Animals in the Classroom?

October 13, 2020
By
Scott Galbraith
&
Marlena Smallbone

ANIMALS IN THE CLASSROOM? 

Case Study: Term 3

School: Mosman Park Primary School

Teacher: Marlena Smallbone

Year Group:

Creative Practitioner: Scott Galbraith

Creative Practice: Dancer

Main Curriculum Focus: Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS)

HASS Skills – Questioning and research, identifying current understanding of a topic e.g. brainstorming. Evaluating, drawing conclusions and giving explanations, based on the information and/or data displayed in texts, tables, graphs and maps. 

HASS Knowledge & Understanding – Key concepts: Place, space, environment, interconnection and sustainability. The importance of environments to animals and people, and different views on how they can be protected. 


Cross-curricular Links: English, the Arts.

English Language - Language for social interaction, evaluative language, purpose, audience and structure, visual language.

The Arts Making Ideas - Exploration, improvisation, selection and combination of movements to create a dance that expresses an idea or message. 

The Arts Making Performance/Production - Rehearsal processes (Including practicing and applying feedback) to improve performance. Performance skills (using facial expressions) and acknowledging the audience when presenting performance. 

The Arts Responding - Considered responses to, and respect for, the dance of others as performers and audience members. 


WHAT WE DID

Creative Practitioner Scott, was partnered with teacher Marlena, who after their initial planning session arrived at the idea of developing an interdisciplinary project that built on Scott's expertise in the area of contemporary dance. Their focus was in HASS/writing/art (masks)/music/dance. The HASS aspect focused on current endangered animals worldwide and the end result was a split three stage piece in an empty room with the three aspects of the students research and writing around the topic of threatened, endangered and critically endangered animals. 

A contemporary movement piece was developed to incorporate the three stages of the journey to extinction for species. This included threatened, endangered and critically endangered categories. Reflection has been carried out through research, thought processes, poetry, persuasive letters to editors, articles, masks, song and dance. 

“Creative Schools is thinking outside the box. It’s not like normal school where you are writing in books. In Creative Schools you do movement. It’s more creative and fun and a different way of learning. You get to move a lot.” - Student

The whole project was created by the children including voice, costume and contemporary movement performed at the end of the year. Scott was excited to be able to use his creative expertise to oversee the performance. The project included what the students have learned and discovered through their research and writing over the duration of the project. It was a unique piece choreographed around 'creative bravery' which was the theme for FORM in 2020. 

“Creative Schools has been an amazing opportunity for students and staff. Each of the projects is so diverse across the different year levels. Last year the projects were more art based. This year it’s been great to have something very different by doing a movement project.” - Principal

 

HOW WE MADE THE CURRICULUM COME ALIVE 

The Curriculum came alive through students selecting the endangered species that they wished to research. The students researched their animal’s habitat, movement qualities and feeding styles and they tried to embody this in human structure through a movement based project. Very quirky and interesting movements came about and the students put these movement scenarios in various games like “dance battle” or creating a skit to consolidate their findings. 

“I’ve definitely learnt how to express my emotions without talking verbally. Scott has taught us that talking and making sound is not the only way that you can communicate. You can use movement to communicate.” - Student


A big Creative Habit that really came alive was collaboration. Each week all the movement tasks were designed in groups. They were given the opportunity to discuss within their groups what scenario they wanted to perform, what characters were involved and how they could better their performance. By giving them a task of creating a performance, they were eager to work together to make something exciting about their endangered animals. 

“Scott and I get on famously and we have made use of our strengths. Getting the students out from behind their desks and all that sitting down and getting them doing more movement is so powerful. For me taking the literal and taking it to a more abstract level has been what I have found difficult to do. Incorporating movement has been the best part of this project.” - Teacher


WHAT WAS THE IMPACT? 

By the students doing all the research and finding out the facts that they were interested in for their animal, it gave them the power to speak and create movement that was specific to their animal. Having responsibility for something that they were interested in gave them the agency to learn more about specific parts of the animal’s behaviour, environment and interactions. This was accompanied by peer reviewed feedback, seeing if their movement or vocals would match their animals. For example, if my animal was a panda it would move slow, heavy and thick, so if those movement qualities were not visible the students were quick to pick this up and give their individual feedback. By the students receiving feedback from their peers it gave them a new voice to learn from.

“I really wanted to explore improvisation more in my movement.” - Student


Student relationships began to seem more cohesive, as students found that who they worked well with was not necessarily their best friend. This was really evident by the last two sessions when they had a chance to work with everyone, they automatically gravitated towards people who they thought would create the “best” performance.

Marlena also noticed the many different curriculum areas that we tackled for this project and how engaged the students were whilst doing the rehearsals. It has provided Marlena with new strategies for crowd control and engagement with the students. Each week she was excited for us to come up with new movements and dynamics in the performance which represented how well the students knew their endangered, threatened or critically endangered animal. 

“Our teacher is getting a lot of tips from Scott and seeing how Scott does movement and clapping to get the kids attention, she has started doing that now.” - Student


This class has been challenging at times due to the large number and distractibility of the students. The best part has been watching how a challenge or deadline to the activity has changed their perspective and made them move and focus more. The school has become more involved as different teachers started to contribute, for example the arts teacher is working with the students outside of the Creative Schools session time to create magnificent paper masks that represent the students' animals. These will be incorporated into the final performance. The whole school will be invited to view the performance, followed by a question and answer session that the students will conduct, and the parents will also be invited to see the performance. 


“This term has been awesome. Last term we worked on creative task making. This term we are working on the performance. Discipline, listening and focus were hard to start with because everyone had so much to say. They have learnt patience over the term. Implementing listening activities where they aren’t using their voice is something I have focused on during the project. So often teachers use their voice to get students attention. I’m showing them other ways and other languages to get attention like movement and call and response.” - Creative Practitioner