Last month, we were invited by Allergy Adventures, an organisation that provides support for children and families with allergies, to take part in a new schools workshop trial.
Allergy Adventures have been awarded a Wellcome Trust grant to provide primary schools with resources to improve allergy awareness in children, while creating a fun learning experience for all. The workshop has been supported and promoted by the Department of Education, Food Standards Agency, Wellcome Trust, TES and allergy charities and dependant on the trial outcomes, will be rolled out as a national programme. The lessons proved to be a great success with the children in 3WM and 5HC, who thoroughly enjoyed the lessons. The school has also been mentioned on the latest news blog of Allergy Adventures:
"The final testing of the allergy workshop for schools has begun
Regular readers will know that, after being awarded a grant by the Wellcome Trust, I have spent over a year creating an online allergy workshop for schools. And the end is nigh. Soon the beast will be unleashed on primary schools up and down the country.
Doctors, teachers and Anaphylaxis Campaign have been taken through the resource materials to check the content is sound. But there was one last thing the workshop needed. And that was a proper scary road test in front of a sea of children. So I set off to Court Lane Junior School in Portsmouth, armed with my worksheets, videos and craft activities.
I spent four days at the school testing the workshop with a Year 3 class (ages 6-7, KS1) and a Year 5 class (ages 9-10, KS2). The lessons in the workshop are designed to teach children about different aspects of food allergies and can be taught individually, as a standalone lesson, or as part of a series. The lesson videos in the workshop are the same for both age groups of children, but the classroom activities are different. I've created fun tasks set to certain skill levels i.e. more challenging for the older age group.
During my week at the school I was focussing particularly on the suitability of the activities, the timings of the lessons, the clarity of the messages being taught, and watching out for any other gremlins.
What did the kids think?
They loved it. Which made me very happy indeed. Here's what some of them had to say:
"I had a dream that every single lesson was this." "She makes learning fun!" "I really loved making the magic magnifying glasses because you could see the allergen in the thing [food]." "I like it because my friends get to know more about my allergies."
And what did the teachers think?
The teachers were really enthusiastic about the workshop for two reasons.
1. It's a ready-made resource with everything teachers need to deliver a series of lessons about food allergies, the human body, and how to help others avoid allergic reactions.
2. The children were completely engaged with the lessons and enjoyed learning about the complex subject of food allergies.
The teachers also said: "One of the children came up to me today and said I've just had the best lesson ever about allergies!" "Any resource that is ready made, teachers will love." "Thank you so much - it was an amazing experience for the school and I would highly recommend the lessons for other schools."
And the headteacher said:
"I do think it's a really important thing and something every school should be doing. We'd like to build it [workshop] into our curriculum so that every year there's an opportunity for all the children to become really well informed about allergies… and go on that allergy adventure!"
Yes the kids had fun, but did they actually LEARN anything?
Prior to visiting the school to teach the lessons, I'd nipped down to do some filming and to distribute some questionnaires about food allergies. And after the week of teaching, I distributed the same questionnaires to measure the children's knowledge.
The results showed that the children had clearly grasped the concepts of food allergies and had even mastered some of the more technical vocabulary. In fact, when I was still at the school, the children were reeling off the top allergens, stating how allergies are connected with the immune system and defining cross-contamination. There had been significant improvement in their knowledge about food allergies.
And now, a little fine tuning
But there were a few minor parts of the lessons that needed fine tuning. There had been an over ambitious activity involving pompoms (never again with a mass of 30 kids!) and I can condense a few of the worksheets to reduce the printing required for teachers, plus I'll save a few trees in the process.
Apart from that, it's almost ready to go. It's currently with a few teachers who are giving me feedback on the nuts and bolts of delivering the lessons from a standing start and then...watch this space."