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Newcastle pupils partner with Port of Blyth to put learning into action

Students and teachers at Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy have been using applied learning to strengthen the links between schools and employers.

Holly Knox, Assistant Principal of Hadrian School at Excelsior Academy, talks about the school’s recent visit to the Port of Blyth and how it has helped students to apply classroom learning to real life.

We took two groups of our year 7 and 8 pupils to The Port of Blyth as part of their current project about renewable energy. The pupils have been focusing on the themes of renewable energy and climate change, and this visit to the Port of Blyth helped them to see some real-life applications of what they’ve been learning as well as being an opportunity to find out about STEM careers in the energy sector, which is one of the main growth sectors in the region.

Although we’re based in Newcastle, just a few miles from the sea, some of our pupils had never been to the coast before and many of them didn’t know that renewable energy equipment like wind turbines are developed and tested here in the North East. We wanted our students to be able to see for themselves how the North East plays a key part in the renewable energy sector, to find out about the different people who work in the sector, and to think about their own futures and the types of careers they might be interested in.

On the day, we had a tour of the Port, met people who worked in different jobs within the organisation, and we were able to see the technology and machinery in action, including the equipment which is used to dig the trench for the cable that stretches along the seabed all the way from Blyth to Norway. We also completed a hands-on challenge where pupils built their own mini wind turbines and competed to see which group could generate the highest voltage.

They came away enthused and excited about what they’d found out, and absolutely buzzing about what they achieved in building the mini turbines. The visit really inspired them and some of the equipment they saw in action was beyond anything they’d imagined.

Everything we did on the day linked with what we’ve been teaching in the classroom and back at school, the students are continuing to talk about what they learnt on their visit and connecting what they’ve seen with what they’re learning. Every day they are asking questions linked to the visit and we’re reflecting together on what we saw and heard, and what we now know about renewable energy in the North East.

It really was quite empowering for both the pupils and the staff involved and we will be repeating this project with our next cohort of students and we hope to build on this connection we now have with the Port of Blyth.

Holly Knox, Assistant Principal of Hadrian School at Excelsior Academy.

Excelsior Academy is one of three North East schools taking part in a pilot of project based learning.

Project based learning is designed to make learning in the classroom relevant to the world of work, embed careers information into the curriculum and equip young people with skills for 21st century careers.

It is part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Education Challenge and delivered in partnership with Edge Future Learning. It draws on a model developed by Ford Next Generation Learning in United States who are sharing their experience and expertise.

Find out more about the Education Challenge programme.