FEATURED ARTICLE - 6 MIN READ

Creative Schools Professional Learning: Wembley Primary School

By
Anne Gee
&
Rachel Cusack
School: Wembley Primary School
Creative Practitioners: Jodie Davidson and Anne Gee
Creative Schools Coordinator: Rachel Cusack
Principal: Tamara Doig

Anne Gee and Jodie Davidson, the Creative Practitioners working with two classroom teachers at Wembley Primary School, presented a session on Creative Schools Professional Learning for Wembley's Student Development, in Term 2, 2021. The aim of Creative Schools is to extend creativity and critical thinking beyond the two classrooms the program is delivered in, to the wider school community to provide a greater impact.

“Critical and creative thinking is the cornerstone of our School Improvement planning and a priority of the Business Plan 2020-22. Our vision is to foster a culture of curiosity and innovation, empowering our students to be caring, courageous members of our community. Creative habits of learning are cultivated through whole school programs and processes. As a Professional Learning Community (PLC), staff collaborate weekly to plan curriculum delivery in line with agreed strategies. Pedagogies including Inquiry learning, Visible Thinking and Instructional Intelligences are embedded in our culture. Creative School Practitioners Anne Gee and Jodie Davidson assisted to further scale our commitment to creativity in our school by facilitating a professional learning afternoon. Teachers were challenged to step out of their comfort zones and look at learning from a creative perspective.” - Rachel Cusack, Creative Schools Coordinator

On a sunny Friday in June, Anne Gee and Jodie Davidson worked with a room full of more than 40 primary school staff including teachers, education assistants and senior staff. Running a workshop that explored creative thinking and how to implement it within the classroom meant that this group of enthusiastic participants would be required to move out of the library setting and into the fresh air to discover some of the opportunities available to bring the curriculum alive.

Using various methods that incorporated creative learning habits, warm ups were devised to get the body moving, build connection and encourage collaboration. The group were challenged to find new subgroups based on common animals, however this had to be achieved without words.

Next, they had to find song lyrics to different tunes. Splitting into even smaller groups using words on paper, they used only their bodies to visually demonstrate how different subject matter could be combined to demonstrate meaning. This led to further division into creative and core subjects with members writing down learning areas for each curriculum component. Mixing these up and selecting three, they were then regrouped based on an allocated number, and coaxed outside for the more inquisitive and disciplined professional development.

It was here that the Creative Practitioners observed what they always do. Shoulders relaxed, excitement bubbled, ideas surfaced and true collaboration and imagination took over. Presented with a table of assorted natural and found objects, each group was asked to combine their three curriculum areas into one sculptural creation. Some discussed their ideas first, others inspected the materials for inspiration. One group had clear leaders, another worked as a team and a third separated into two very distinct groups; one of participants and one of observers.

What the Creative Practitioners watched evolve mimicked what they see within classroom settings. Adult behaviour does not differ much to that of children, with the exception of their capacity to complete tasks in a shorter time frame and finding connections.

“I really appreciated the chance to exercise my creative thinking with you all, which led to lots of laughs! I went from acting out being a cat to being 2 of the arms of an octopus who drank way too much coffee to doing a lion dance underneath sheets of bark and fabric to the beat of a 'drum' and instruments played by my awesome group - all within an hour! It was refreshing to have the insight of our creative practitioners on ways we can encourage students to develop learning dispositions and exercise creative thinking with tasks such as using sustainable and foraged materials to create an object collaboratively.” - Teacher

Textiles, lifecycles and creativity merged to visually document the process of growing cotton from seed, harvesting, processing, dying and manufacturing into clothing. Geography, measurement and scientific forces resulted in a sculpture of the Eiffel Tower, complete with angles, a tape measure and a pulley lift system while sound, Indonesia and sport resulted in a dragon and instruments being paraded through the netball courts. As expected, one idea lead to another, one question became a conversation of possibilities, being outside ensured everyone was awake, and working with the unfamiliar yet commonplace tools and materials enabled participants to consider how easily these could work within their classroom.

They began to see how easily they could achieve cross curriculum links and that, instead of it requiring more time and effort on the part of the teacher, it actually resulted in higher levels of engagement, enquiry skills and collaboration.

“Thank you so much…It gave all the staff the opportunity to engage in the magic of Creative Schools and captured different ways that teachers can provide open ended opportunities to exercise their creative thinking and develop the creative habits of learning while linking to key areas of the curriculum.” - Tamara Doig, Principal

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