A secondary enrichment activity which asks pupils to consider the ethics of economic conditions, while for primary pupils there’s a creative activity about resources

This week’s primary enrichment activity gets pupils thinking creatively around the possible uses of long planks of wood.

The secondary enrichment activity gets pupils to consider the ethics of the current economic condition, drawing on Buddhist philosophy.

***Primary Enrichment  Activity***

KS2: Citizenship. Preparing to play an active role as citizens. Pupils should be taught: to research, discuss and debate topical issues, problems and events.

Science: Knowledge skills and understanding. Pupils should be taught to:

recognise differences between solids, liquids and gases, in terms of ease of flow and maintenance of shape and volume.

A lot of wood

This month the Greek-registered 6,395-ton Ice Prince became newsworthy for losing its cargo of timber to the sea off Portland Bill after being damaged in a storm. The cargo of timber will, over the next weeks and months, be washed ashore on to the beaches of the south coast of England.

The wood from the Ice Prince is neither ‘ligan’ (‘goods thrown overboard, but tied to a cork or buoy in order to be found again’) or ‘jetson’ (‘goods thrown overboard in a storm to lighten the vessel’) but in fact flotsam (‘the débris of a wreck which floats on the surface of the sea, and is often washed ashore’). Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, it is an offence to keep or fail to report this type of cargo.

As reported by the BBC, The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) made it clear that anyone keeping the washed-up timber from the Ice Prince could be arrested and fined up to £2,500.

The Ice Prince lost more than 2,000 tonnes of her 5,260-tonne timber cargo. The 10m (33ft) lengths of wood were put on board in bundles, but sea conditions broke many of them apart. The timber is reported to be coming ashore along the south coast between Selsey Bill and Brighton.

Some questions for your pupils to consider and discuss:

If we put aside all the issues of who owns things washed up on a beach and whether such items are ‘ligan’, ‘jetson’ or ‘flotsam’, or if the people taking the wood are ‘scavengers’ or ‘plunderers’, we can concentrate on the interesting issue of what one would creatively do with several thousand 33ft-long planks of wood.

Would 30,000 33ft planks of wood make a ‘floating’ walkway from Brighton on the Sussex coast to France? What will you need to know and do to be able to answer this question?

Note: The Channel narrows from west to east from a maximum of 180km to a minimum of 34km.) Source: The Joint Nature Conservation Committee www.jncc.gov.uk/page-2528

What creative or surreal use would you suggest for the washed-up wood that would improve the lives of those living in the seaside towns affected by washed-up planks?


What to do with long planks of wood.

Going further

The Ice Prince has now sunk and will drop down to the seabed. Ask your pupils why they think this happens? Why does the sinking ship sink to the bottom of the ocean and not instead move into a state where it is balanced by equal pressures from all sides? It would seem logical to expect that huge pressures should make the water at great depths so dense that even heavy objects would not sink any further − ‘in the same way as an iron weight does not sink in mercury’. For a full, in-depth discussion of the maths and science involved with this problem visit:


The full story about the Ice Prince at: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7197667.stm

To watch a video clip and commentary about the washed up timber from the ship of the South coast click here

Learning and teaching Scotland.

Education for citizenship active approaches to learning, including discussion, debate and investigation.

International Baccalaureate. Primary years programme.

How to organise ourselves and mathematics.

***Secondary Enrichment Activity***

KS3: QCA Religious education. Learning from religion. Pupils should be taught to:

reflect and evaluate their own and others’ beliefs about world issues such as peace and conflict, wealth and poverty and the importance of the environment, communicating their own ideas.

There is never enough of anything

At the present time the news is all about economic growth, or lack of it, and consumer confidence in money − recession, inflation or, even more scary, deflation are now concepts we are becoming familiar with. All the complex terminology and financial mechanisms can be reduced to the main elements of the science of economics. Economics is concerned with four basic components of human activity:
Wants: wants being controlled by scarcity

Scarcity: scarcity requires choice

Choices: choice involves an opportunity cost (ie choosing one means foregoing the other)


How we make choices about these areas of our lives, satisfying our wants while managing limited resources, is an exciting area of study.

Buddhism interestingly offers another perspective to conventional economics, which considers the role of ethics and human desire.

There are two kinds of desire as understood by a Buddhist:

Chanda: true value is created by chanda. It is a commodity’s true value recognised as the ability to meet the need for wellbeing


Tanha: artificial value is created by tanha. It is a commodity’s potential to satisfy the desire for pleasure rather than the need for wellbeing.

The wisdom of moderation is central to Buddhist belief. When economic activity is seen to be fixated and predicated upon the satisfaction of desires, the difficulty is that desires are endless and can never be satisfied. For the Buddhist, economic activity must focus on the attainment of wellbeing.

Some questions for your pupils to consider and discuss:

It could be argued that the economic approach in our society encourages overconsumption. Does this economic model damage people’s health and wellbeing? What is your view and how would you defend it?

It has been suggested that the true value of an object is overshadowed by a carefully created artificial or illusionary value. What, for example, are the true values or reasons for eating food, wearing clothes, listening to music, using mobile phones or taking medicines?

If ‘wellbeing’ as an objective acts as a control on economic activity, how would you measure true ‘wellbeing’ as opposed to ‘artificial value’?


Considering values and levels of satisfaction.

Going further

Read and consider the Buddhist view of economics:

Compare what is commonly understood to be the driving force behind conventional economics with the Buddhist view.

What would be the consequences for our economy and wealth-creation industries of adopting the Buddhist view?

What would be the consequences for our economy and wealth-creation industries if a linked approach of conventional economic models with the Buddhist model was adopted?

A good introduction to Economics can be found at: www.investopedia.com/university/economics/

For a full outline of the Buddhist view of economics visit:

Learning and teaching. Scotland. Work-based vocational learning.

In the context of ‘Determined to Succeed’, it (work-based learning) is about enabling young people to experience and develop an understanding of the world of work, supported by employers and teachers who can contextualise the learning.

For more information www.ltscotland.org.uk/enterpriseineducation/about/vocational/index.asp.

International Baccalaureate

Group 3. Individuals and societies.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2008

About the author: John Senior is the author of Enrichment Activties for G&T Pupils. He is a teacher with 26 years’ experience of teaching Gifted and Talented children, working with parents and carers as a consultant on high ability, and peer mentoring. John is also a co-author these books: