A Trail Through Land and Time

October 13, 2020
By
Daniel Burton
&
Teegan Parry

A TRAIL THROUGH LAND AND TIME 

Case Study: Term 3

School: Brookman Primary School

Teacher: Teegan Parry

Year Group: Year 3

Creative Practitioner: Daniel Burton 

Creative Practice: Nature Pedagogue

Main Curriculum Focus: HASS 

History – Communities and remembrance, Swan River Colony - One important example of change and one important example of continuity over time in the local community, region, state or territory (in relation to the areas of transport, work, education, natural and built environments, entertainment and daily life). 

Cross-curricular Links: Mathematics 

Measurement and geometry – Using units of measurement (measure, order and compare objects using familiar units of length, mass and capacity). 

Location and transformation – Creating and interpreting simple grid maps to show position and pathways.  

Geometric reasoning – Identifying angles as measures of turn, and comparing angle size in everyday situations. 


CONTEXT

Brookman Primary School is well known for its prowess and achievements in the field of STEM based learning for students, with the school previously involved in the Creative School’s Program. By coincidence this class worked alongside a Creative Practitioner last year. On meeting the students, Daniel was blown away by their knowledge and understanding of the Five Creative Habits of Learning and their expectations of the relationship with the program. 

“In seeking additional opportunities to embed ‘Creativity’ across its learning programs, Brookman PS applied to join the ‘Creative Schools’ program for 2019. Such was the impact on the teachers and the two classes involved that we could not wait to have our school re-engaged with the program in 2020.” - Hans Geers (Principal)


WHAT WE DID

Through ongoing discussion, we decided to use the HASS topic of the Swan River Colony, for the basis of our curriculum related goals for the term. Our aim was to build on the investigations the class was doing in other lessons during the term. The overarching goals for this project surrounded more holistic, child-centred outcomes to support engagement with the learning process; excitement and passion for simply ‘turning up’ to class, and to support the students to build a variety of ways to communicate their understanding through more than just the written form. 

Our key teacher goal was to focus on the way play, and especially play in nature, could enhance student learning experiences and engagement. The key was to ensure clear differentiation between play-based learning and play as a curriculum tool. After the initial sessions, a goal for the Creative Practitioner was also developed. It focused on how he could support students to ‘own’ their learning spaces, find their voice, live into and identify their own gifts, and authentically engage with the learning process. These two important goals added clarity for the teacher and creative practitioner, enhanced the project and provided a clear focus for stakeholders. 

“We are learning and playing at the same time, but mostly learning.” - Student

As a Nature Pedagogue and Nature Playworker, Daniel brought his passion for utilising childrens' innate motivating passions of play, connection to nature and curiosity to ‘play out’ the learning in a patch of trees near the school oval. The teacher, Teegan was on board and jumped at the chance to explore the benefits of taking learning outdoors. As the term progressed, the developing relationships between the students and Teegan, and support from Daniel as their creative, was wonderful to see. 

“With an international downturn in Creativity in education around the world, the chance for teachers to work collaboratively with ‘Creatives’ over two terms has proven an outstanding model. It gathers and utilises the expertise of both the teacher and ‘Creative’ to gain outstanding outcomes for students.” - Hans Geers (Principal)


WHAT WAS THE IMPACT?

It proved heart-warming to see the benefits to the students from the simple act of giving them time in the nature space to ‘play and explore’. Students proved to be an inquisitive bunch with many industrious workers emerging. Initially, there was a sense of ‘are we allowed to be playing?’ but as the term progressed their comfort level, self-esteem, self-efficacy and confidence blossomed and their focus shifted from tentative engagement to deep engagement in exploration in their play. Students began noticing really intricate details in the space. Not surprisingly, jails, battles, war and ‘primal’ expressions emerged, stick and staff battles and some people were captured, some banished, and then homes, cafes, apartments and ‘bases’ were created. Classic play motifs that often emerge with this age group became evident and the children started to play out their learning – the curriculum sprang into life through play. 

“Creative Schools lessons are more fun. You get to work with new people and we get to make most of the decisions.” - Student

Each session concluded with reflection practices using the Five Habits of Learning board, where small laminated pictures of each child (and teacher) were available to be attached next to the habit that each individual thought they focused most on during the lesson. Each time this reflection happened, the thought and consideration of each child was very evident and they were able to very clearly articulate the reasons why they felt they worked most on or within the realm of a particular habit. 

“It’s really fun. We get to do creative stuff and twist our minds to solve problems.” - Student

The term concluded with the filming of a video production, scripted, costumed, directed and acted out by the students in the outdoor spaces they had been inhabiting for their weekly sessions. There was joy, excitement, exhilaration and consolidation of ideas and concepts and the learning was very evident. Due to time constraints, and the scope of the project, the video will be edited and shared in next term’s sessions as this project continues through the first few sessions of Term 4.

“The sheer enjoyment, engagement and hands-on application of learning through the Creative Schools program has been invaluable, both personally and professionally.   As a result of working alongside Daniel, attendance in my class has increased, learning has been consolidated in a practical and engaging way and the students have shown stronger resilience, resourcefulness, pride in their learning and willingness to risk-take. I’ve loved seeing the quieter students speak up and all students taking increased ownership of their own learning.” - Teacher  

 

From Teegan’s perspective a major highlight of working alongside Daniel was the influence of his pedagogy on hers. 

 

“At first, shifting the classroom outdoors and encouraging play-based learning was rather foreign to me, but I quickly accustomed to regularly teaching outdoors and have since looked forward (admittedly perhaps even MORE than the kids) to learning in this environment.  This will definitely be something I will continue long after my time with the Creative Schools program ceases. The influence of nature upon the students’ learning, creativity, play and imagination cannot be overstated.” - Teacher 

 

In summing up his experience with the students and Teegan, Daniel effused:

 

“Seeing a school, such as Brookman Primary School, and its particular demographic of students have the opportunity to engage with a program like Creative Schools is glorious. There is a different level of appreciation, engagement and connection in a school with students who don’t have access to the same resources as many schools in more financially affluent locations. The fact that a program like Creative Schools contributes to school attendance is mind boggling, but also heart-warming. I’ve built some incredible relationships with these students, and Teegan, working alongside them to support them this term. I’ve enjoyed supporting students, whose literacy skills aren’t the strongest, show incredible depth of understanding, connection and reflection through the process and it reinforces the fact that in an education system where such a large proportion of assessment of student progress is done through written formats, we need to look for other ways to gain an understanding of student engagement, understanding, comprehension and connection.” - Creative Practitioner 

 

“I am SO excited to hear Teegan reflecting that the outdoors is such a rich learning environment and to see the shift towards play as a vehicle for learning, reflection and communication of understanding.” - Creative Practitioner