Pivoting plans for Climate Change Catastrophe! – Brad McCormick

Like for so many people, this pandemic has been a lesson in how to pivot. From the middle of last year we had three schools projects on the horizon. In ‘normal’ times we would be in the classroom for all three projects, working with students and using drama to help them explore big ideas.

The first two, one about the 1831 cholera outbreak in Newcastle and Gateshead and one about the English Civil War, have relied on teachers delivering lesson plans on our behalf. We’ve been exceptionally grateful for the teachers’ willingness to do this and there have been many positives coming out of delivering work in this way.

The third project, a continuation of our 2019 show ‘Climate Change Catastrophe!’, was meant to go the same way. We were crafting lesson plans for teachers to deliver that would give students a foundation in climate change science as well as introducing them to cutting edge research being done right now by engineers at Newcastle University. From there the students would complete creative exercises related to the research and send them back to us – the material that we got back would be used to make the show that would be filmed and distributed later in the year.

But with school closures coming into effect in January, we knew we needed to pivot once more. It was a case of offering the original lesson plans to teachers to deliver to any students still coming into school, as well as repurposing them for students learning at home.

It was an obvious solution and one we were up for, but it did cause a collective intake of breath when thinking about the extra work involved. There were originally 9 traditionally structured lesson plans, in an instant we had to create 9 more – the content would broadly be the same between school and home learning versions but the plans for schools had to become scripts to be filmed by the actors. Some exercises that would work in the classroom had to be rethought for the home versions.

We’d become relatively familiar with setting out lesson plans for classroom learning, but home learning was new to us. What will work in a home lesson plan? How much is too much? Have we adequately explained the science of carbon capture to an 8 year old?

It was pretty challenging and time-consuming to put it all together.

At time of writing, the plans went out to teachers earlier this week and they’ll be delivered in school or completed at home in the fortnight before the February half-term.

In the pilot version of this project in 2019, we were in the classroom for several weeks and were able to tap into the brilliant imaginations of 60 year 4 students. Their input as writers, directors, devisers and dramaturgs was invaluable and brought the show to life. Although this iteration is being delivered remotely, we’re hopeful many students will engage with it, not just for the sake of the show but for their own learning and knowledge of climate change and how they can help to make a difference.

We all want to say a big thank you to the teachers who have talked through our changing plans with us. We’re very grateful they’ve taken the time to speak with us at a time when they are facing so many challenges. Thank you!

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