Supporting Learning: HOPE for the future

My work at the Oxford Museum of Natural History is in the Learning Team of the NLHF-funded HOPE for the future project. Our aim was to commence visiting schools in Summer 2020 but this was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, we altered our focus to providing resources online that teachers could either use in school or set as remote work for their students. We also thought that families at home might like to try the activities.

The suite of six resources is aimed at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3, although some were also trialled successfully with younger children. They form a sequence but can also be used as stand-alone items. We also produces some planning and recording templates for some activities.

You can see an overview of all the downloadable resources on the Hope Learning Resources webpage. Please feel free to download them for use with your classes.

How to spot an insect covers Insect anatomy and what makes insects distinct from other arthropods. There’s a multiple-choice quiz to help check understanding.

Insect ID introduces classification by looking at the ‘Big 5’ insect orders: beetles, true flies, true bugs, bees wasps & ants, and butterflies & moths. There’s also a quiz to check understanding.

Know your bees focuses on this group of insects with practical activities on observing, identifying and investigating British bees.

Three investigations then follow, the first on insects visiting different flowers. This structured activity takes children through the stages of an investigation using simple equipment.

Investigating Insect Pollination includes activities on observing pollinators visiting flowers, forming a research question based on these observations, then planning an investigation to answer this question.

Bee experiment: time of day covers a focussed investigation into the foraging behaviour of bees visiting a specific flower type.

If you use any of these resources, we’d love to hear what you think. Either comment here or use this feedback form.

We are currently planning the next part of the project which is a virtual summer school to run during the school summer holidays.


Thanks to PGCE students at Oxford University Department of Education and members of the OUMNH Youth Forum for commenting on drafts of these activities. Thank you too to teachers and pupils of Larkrise Primary School, St Gregory the Great Primary School, and Windmill Primary School for trialling the resources.

Study Skills

You can read about resources to teach and support the development of good study skills in this post on Study Skills Guides.

The Student Strike for Climate

On Friday thousands of students across the UK left their lessons to take part in demonstrations demanding action to tackle climate change.

I currently teach part time in Oxfordshire and the protest in Oxford had one of the highest turnouts, with the media reporting an estimated 2,000 young people rallying to the protest in the city centre. I’m not in school on Fridays, it’s one of the days I work in the education team at the Bodleian Libraries, so I went along in my lunch break to see how the demonstration was going.

In common, I suspect, with many teachers, I felt some internal conflict over this student strike for climate. On the one hand I find it extremely encouraging, indeed inspiring, that young people should be taking a leading role in this crucial issue; on the other there are, of course, difficulties in condoning time out of school and missed lessons, especially in the run-up to GCSE and A Level exams. How many students would be genuinely concerned and actively engaged in tackling climate change and how many just taking an easy opportunity to bunk off on a Friday afternoon?

The headteacher of my school made a very reasoned response when approached by students about the strike; not authorising their absence but celebrating their desire to speak out and prompting them to think beyond attendance at an event arranged for them, to organising practical action in their own time. He commented on the strike in the newsletter Take Me Home and also included the Students’ eloquent letter to their local MP.

I was very impressed by the demonstration itself. Before reaching the venue in Oxford’s Bonn Square I encountered a march along Cornmarket (pictured above), with banners flying and some well-coordinated chants. This got the message across in a forceful but good-humoured way and was certainly getting a lot of interest from the public.

The main protest in Bonn Square was still in full voice, with impassioned speeches, music, chanted slogans and banners. It was the latter that really impressed me. Although there were a few of the inevitable printed placards from Socialist Worker (say what you like about Trotskyists, they know how to run a printing press), most banners were individual and imaginative hand-made, labours of love. My particular favourites were “Think or Swim” accompanied by a picture of Westminster flooded by rising sea levels, “The Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We?” and, with a nod to the Green Party, “We’ll listen to UCAS when you listen to LUCAS”. I do hope the creators find a way to work their banners into their art portfolios.

The vast majority of people were actively engaged. Yes, there were a few kids in town who were out of school but didn’t seem to be connecting with events in any way, but nothing like the numbers of opportunists some commentators had predicted.

In education we tend to be judged on outcomes. I can’t think of a better outcome from schools’ work on citizenship and Fundamental British Values (not to mention the science input on the greenhouse effect and climate change) than that students stand up for what they believe in and attempt to effect change by engaging in the democratic processes of a free society, including petitioning elected representatives and making peaceful public protest. The alternative is for the youth of our nation to be disengaged and at best apathetic, at worst disillusioned and disconnected from the rest of society.

Friday’s protest made a point. Maybe the protest could have been at the weekend, but I think we all know that would have gained less coverage and prompted less debate. Let’s hope we can all now move from protest to effective action because our young people are right: whatever our age, the climate clock is ticking and there is no planet b.