Egloskerry Primary School - Exploring Polar Teaching and Learning

polar geography case study

On Thursday 19th November Emma Kerr, Acting Headteacher at Egloskerry Primary School, attended a private viewing of the new Enduring Eye exhibition in London at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). This exhibition is the first time that Frank Hurley's iconic photographic record from Shackleton’s ‘Endurance Expedition’ 1914-1917 has been displayed in this way. New technologies mean that the photos have been enhanced and enlarged; demonstrating Hurley’s photographic talent alongside the bravery and determination of the crew within the harsh Antarctic landscape. During the viewing, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal gave a speech on the legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton's legendary Endurance Expedition, paying particular tribute to the contribution made to teamwork and resilience over a century ago.

For nearly 10 years, Emma has been using ‘Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition’ as a topic focus to deliver a term’s worth of work within a Primary School setting. She has written a variety of articles for the RGS and Geographical Association on this topic and has her own website (, Facebook and Twitter feed to encourage and support other schools and teachers to also use this topic in their teaching. Emma explains: “This expedition provides children with a geographical and historical context in which to learn in a meaningful and cross-curricular context; delivering high quality literacy and numeracy outcomes. In addition pupils develop their personal and emotional resilience by learning about ‘Leadership’ and ‘Team work’ in addition to curriculum subjects. Pupils can explore the interaction between human and physical geographies using the Shackleton Expedition as a line of enquiry. Shackleton proves that humans can achieve amazing new endeavours in a world in which everything can seem to have been discovered. We as teachers are in the privileged position of re-enacting the fascination, awe and wonder of this remote polar landscape. By bringing this experience alive via geographical role-play stimuli, applying knowledge of environments and developing an understanding of the interconnectedness of our world, we can nurture curiosity. Our pupils are, after all, the new explorers.”

Emma Kerr’s interest in Antarctica stems from her great grandfather who was the second engineer on Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition and Chief Engineer on Shackleton’s final voyage – ‘The Quest’. She is also a member of the Geographical Association Early Years and Primary Committee.

Emma is currently working with other local primary schools and Anthony Jinman (Polar Explorer and CEO of ‘Education Through Expeditions’, ETE) on developing this topic further. Teachers and pupils will be taking part in a pilot ‘Live Learning’ project which involves the development of a real-time, on-line learning platform with links to a range of subject specialists to support mastery within the area of learning. This will be starting in January 2016 as all schools will be collaborating with ‘Exploring Polar Kingdoms’.

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