An Elemental Adventure

June 24, 2021
By
Claire Davenhall
Courtney Bowe

AN ELEMENTAL ADVENTURE 

Case Study  

School: Governor Stirling Senior High School

Teacher: Courtney Bowe

Year Group:

Creative Practitioner: Claire Davenhall

Creative Practice: Visual Artist - Sculptor

Main Curriculum Focus: Science 

Science Understanding Chemical Science - Properties of the different states of matter can be explained in terms of the motion and arrangement of particles (atom structure and kinetic theory). Differences between elements, compounds and mixtures can be described at a particle level. Chemical change involves substances reacting to form new substances (key elements and order of the periodic table).

Science Inquiry Skills (7-8) Processing and Analysing Data and Information - Construct and use a range of representations, including graphs, keys and models. 

Communicating – Communicate ideas, findings and evidence-based solutions to problems using scientific language and representations, using digital technologies as appropriate.

“This is science, but it's a fun way of learning.” - Student

Cross-curricular Links: General capabilities, Technologies, HASS, Movement & Physical Activities. 

General Capabilities
Literacy, numeracy, critical and creative thinking.

Technologies
Investigating & defining - Define and break down a given task, identifying the purpose. Consider components/resources to develop solutions, identifying constraints.
Designing
- Design, develop, review and communicate design ideas, plans and processes within a given context, using a range of techniques, appropriate technical terms and technology.
Producing & implementing
- Safely make solutions using a range of components, equipment and techniques. 
Evaluating
- Independently apply given contextual criteria to evaluate design processes and solutions. 
Collaborating & managing - Work independently, and collaboratively when required, to plan, develop and communicate ideas and information, using management processes. 

Humanities and Social Sciences
– HASS Skills (7-8) 
Questioning & Research
- Reflect on current understanding of a topic (e.g. think-pair-share, brainstorm). Pose questions about the familiar and unfamiliar. Locate information from a variety of provided sources (e.g. books, television, people, images, plans, internet). Sort and record selected information and/or data (e.g. use graphic organisers, take keywords). Evaluating - Draw conclusions based on information and/or data displayed in pictures, texts and maps (e.g. form categories, make generalisations based on patterns). Participate in decision-making processes (e.g. engage in group discussions, make shared decisions, share views).
Analysing
- Identify relevant information. Process information and/or data collected (e.g. sequence information or events, categorise information, combine information from different sources. Represent collected information and/or data in to different formats (e.g. tables, maps, plans).
Communicating & Reflecting
- Present findings in a range of communication forms, using relevant terms (e.g. written, oral, digital, role-play, graphic). Reflect on learning and respond to findings (e.g. discussing what they have learned). 

Movement and Physical Activities  – Moving our body, movement skills and sequences within different physical activity contexts with a focus on: Increased accuracy and efficiency in skill performance, control of balance and stability. 

CONTEXT

Governor Stirling Senior High School is a public co-educational school, located in Woodbridge, a north-eastern suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Established in 1959, Governor Stirling Senior High School has a proud history of academic and sporting excellence based on an educational experience that promotes respect, hard work and achievement. Their students enjoy a positive and supportive learning environment with experienced teachers encouraging students to imagine the possibilities, create opportunities and achieve their dreams.

Science Teacher, Courtney Bowe, was matched with Creative Practitioner Claire Davenhall in Term 4 to look at more creative ways to co-deliver the Year 8 Science Curriculum. Together they focused on two of the learning habits, encouraging collaboration and being inquisitive. They targeted three of the elements of the High Functioning Classroom, group approach to tasks, self as a learning resource and continuous reflections.

“I learnt to venture outside my comfort zone, this group really loved a good challenge, so I had to learn alongside the students, which slows the process down, makes the learning realistic and I had to trust that Courtney would deliver the science content so that I could build on their knowledge in more creative ways, it was the perfect blend.” - Creative Practitioner


WHAT WE DID 

In term 4, students learnt about atom structures, kinetic theory, key elements and the periodic table. We used interactive games as a method of learning that built on the knowledge content from the previous week, while focusing on their collaborative and inquisitive habits of learning. 


