I am sure you can all remember your favourite school trip or experience. For example, if you grew up in Yorkshire, was your primary school experience even complete without a trip to Eureka or Cannon Hall Farm? As teachers, we all know that children benefit from exploring their learning in a variety of ways; from observing pieces in museums in galleries, to using their imagination to transport themselves through time and space, or developing their questioning skills when coming across new people, places and artefacts.
As practitioners, we are constantly finding new ways to make the curriculum come alive. At Elements, we take this innovation one step further through the implementation of WOW Weeks.
WOW Weeks are situated at the beginning of each learning block. Instead of working towards regular half-terms, we have arranged the timetable so that each block of learning is eight weeks long. This helps to create balance and consistency when coming to teaching and learning. It also provides a great opportunity to mark the end and beginning of each learning block with a WOW Week.
Put simply, a WOW Week is a whole week off-timetable full of trips and experiences which act as both exit points for previous topics, and exciting hooks into the next. Having all of these curriculum enrichment opportunities in one week means that learning is not interrupted by one-off events here and there throughout a half-term. Learning always starts with a first-hand experience and builds towards a celebration event.
WOW for Learners
‘This is AMAZING!’ is the phrase that echoed through the coach as we travelled through the North Yorkshire Moors to get to Whitby. Our children are even more excited and motivated during WOW Week, and have the opportunity to experience things (like, in this case, the Hole of Hawkam) that they wouldn’t normally be able to. These things don’t always have to be large-scale or budget-breaking; it can be as simple as building fires and toasting marshmallows in the playground. The cumulative impact of these ‘little’ things on our children’s lives is what defines those weeks as WOW.
WOW for Parents
As a Wellspring school, we truly believe that #wemakeadifference, not just for the children that come into our classrooms, but in the lives of the families and the wider community we serve. WOW Week is an excellent opportunity to celebrate and share learning whilst enriching the lives of our learners and their families. Involving parents is a key ingredient to the success of WOW Week.
WOW for Teachers
WOW Weeks have been a brilliant opportunity for practitioners to demonstrate and contribute with skill sets that go beyond the classroom. An unexpected benefit is that staff feel part of a whole-school team. As a class teacher, WOW Week has become a fantastic way to help the children dream big and discover life beyond school. I have already loved watching the learners in my class filled with curiosity through new things, from making a pizza in a real restaurant kitchen, their eyes widening at the taste of an ice-cream at the farm, to beaming with wonder inside a mobile planetarium.
WOW for Leaders
Organisation, timetabling, budgeting and knowing what is happening in school can often cause a leader headaches when it comes to planning experiences. Although at first having all experiences in one week sounds like these issues would be compounded, the opposite is true. Everyone is informed in advance-including parents – allowing for increased organisation, reduced timetabling constraints, and a healthier budget through gains such as bulk-bookings and more forthcoming parental contributions.
WOW for Me
The impact of our WOW Weeks is seen in how our children talk about their future. I’m sure most teachers will agree with me when I say that there’s nothing better than hearing your children say, ‘I want to be an astronaut now’ after seeing the solar system in a sports hall, or ‘how can I be a vet’ after watching the newborn lambs at the farm. Elements is undoubtedly a very special community to belong to. WOW Week is a celebration of who we are as a school (and – I believe – as a trust): creative, unique, innovative.
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