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Atlantic Rowing in the Classroom

One of the best things about the blogging / adventuring crossover is being able to engage with young people around the world.

I phoned Middleham Primary school in Yorkshire from the Atlantic Ocean. I had no idea how much of our trip they would go on to incorporate into their lessons.

I wish I had had a teacher like Mrs Monaghan when I was at school! Here she explains what her class got up to:


Since the start of our Spring Term, Class 2 has enjoyed daily updates, discussions, research, atlas sessions and debate on the Atlantic Crossing, ranging from what creatures can be found in the Atlantic to how much toilet roll would 4 men need for 8 weeks?!!!  It has seeped into most parts of our curriculum – percentages of the distance rowed have been keenly analysed, water resistance and the aerodynamics of the boat tied in with our science work on forces this term, a Collective Worship on the wonders of our natural world included photos and tales from their trip, and of course we wanted to get some quality writing out of the experience.  This was the trigger behind our recreation of the Atlantic Row.

It all started when a few of the boys said it would be pretty easy to row across the Atlantic because rowing wasn’t that difficult… so I started looking for a rowing machine! This in turn generated a range of opportunities for engagement with active learning and soon we were heading for a full recreation of the boat complete with cabin, sleeping bags, GPS, fishing rods, expedition food – and of course, the toilet BUCKET!  Every child in the class contributed something to our boat, from stuffed whales to sunglasses!  We started our morning with a look at the latest from the blog, then began with a team of four getting into their expedition gear to begin the row.  The rest of the class provided scenarios for them to enact, with other children taking control of the flip video and class cameras.  The highlight had to be tasting the expedition food – at last we understood the hardships of the ocean voyage!

There followed an intensive mind-mapping of words and phrases to do with the ocean, our feelings and emotions, events that could happen, the sights and sounds of the voyage.  We read an extract from Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo modelling a diary extract, then had a go at writing our own shared diary entry based on our morning’s role play.  Fired with enthusiasm, we then sat down to our own writing, the only sound the scratching of pencils.


Our afternoon was spent working in small groups of 4-5 to make a video diary together in the boat.  We worked on our scenarios then acted them out and made short clips using the class Flip camera.

What did we get out of our day?

  •  It led us to a much greater understanding of the constraints of space, the difficulties of sharing and the pressures of being with the same people for so long – we all agreed we would miss our families and friends.
  • We started to get a feel for the monotony of constant rowing – it was hard, and after a while (3 minutes on average!) we wanted to swap over and do something else!
  • We understood why so much of the conversation must be about food – we would miss pretty much everything, and no-one fancied the rations on offer for their tea that night!
  • Adventures are amazing!  We would like to see other parts of the world in an active way – bikes and boats bring you much closer to our world and exciting experiences than planes and cars.
  •  We enjoyed our writing – we all scribbled away and felt the flow of ideas, inspired by experience.  We felt satisfied at the end that we’d made a good job of it.
  • Exhilaration, jokes, verbal exploration of a topic, delight in coming up with new ideas, constant engagement and much laughter!

We will continue to follow the Transatlantic Adventure, and we would like the rowers to know that they are inspiring us to be the best we can be, and reach for the stars!

 Mrs Monaghan

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  1. lilalia Posted

    Hats up to Mrs. Monaghan and the children of class 2! You hear so much about how the system doesn’t work, about how there is this disconnect, and then there is this glaring glow coming from one classroom of children with an engaging teacher… lovely post. Thanks.

  2. Fantastic! 🙂 I wish I had had a teacher like Mrs. Monaghan too! Anyway, she and her students were inspired by you, so, congrats to you too!

  3. Simon Downing Posted

    Simply awesome. What a great way to use class time. Thank you for sharing

  4. Ruth Parry Posted

    Fantastic fun in the classroom, as it should be, what a wonderful experience for everyone, keep on rowing.

  5. Good on Mrs. Monaghan and keep up the great work!

    I left school 4 years ago and looking back on my time, I think that from a young age far too much lesson time is geared towards passing exams. Instead of learning 2 sentances off by heart, word for word, because their teacher tells them it will gain them full marks in a particular question, children of all ages need to be inspired, stimulated and challenged.

    Fortunately for me, my Spanish teacher showed my class mates and I that there was SO much more to learning Spanish than just passing a GCSE or A Level exam, and this is why I have decided to try and persue a career with my Spanish.


  6. Class 2 loved this project, and we had a ball. Receiving support from Alastair inspired us throughout, and his continued encouragement has given the children a belief in themselves and their ability to achieve which is beautiful to see.

    Inspiration comes from many different quarters – observing the good practice of teaching colleagues, the support of the international blogging community, wiser and more experienced practitioners who guide and encourage – there are SO MANY good teachers out there, striving quietly to enrich the lives of young people!

  7. good idea for child education and entertainment with tours



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