Posted: Tue 8th Aug 2023

River Dee and Wales Coast Path at heart of innovative school curriculum

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Aug 8th, 2023

The windings of the River Dee and the path along Wales’ magnificent coastline have found a new home in the classrooms of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Flint.

Following Natural Resources Wales’ training webinars, Headteacher Paul Phillips and his staff have created a unique learning experience for their pupils.

Utilising the four-stage planning from the ‘Life on the River’ and ‘Wales Coast Path’ training, St Mary’s has woven geography, ecology, history, and social awareness into their curriculum.

Year 3 students spent nine weeks exploring the River Dee, learning about its features, importance to local settlements, and its role in tourism and transport.

The strategic focus on Humanities and Science and Technology Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLE) allowed students to grasp concepts such as climate change, humans’ impact on nature, and the importance of their local environment.

“You can see the River Dee estuary from the front entrance of our school so we thought it was really important that children learn about its uses and how it has changed over time,” explained Headteacher Phillips.

Year 5 and 6 pupils delved into the ‘Wales Coast Path’ topic, engaging with questions such as ‘Who uses the Wales Coast Path in Flintshire?’ and ‘What wildlife would we see on the Wales Coast Path?’

They learned about accessibility issues, even engaging in ethical debates about installing A-frames on the path which are designed to prevent anti-social behaviour, but which prevent wheelchair users and prams getting through and can make it tricky for cyclists, which the children discussed.

The children had a fascinating debate about this and demonstrated how they are becoming ethical, informed citizens of Wales through their discussion about the accessibility on the Wales Coast Path. 

They made some valid and sensible points and eventually agreed that areas with lots of issues should have the A-frames but that they shouldn’t be placed on every section, so that wheelchair users etc. could access as much of the path as possible.”

There has been collaboration with local artists and planned walks further enriched the experience, bringing practicality to theory.

“The training webinars we received from NRW were vital. Having the recordings of the sessions was helpful for the teachers to refer to. We also received documents with loads of links to further resources. This was extremely helpful and time-saving,” Phillips remarked.

The novel approach to learning has not only enhanced students’ understanding of their surroundings but also enabled them to become informed, responsible citizens. The balance of AoLEs and integration of real-world problems presents an inspiring case for holistic and community-based education.

As the first iteration of this innovative curriculum, the teachers have already begun to explore further improvements, demonstrating St Mary’s commitment to constant growth and community engagement.

“We’ll keep improving the units as we go,” concluded Headteacher Phillips, reflecting the ethos of a school leading the way in weaving local landscapes into the rich fabric of education.

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