“I feel like once in a while you should have some interactive stuff in every subject. We could do that in English, Maths and everything.” - Student


HOW WE MADE THE CURRICULUM COME ALIVE

At the start of the project, students created large interactive periodic tables, which they would need to refer back to in future lessons in order to analyse, extract data and solve problems. This was a real assessment of their collaborative and inquisitive skills. They used colours to categorise the different elements into family groups and found key elements through a scavenger hunt activity, along the beautiful Swan River, located next to the science rooms. This location quickly became our creative space outside of the classroom, where students could conduct warm up activities based around their learning. In a game called ‘Elements to Molecules’, students became the individual elements in the periodic table and they connected to each other by passing through an outer valence shell, locking themselves together to create a molecule. They worked cooperatively by not breaking the chain and showed great persistence to get valence shells round the entire group!


“We get to go outside and learn in more cooperative and hands-on ways. It is helping me memorise things better. Hands-on activities definitely help me learn better.” - Student


During an escape room challenge, they answered a series of science clues and decoded a lock before opening and revealing a prize inside a locked box. They used all their knowledge over the past 6 weeks and this was definitely the most challenging and engaging task for this group. They showed great persistence in sticking with difficulty right to the end, as there was a twist, even though one group had decoded 5 out of 6 locks, it was the answer to the last puzzle that finally opened the last lock to the box and that lock was opened by another team.

“I am learning to get along with different people.” - Student


Having experienced a number of different game play activities, we activated student voice and learner agency through, designing and creating their own science pocket games under the theme ‘An Elemental Adventure’. 

“This is the second year I am doing Creative Schools in Science. It is similar because we are learning about the Creative Habits again, but we are doing a different project this year. I am feeling we are covering even more science content this year.” - Student


They used the Five Habits of Learning as an assessment and evaluation tool where they had to meet the following criteria: Are the rules and playing time clearly thought out with a disciplined pace? How attractive is the packaging, does it make you feel inquisitive? What is the level of enjoyment while playing the game collaboratively? What is the skill level of the game? Did it require you to be persistent and to stick with difficulty? How imaginative and original is the game? 


“I learn when I am making stuff. When you just sit here listening to the teacher, you don't really take stuff in. I don't think anyone listens to a teacher when they just talk.” - Student


The outcomes were all very different and ranged in skill level, from ‘Russian Roulette’ where the person who picks the plutonium card dies. In ‘Find the Gold’ students had to move around the room following a number of clues until they finally found the gold and in ‘To Spin’ the player had to answer a series of science questions.

We made the Creative Habits of Mind come alive each week through our collaborative reflection at the end of each session. We talked about which ones we had enjoyed using the most and made the learning visible by creating layered sand jars. They used sand from the volleyball courts and experimented with different coloured pigments. Each linked them to Five Habits of Learning and each week they would add another layer to their jar, and watched their creative learning grow.

“I can see the learning intentions and I can see the curriculum actually displayed in what we're doing, and I can see that they're learning what they need to be learning, which is good. Real science learning is happening. It's consolidating and embedding what they’re learning with their workbooks, but using that in a much more active, creative way.” - Teacher


WHAT WAS THE IMPACT?

The students loved a good challenge and really took to all the creative activities we planned for them this term. It was a different way of learning and they learnt to get along with others. They all contributed to creating their own different kinds of games, testing their own knowledge, challenging assumptions and they pushed themselves to achieve beyond the classroom. They really got into the warm-ups at the start of the class, as it pushed them as learners to develop more collaborative, inquisitive, disciplined, imaginative and persistent skills. You could see them wanting to improve and you could hear them asking to do them again, because they knew they could do better.


“My personal highlight has been watching our participating teachers grow and flourish. The teachers involved were able to take the Creative Learning journey as the students did, inquiring, challenging, things went wrong, but ultimately when they let go of their preconceived expectations and allowed the journey to dictate the path, problem solving, experimenting and exploring possibilities.” - Lizzie Phillips (Creative Schools Coordinator)