Tutor Talk: letting learners take the lead

Updated: Aug 6

Lauren Brooks, geoHumanities tutor at GeoScool, talks about how learners are co-creating sessions with her under her experienced guidance.


All GeoScool classes go beyond the national curriculum and are run by a close-knit team of specialist experienced tutors. Each fortnight we have an overall theme through all the sessions related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.


I’ve been a tutor for nearly three years and I facilitate the Thursday session at GeoScool, which we loosely call the 'GeoHumanities' session. History, in my opinion is vitally important for students to learn today and is my favourite subject to teach. It allows me to explore and understand the world as well as expanding students’ interest in the subject. I specifically aim to inspire students to appreciate why history is such an important field of study in the midst of our modern day reality and future.


When we started GeoScool 6 months ago, the aim of my 'Then and Now' session was to teach the group an aspect of history relevant to modern day issues that are being tackled by the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We would then do a session on the issue at hand in the modern day, tackling heavy topics such as farming pollution and waterborne diseases. The purpose was to show children that our history is very much linked to our present and our future, and issues faced in the past did not necessarily get any better or disappear, and the issues we consider resigned to history likely persist in exactly the same way or in a more covert way in the modern era.

Understanding the good, the bad and the ugly of our collective world history is critical for developing a conscious, considerate and well-informed generation in order to tackle the bigger issues that face us now and in the very near future.

I have since switched up the sessions, as I noticed that we were very easily meandering into other aspects of humanity that have enormously impacted the course of history; religion, language, and geography in particular are unavoidable subject matters when getting a true sense of how we got to be where we are, and how the political landscape has developed over the course of history.


What I’ve noticed most about these sessions is how restrictive our schooling has been with regards to teaching history. History, Geography, Religious Education and Languages are all taught as separate subjects in school, with good reason as far as timetabling and understanding specialised subject matter. However, it is a shame that the schooling system has never truly provided an insight into how all of these subjects are intrinsically and irrevocably linked. I now find it impossible to discuss an aspect of history without referring to Google Maps, so that children can appreciate the topographical, geological, geographical and political boundaries that humanity has tackled, created and endured throughout history. There is no part of history that cannot be explained without the understanding of religion and where it came from.

Recently, GeoScoolers and I have worked ourselves into a niche of Arabian pre-Islamic history (I am teaching flexibly and according to where the students’ interests peak), despite initially starting in West Africa teaching the story of likely the wealthiest man in history, Mansa Musa.

Let me explain. Mansa Musa is famed for making a great pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca in modern-day Saudi Arabia from his kingdom in modern day Mauritania, crossing thousands of miles of Saharan, Levant and Arabian desert and visiting several prominent empires and kingdoms, destabilising some of their economies as he passed through and donating millions in gold. His journey had huge geographical, political, economical and religious impacts across North Africa and the Middle East, which will have significantly changed the course of history across a vast expanse of our world. The kids knew very little about Islam or that the pilgrimage is still very much alive and well today (bar 2020 for obvious reasons), completed by over 3 million Muslims annually, from every corner of the world, and so on to that we moved. To understand how Islam came to be in Africa, we had to consider its origins and it’s place as one of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism and Christianity), which are monotheistic in practice, though most of the world (including Africa and Arabia) was polytheistic previous to this… hence, pre-Islamic Arabian history it is!


I am now exploring new online resources to find a way of creating a detective board-style link analysis, so that the children can see visually how much they have learnt and understood about a region that today is rife with geopolitical and religious strife, whilst simultaneously being a region of immense beauty, complex and fascinating history, and tradition and culture steeped in thousands of years of local heritages which are ingrained in a vast number of western and eastern cultures today.


This linking, interconnected approach has led us to have brilliant and insightful discussions, fun tasks (like creating and imagining what Arabian pagan gods might have been) and a small group of 8-12 year olds that have a clear understanding of how and why religions, empires and traditions spread, and how that affects who believes in what and where they believe it.


If you have used any effective online post it or mapping tools, which might work for our detective board analysis, please share them in the comments!

#cocreation #collaborationiskey #history #geographyteacher #selfdirected #TeachSDGs



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