Arty Geo

June 24, 2021
By
Sheryl Chant
Susan Grigson

ARTY GEO

Case Study: Term 3 

School: North Fremantle Primary School

Teacher: Susie Grigson

Year Group: 4/5

Creative Practitioner: Sheryl Chant

Creative Practice: Visual Art

Main Curriculum Focus – Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) 
Geography – Year 4 and 5, the main characteristics (e.g. climate, natural vegetation, landforms, native animals) of the continents of South America and North America, and Africa and Europe, and the location of their major countries in relation to Australia.

Cross-curricular Links – Maths, Science, English, Visual Arts and Technologies. 
Maths
– Measurement, estimation, mirror images, grids and coordinates. 
Science
– Characteristics of living things.  
English
– Alphabetical order, oral language, listening and speaking, analysing text and information sources.  
Visual Arts
  – Positive and negative space, colour, ceramics and sgraffito technique.
Technologies
Designing, investigating and defining.


CONTEXT

North Fremantle Primary School is an Independent Public School, a ‘Small School with Big Ideas.’ The school is a contemporary and unique learning community catering for students from Kindergarten to Year 6 and is the heart of the small and close-knit North Fremantle community, bordered by the Port of Fremantle, the Swan River and the Indian Ocean. 


WHAT WE FOCUSED ON 

The key Habits of Learning that we targeted were disciplined, concentrating on reflecting critically through the use of the Creative Habits of Learning chart at the end of each session and continuous reflection throughout the activities. This allowed the students to become familiar with the language and concepts of the Creative Habits. By focusing on persistence, specifically sticking with difficulty and tolerating uncertainty, the students have developed independence and confidence in their own abilities. By targeting collaboration, the students have demonstrated increased willingness to work together, whether it be in partners, groups and as a whole, and they are more likely to cooperate when asked to work in non-friendship partnerships.

“They are really sticking with being persistent.” - Teacher


INTENDED OUTCOMES

The intended outcomes for the term 3 Creative Habits of Learning was to focus on increasing the students’ understanding and application of the Creative Habits, with the curriculum focused on Geography: The main characteristics (e.g. climate, natural vegetation, landforms, native animals) of the continents of Africa and Europe, and the location of their major countries in relation to Australia. We wanted to develop the understandings and inquiry skills of the students, to use decision-making processes and translate collected information and/or data into different formats.


WHAT WE DID 

We used the outdoor classroom to make the Geography curriculum come alive by using imagination to explore biomes and mapping exercises in the micro and macro. We did this through a series of adventures in the outdoor and indoor classrooms from mini safaris, to mapping the outdoor area, to magic carpet rides and creating ceramic totems.

“We don’t sit at our desks and do work. We use our imagination. It’s more about thinking. We think about the Creative Habits of Mind that we have used in the lesson.” - Student

Students in the outdoor classroom

HOW WE MADE THE CURRICULUM COME ALIVE 

By using imagination we made the curriculum come alive, specifically exploring biomes and mapping exercises in the micro and macro. The Creative Habits of Mind came alive through the use of continuous reflection which allowed the students to be aware of, and become more comfortable in their understanding of the Creative Habits that they were using. By placing individually labelled popsticks onto the chart and reflecting on ‘what, why and how,’ placed the Creative Habit in action and allowed the students to develop familiarity and understating of the Creative Habits of Learning.

“I’ve used my imagination a lot more. I’m quite good at Maths but in Creative Schools I’ve been able to learn other skills as well. We‘ve been learning about the biomes and we have been learning about estimating and about the future.” - Student

We activated student voice and learner agency by posing problems without answers; by asking “What do you think?” instead of providing answers; by encouraging large and small groups and partner work; by using the outdoor classroom to change the scale of student interaction and exploration; and by open-ended activities which saw a range of responses.

“Sheryl is really fun and nice. She didn’t give us a lot of direction. Usually we get told what to do. She says that we need to work it out so we get to do it our own way. We work in groups and come up with different ideas.” - Student


WHAT WAS THE IMPACT?

The impact on the students was indicated through a change in the group dynamic, evidenced by their increase in spatial awareness and collaboration as a group. After weeks of similar warm up activities e.g. ‘form a line’ based on different criteria, the students developed their ability to form a line without speaking, following a criteria with even spaces instead of bunches and clumps of students. They also grew in their non-verbal exchanges to help the weaker students. This had a flow on effect which was obvious in the students’ increased acceptance of each other and ability to work collaboratively without complaining or asking to join other groups.

“They are valuing themselves and each other more. That is really important. It is improving the community here. They are learning to work well with each other, even outside of their friendship groups. That is a life skill and the impact on our school is huge. They are creating a true community of learning.” - Linda Chandler (Principal)

The impact on the Teacher has been her surprise and delight to see the students in a different light. From week 1 the teacher noticed an emerging pattern from the group of bright boys who struggled with the mapping exercise. In their description they made excuses and appeared to be comparing themselves with others. The teacher’s eyes lit up when she realised the significance of her observations – the students were questioning themselves, which they have never had to do.

“It’s going really well and the students are enthusiastic and engaged. The teacher is also super enthusiastic. She’s willing to have a go at anything. She is creatively brave which allows the students to be creatively brave.” - Creative Practitioner

At least 2 of these boys are still struggling in week 10, they struggle with the open ended nature of the activities, of the “no right answer,” which has seen them still participate, but with some reluctance. One high academic achieving student has struggled throughout the program whenever there is no obvious ‘right’ answer.

The curiosity of “what’s next?” is engaging and motivating the students, allowing them to wonder and question, to investigate and to use their imaginations to play with possibilities, as evidenced by this quote: “Because I had to see what was happening, I had to see where it would go and I couldn’t touch it.”

“My battlers have enjoyed Creative Schools, everything is accessible, and there aren’t barriers, they just join in.” - Teacher

The impact on the Creative Practitioner has been to find new ways to allow the students to explore by asking “What do you think?” and by providing open ended questions and activities.

The Geography curriculum came alive when the students made connections between mapping the outdoor classroom area and creating grid references in large and small scale – the outdoor concrete slabs and on their magic carpets. The mapping activities and biomes were identified by most students when we brainstormed what “making learning visible” meant to them. We are all looking forward to the program coming together when we explore the connections between biomes studied in term 3 Geography to plant and animal adaptations and life cycles in Science in term 4.

“Sheryl is really nice. She helps us and makes it more fun and exciting. I’m not a big fan of writing but she makes it exciting. Like the worms she doesn’t say just write about it. She gets us to make the worms which makes it more exciting.” - Student