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Fuelling the Imagination: Teacher Top Tips for Immersive Learning

Route 158 headteachers give their top tips for delivering immersive learning projects in schools

 

The camera is looking up at two performers wearing boiler suits, they are both holding a jar with something inside. Their facial expressions both look concerned. They are inside a bus which looks like the control room of a spaceship. Above them an atrium is glowing blue. Behind them you can see schoolchildren, seated and staring on with amazement.

Punchdrunk Enrichment’s Route 158. Image by Nina Robinson. Pictured: Annemarie Anang and Dan de la Motte.

 

In the summer 2023 term a double decker bus travelled to five South London primary schools. Home to a crew of explorers from another world, they needed pupils’ imaginations to help them continue their journey. This was the culmination of year one of Route 158, our latest immersive learning project for primary schools that mixes teacher-led approaches with immersive theatre.

We know that sometimes starting out on your own immersive learning journey can feel overwhelming. So we caught up with four headteachers from Route 158 schools to get their top tips. 

For Elspeth Geden, Headteacher at Montbelle Primary School, she’s learned that it’s ok to take a break from the action:

“Don’t fear the still moments when nothing is happening. There isn’t going to be something for the children to discover every day…[these moments] allow time for the children to percolate their ideas and think about what could be about to happen.”

Don’t worry that such moments will lead to disengagement in pupils, as Elspeth says: “Those ideas will be sitting in the background ready for the next step.

In fact Donna Adkinson, Headteacher at Middle Park Primary School, advocates that the pupils’ engagement should lead the project: “All the best bits come from the children, without any adult input. Get out their way and let them come through, let them run with their creativity.”

James Searjeant, Headteacher of Wyborne Primary School says that “mystery enhances engagement” and not giving away every detail straight away helps build interest in pupils.

 

A performer wearing a peach coloured boiler suit with studs on one shoulder and wearing an earpiece is holding up a small booklet whilst speaking. Three schoolchildren are seated to her right and and look on.

Punchdrunk Enrichment’s Route 158. Image by Nina Robinson. Pictured: Annemarie Anang.

 

Immersive learning projects can help you reach your education targets in so many ways. Once you start down this road, teachers are often inspired to do more. As Kate Barnes, Headteacher at Haimo Primary School says:

“Route 158 was inspirational in such a way that I soon realised that there are many different ways to meet the National Curriculum and Government expectations which can also be a thrilling and exciting experience for the whole school community.”

Elspeth encourages other teachers to be playful:

“Don’t worry that something might go wrong and don’t be concerned you won’t have answers to questions the children might pose. There isn’t a right answer to their questions – all it needs is a willingness to immerse yourself in their world and believe that anything is possible.”

Donna agrees and recognises that playfulness is part of a shared experience between pupils and teacher. “The children want to let themselves go”, she says, “they want to play along with you.”

Building on this, when we asked James for one piece of advice for teachers considering doing this work, he said “take risks!” Everyone agreed, encouraging other teachers: “Give it a go” says Kate, and Elspeth replied “Do it!”

Want to read more about immersive learning? Check out our toolkit to find out how you can develop your own project, or take a look at A Small Tale, a teacher-led adventure for primary schools where we give you everything you need to deliver an immersive experience in the classroom. To keep up to date with the latest opportunities and resources for teachers, we recommend signing up to our schools’ mailing list.

Route 158 is part of Immersive Learning Journeys, a three year programme exploring the long term impact of this work in primary schools, supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

 

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