The tasks can be used and adapted within main stream or special needs schools. They can also be used as differentiated activities for special needs students within a mixed-ability class.
Activity one: Routes and pathways - locating places and environments.
To set up the activity, you will need to get hold of or draw a plan of your classroom.
Pupils can use this plan to locate different objects in the room - for example tables, the door, the teacher's desk - and the areas where different activities take place. This can be expanded to take in the uses of different areas of the school or playground.
Next, they can make routes from one part of the room to another and mark these on the plan. To establish the route, tape a ball of wool to the back of the pupil's chair. They can unwind the wool and take it to their destination, seeing the path it makes across the room. The pathway of the length of wool can be marked on the plan.
This process can be repeated for a walk around the school and the playground. Pupils could be given different coloured balls of wool so that they can differentiate their routes.
For a more advanced version of the activity, keying into Geography levels P7 and P8, pupils can follow predetermined routes around the school which you have depicted on a plan using symbols. They could also carry out a ‘treasure hunt', following a route guided by the search for different objects or features of the school grounds.
Finally, to extend the project further, pupils can investigate the land use of the area local to the school. Information can be recorded on a simple base map using words, symbols or colours.
Activity two: Recording our weather.
For this activity, you (or your pupils) will need to make a rain catcher using a plastic bottle. Cut the bottle in half and insert the top half upside down in the bottom half. Use a marker pen to make marks on a wooden spoon at one centimetre intervals, this can then be used as a dipstick to measure the amount of water collected in the bottom of the bottle. As an additional activity, pupils could make and decorate their own dipstick.
Each day the pupils can measure the amount of water that has collected in their bottles using their dipstick and this could be recorded on a class rain chart. After a month of recording, add up all of the rain levels and calculate the average annual precipitation for your local area.
An extension activity would then be to compare this average precipitation to data for other parts of the country or around the world (the World Climate website is a useful source of average annual rainfall data).
In addition, you could set up a small scale weather station. Use a thermometer to measure temperature; use a compass to work out wind direction and use the Beaufort Scale to describe wind speed. This could be applied to work on microclimates around the school grounds and used to solve a problem such as "the best place for a bench/pond on the school site".
Activity three: Our energy use and climate change.
For this activity, pupils look around the school and observe where lights have been left on in areas that are not in use. They could also record computers that have been left on but are not in use, taps that are dripping or left on and windows that are open when there are radiators on in the room.
This information can be recorded on a simple tick chart, and then plotted onto a plan of the school. Pupils could colour code the different areas of the school to show which rooms use energy efficiently and which do not.
The pupils can use this information to create posters and stickers to encourage people to ‘switch it off', or a competition could run between different classes for the title of ‘most energy efficient class'.
It may be appropriate to introduce the topic of climate change at this stage, developing pupils' understanding of why it is important to reduce our energy use.
Activity four: Feelings about our environment.
In this activity, pupils examine their personal feelings about different areas of the school. They think about how their opinions of their school change depending on where they are located.
Prior to the activity, choose five different sites around the school - for example, the classroom, playground, canteen, playing field and sports hall. Take the pupils to each location. At each site they should complete an environmental quality survey. This might include how happy the place makes them feel, how tidy it is, how noisy it is, how hot or cold it is, and how safe it makes them feel. Pupils should rate each of these things using a simple scale - for example, a smiley face, a neutral face and a sad face.
The score for each area can then be added up and a simple mapping exercise completed to show pupils' favourite and least favourite areas of the school. More able students could be encouraged to pick some other areas to add to their work, or to suggest why some areas make them feel happier than others.
Activity five: How accessible is our school?
In this study, pupils look into the accessibility of the school for physically disabled pupils. Ideally, you should try to borrow a wheelchair for small groups of children to use. Within the small group one person should sit in the wheelchair and the others should push him or her around the school building and grounds.
The group should record any hazards or problems that they encounter on the way, such as doorways being too narrow, problems opening doors, stairs, etc. This information could be recorded on a map of the school, so that problem areas are highlighted.
Following the activity, pupils can discuss how these problems could be solved, for example, by putting in ramps or a lift. They could also think about where these additional items should be placed to make them most accessible.
As an extension task, pupils could consider how furniture and fixtures in the classroom might cause problems for people in wheelchairs, thinking about, for example, the height of light switches or the spacing of desks.
In pairs or small groups, pupils could also consider the accessibility of the school and its grounds for visually impaired people. One of the pupils should be blindfolded, and the other(s) lead him or her around, seeing how easy it is to negotiate around the school. They could also think about the size of signs for the visually impaired and how ramps and steps may be problematic.