Leadership programme

Explorations: learning about what matters and making a difference

Hannah Sheath

Maths and 6 to 8 Teacher

The King Alfred School

At The King Alfred School in North London, Year 8 students partake in term-long interdisciplinary enquiry projects known as ‘Explorations’. Explorations provide students with a deeper learning experience and the opportunity to develop their communication, collaboration and creative thinking skills. This term, Year 8 students answered the question: How can we tackle global health inequality?

This term’s Year 8 Exploration kicked off with Lauren Mustarde, a lecturer at Imperial College, coming in to speak to the students about public health and health inequalities. The students learnt what factors cause health inequalities and explored health inequality in the UK.

Students then learnt about the history of medicine, how a country’s level of development can affect health inequality, and how media bias and stereotypes can further increase inequality. Students learnt about vaccines and antibiotics and why some countries are still suffering from diseases such as cholera. They connected this to learning about what development is, why some countries are more developed than others, and how different levels of development impact health. They went on to consider what can be done to reduce improve development in low income developing countries.

Students applied their learning to write a case study about the causes, impact and responses to the cholera crisis in Yemen, suggesting solutions. Writing this case study helped to develop students’ independent research and critical thinking skills, especially finding detailed and relevant evidence and justifying their opinions using clear criteria, logic and evidence. ​

Students then had the opportunity to carry out an action to have a positive impact on health. SuperKind, a platform for young people who want to make change happen, came in to speak to Year 8 about what social action is, how they can undertake social action and the impact this can have.

After this presentation, students planned and conducted their own social actions. These included volunteering at a Magnolia Court care home, where they gave the residents homemade holiday cards and sang songs; collecting and donating items for charity; writing a letter to a local MP to raise awareness; creating and running a snack and chat club for Year 7; designing a regular extracurricular activity for Years 6, 7, and 8 which will be run in the summer term; making an educational video; and fundraising.

And what do the students say about learning in an interdisciplinary way?

"I think one of the best things is the fact that rotation enables us to experience different teachers' styles of teaching which means that at least one style suits everyone allowing all of us to progress in the way that best suits us. This does not just mean that only one style suits us but also means that we get to learn in different ways which is a really fun and engaging experience. The topic we have done this term have been very interesting because we have got the opportunity to be immersed in global affairs which is a very interesting thing to study. Overall I think that getting the opportunity to tie our subjects together allows us to expand our knowledge on multiple subjects at once."

Ellie Year 8

“The interdisciplinary approach enables students to make connections between subjects that are restricted by the traditional curriculum. We encourage our classes to tackle real-world issues by combining their knowledge and skills across a range of disciplines, ultimately leading to a more flexible and creative learning experience that challenges students in new and exciting ways.”

Lucy, Year 8 English teacher

As teachers, we work together to plan and deliver Explorations. This unique opportunity allows us to learn from other disciplines and use this learning to improve our practice. I really believe in this approach as one which deepens student learning.

Hannah Sheath, Maths and 6 to 8 Teacher, The King Alfred School

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