading the children to ask
lots of questions about how such disasters happen and about the link between
flooding and climate change.’
Claire introduced the challenge with the starter activity that enable the children to look at pictures of flooding
globally and research into some of the technologies used to help people prepare for flooding.
Using science to inform our designs
In order to know which materials to select for their house designs and models, the
children first thought about which materials might be most suitable and carried out
absorbency and tensile strength tests on selection of the recommended materials .
‘Fascinated by the tensile strength of wood and its cheap and sustainable credentials,
for many groups, it became the material of choice’.
Flood-proof homes
As the pupils moved into the design and modelling phase of the challenge, they discussed their design ideas and the
purpose of building a model – a far cheaper method than building a house from scratch!
After the pupils had completed their models they had the chance to test them by standing them in water and
spraying with water!
Impact of the challenge
When asked about the impact of the challenge to the pupils Claire reflects
‘They could see from this project how science and technology plays an important role in tackling global poverty. It
also enabled the children to see that perhaps they have something to say about these issues’
Inspired by the Beat the Flood, the children wrote persuasive letters to the UK government recommending that all
new build homes should be flood proof. One child wrote,
‘It’s clear you never know when the weather will change. The climate is changing due to global warming. It is
warming because of human pollution. Weather is getting more extreme. A flood proof house would help because if
there was extreme weather, this would stand it!’
The impact of the challenge on both pupils and teachers is being more formally monitored and the first results will
be available from July 2014. Practical Action will be monitoring whether having completed the challenge teachers
are more likely to included global learning in their future teaching. Claire has said she will certainly be using our
other materials in the future.
Reaching out – the multiplier effect
Having completed the challenge Claire felt compelled to share with other teachers how integrating global learning
into the science curriculum using Practical Action’s materials was a really positive experience and something she
would both recommend and continue to do herself.
In addition to recommending the material to her 50 SCITT students Claire wrote an article for the primary science
magazine which has a circulation of four thousand. She also plans to continue to promote Practical Actions’ material
as part of her role as a Science Learning Centre presenter.
For further information about this case study or Practical Action’s education work, contact Julie Brown at or 01926 634400.