What’s special about Talacre?

Ysgol Pen Barras learners investigate why the Welsh coastline is a great place to learn in, learn about and learn for.

Why visit Talacre? That was question posed to learners from Ysgol Pen Barras, Ruthin, Denbighshire recently. 

Learners from the school spent eight weeks investigating what makes Talacre, Flintshire a haven for both people and wildlife. Their theme culminated with a visit to Talacre’s long, golden beach which is backed by extensive sand dunes and is set on the Wales Coast Path. 

Teacher Elen Jones from the school, shares what the learners discovered and how the learning helped deliver against the Four Purposes of the Curriculum for Wales.

I was fortunate enough to go on 'Bonjour Talacre' training in June, as part of our school's vision to make greater use of the outdoors in our teaching. I hoped to gain ideas and experiences in outdoor learning, as we were aware of its tremendous benefit to the learners and their well-being. As a school, we are trying to improve our outdoor area in KS2 and give the children more time to learn through hands on experiences and play outside.

After being on the course, I suggested to the rest of the staff that we follow the theme of 'Bonjour Talacre' as a department, meaning that year 3, 4, 5 and 6 pupils would all follow the same theme over the half term. As teachers, we came together to look at the resources available from the course and on the Natural Resources Wales website. We planned and shared what activities we would follow through the 8-week autumn term.

We introduced the subject to the children exactly as NRW presented it to us on the training course! Mrs Williams (one of our wonderful years 5 and 6 teachers) dressed as Madame Normané, Head of a French school.  Madame Normané had intended to visit the coastal town of Talacre but had received bad news that the place was miserable, desolate, and unsuitable for visitors! This set the problem for our learners, they were tasked with proving Madame Normané wrong before the end of term! All the work completed by the children over the half term resulted in the final product, which was to promote and share all the amazing information they had learned about the Talacre area and what makes it special.

We looked at various subtopics and compared the coast of Talacre to Brittany, in France.  The children looked at the different types of shells, marine life and wildlife in Talacre and created pamphlets to identify shells.  We were able to relate their learning to the concept of habitats by looking at the wildlife that lives in the sand dunes. The children were fascinated by the rare natterjack toads that live in the sand dunes.  They wrote a report on the wildlife discovered at Talacre and investigated the importance of the sand dunes.  During our visit to Talacre beach, the children took part in food chain activities, learning about predators and prey, and how energy is shifted between them.  The resources on the NRW website made this so easy.

We were also fortunate to have guest speakers come into the school to talk to the children about the offshore wind farm located off the North Wales coast and the twinning of Ruthin, with Briec in Brittany.  The children have learnt about the history Talacre during the Second World War and have written a diary, from the perspective of Anita Marsden who grew up amongst the sand dunes during the war. The video link sharing Anita’s life story on the NRW website was very helpful in bringing the subject to life for the children!

Some comments from our pupils on the theme:
"I have benefited from this experience because I did not know about the history of Talacre and all the interesting animals that live amongst the dunes. I loved visiting Talacre and seeing the dunes and the lighthouse." Mared
"I didn't realise that sand dunes were so big! I was so surprised when we visited Talacre. It's no wonder so many wild animals live amongst them. My favourite part of the trip was walking through the sand dunes and getting lost amongst them!" Livi
"I've enjoyed learning about Anita Marsden's life growing up amongst the sand dunes and learning about the history of the Second World War in Talacre. We even got to build an Anderson shelter at school!" Lefi

All the children have learnt so much about the natural environment during this theme!  The children have had real-life experiences visiting Talacre, collecting and sorting shells, seeing the wildlife, and experiencing walking through the sand dunes. This has ignited interest in our learners, and they want to learn more about our natural environment.  Without the training course, I wouldn't have known to check out the NRW website for all these great resources and ideas! The course has given me the confidence to try a different approach to teaching, both in the natural environment and by plotting a 'challenge' for the children with Madame Normané.  The course has also given me the knowledge of how important it is for children to experience outdoor learning and connect with nature. Being out with nature gives such a boost to the children's well-being and self-confidence.

During the training course, we had time to work in groups to map the activities to the 6 Areas of Learning and Experience.  This was beneficial for us as teachers to have time to sit down and discuss the activities in detail.  We immediately realised that this was a great theme idea that would easily fit into all Areas of Learning and Experience!  The activities connected well with each other and provided a balanced view of each area of learning. I was amazed to see how much maths and numeracy work stemmed from the activities, from measuring work in kilometres and miles, to creating graphs and tables and collecting shell data. The theme of 'Bonjour Talacre' is very much in line with all the Areas of Learning and can be easily adapted to all age groups.

The theme and activity ideas have also helped the learners to make progress against the 4 learning purposes:

  • The children have worked towards being informed and ethical citizens who care for our natural environment and protect our vital wildlife.
  • Our pupils are healthy and confident individuals who enjoy outdoor learning.
  • They are capable, ambitious learners who have ignited the desire to learn about the natural environment and want to be creative in the outdoors, learning through experiences and hands-on activities.
  • The children are creative and enterprising contributors who wish to get involved in their community by protecting the natural environment around them.

The four purposes are a shared vision for every child in our school, and these activities have really helped us work towards them.

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