School: Wembley Primary School
Year Group: 3
Teacher: Leila Sugden
Creative Practitioner: Cristy Burne
Creative Practice: Science Writer and Children’s Author
Want a hands-on project which challenges all students to apply the Creative Habits of Learning and demonstrate cross-curriculum content knowledge at a range of levels? Creating 3D globe maps of the planet Earth allows students to develop and demonstrate their understanding in maths, technologies, HASS and science, whilst continually applying the Creative Habits of Learning.
Across Terms 3 and 4 of 2020, Wembley Primary School teacher Leila Sugden and children’s science writer Cristy Burne worked with a group of very capable Year 3s as part of FORM’s Creative Schools program.
The aim of Creative Schools? To create opportunities for students to practise and develop their creative learning skills. We want students to leave the program with improved ability to be imaginative, collaborative, inquisitive, persistent, and disciplined (disciplined is defined as having the ability to analyse and improve your own work).
Across 16 weeks, we worked with the students on a variety of activities designed to stretch their comfort zones and keep them inspired to direct their own learning.
From creating their own pirate school through to analysing the Creative Habits of fruit, from theatre games to outdoor running-writing relays, we aimed to try new ideas that would encourage our students to become more conscious of their own learning, and more engaged with it, too.
The project we tackled across the latter half of Term 4 was our favourite. Tough enough to give even the most accomplished students the chance to learn from failure. Engaging enough that even those least engaged were motivated to progress. And adaptable, so kids could grow and change and extend the activity to suit their own needs and interests.
This task is incredibly hard! A characteristic of this group of students is that they are high achieving; they are used to doing well at things if they try. However … it’s impossible to do really well at this task. Building an accurate sphere from cardboard and paper? Super-tricky. Free-drawing accurate continents onto a papier mache sphere? Mega-tricky. Learning to deal with your creative frustrations, mistakes and achievements? Trickiest – and most rewarding – of all.
We discovered that all our students engaged with this task, and it seemed that each of them learned something different from it. High achieving students had a chance to fail – and learned to pick themselves up again. Students who loved construction focused on building the sphere; students who loved drawing focused on the continents; students interested in travel and geography focused on adding details.
Everyone (including us!) experienced setbacks (and practiced resilience); students identified problems with their models (and identified and applied ways to improve them); they worked together to share maps, hold globes and encourage progress. Many of our high achieving students learned to struggle; many of our less academic students had a chance to shine. And every one in the class now knows exactly where Papua New Guinea is (Most commonly repeated mistake? Drawing Australia too close to the equator.)
To trust our students. To give them space and time to discover their own joys, experience their own failures, take their own creative (and learning) journeys. One of the things that struck us most about this activity is that each student seemed to learn a thing that they most needed to learn.
Learning to learn isn’t an overnight journey, so we can’t expect students to become totally self-motivated, self-disciplined and self-aware learners after just one activity, one year or even one lifetime. But, by giving students the chance to flex their creative learning muscles, we can help them take steps in that direction.
And that goal – becoming a self-motivated, self-disciplined, self-aware human being – is a lifelong learning journey, and perhaps the most valuable of our lives.