Cross curricular: Open the box!

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By Teresa Saunderseducational journalist and children’s writer

Create themed resource boxes, based on popular classroom topics, to offer instant inspiration and exciting hands-on learning

Creating themed resource boxes for the whole school is an excellent long-term project to challenge children during their very important final year in primary school. As well as leaving a lasting and memorable legacy of their primary school days, the project will increase their self-confidence, encourage their sense of responsibility, and heighten their awareness of the community. It will also offer an enjoyable and positive outlet for their growing knowledge, creativity and innovation as they demonstrate their skills of creating, collecting, collating and cataloguing the range of resources.

First steps

Begin the project early on in the school year. Explain the objectives to the children – to celebrate their time in the school, to make a valuable contribution to the school’s resources, and to take on an exciting challenge. Then talk with them about how the project should be launched and how it should proceed. If the children work in groups of eight, with each group taking responsibility for a particular theme, the average Year 6 class should be able to produce four boxes during the year. Use either large, durable cardboard boxes, or plastic crates. Encourage the children to add colourful identifying decorations to reinforce the theme of each box, and to place an inscription on the top explaining who compiled it, when and why.

Hands-on learning

Negotiate the themes or subjects to be covered, the range of resources that would be appropriate, and the different ways that those resources could be obtained. Mix and match between interesting items that can be handled and explored, and written material, such as booklets, fact files, poems and useful websites, compiled by the children. The themes should fire the children’s imaginations and offer a lively and intriguing way into National Curriculum topics, popular themes already taught in the school, or subjects with local links. When making their final decisions, encourage the children to take into account factors such as how readily they will be able to collect appropriate artefacts and the kind of topics that benefit most from resources offering real-life, hands-on learning.

Spread the word

To streamline the organisation, form cross-class committees to handle aspects such as publicity, advertising and communication with useful contacts. For the project to be successful, the children will need cooperation from other children and teachers, from parents, and from the wider community. Members of the publicity committee should begin by talking to the local press, or radio, or writing an article for the community newspaper explaining why they are launching the resource box project, the themes they are covering, and the kind of artefacts, materials and resources they are looking for.

If your school has a website, use it to post news of the project. The children should also design a logo for their project to go on letters and posters. Allocating space in the school where they can store their artefacts while they are sorting and classifying them would also be useful. Once the resources have been collected, they can be labelled and catalogued. The catalogue should contain short captions or explanations about the items included. Here are four theme ideas with detailed suggestions – plus a list of other topics that would make exciting resource boxes.

Other possible themes

  • Family life during the Victorian era
  • Measurement through the ages
  • The seaside
  • Living in Britain during the Second World War
  • Different shapes
  • Our town.

1. Time

Time dominates our lives, our world, our universe! Here are some suggestions for things to go in a Time box, which show just how we measure, use and keep pace with time.

Collect:

  • Different kinds of watches and clocks from past and present both digital and analogue, and in different sizes and designs
  • Watch and clock workings to show how time is kept
  • Egg-timers, a metronome, candle clocks, sundials
  • Railway and bus timetables
  • Range of calendars
  • World time-zone charts
  • Model or chart or an orrery showing how the Earth and Moon move around the Sun to define time
  • Postcards of famous clocks around the world.
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