Creative Creatures

June 24, 2021
By
Claire Davenhall
Jessica Beasy

CREATIVE CREATURES

Case Study: Term 3 

School: Ellenbrook Christian College

Teacher: Jessica Beasy

Year Group:

Creative Practitioner: Claire Davenhall                        

Creative Practice: Visual Artist - Sculptor 

Main Curriculum Focus: Science 

Chemical Science - Everyday materials can be physically changed in a variety of ways.  Biological Science - Living things have a variety of external features. Living things live in different places where their needs are met. 

Cross-curricular Links: Technologies, English, Visual Arts and Drama

Technologies – Investigating & defining - Exploring opportunities for design. 
Designing - Developing and communicating design ideas through describing, drawing, modelling and/or a sequence of written or spoken steps. Producing & implementing - Using given components and equipment to safely make solutions. Evaluating - Using personal preferences to evaluate the success of design processes. Collaborating & managing - Working independently, or with others when required, to safely create and share sequenced steps for solutions. 

English – Language, Literacy, Literature

Visual Arts – Exploration and experimentation with the visual elements of shape, colour, line and texture. Exploration of different materials, media and/or technologies when creating artwork. Development of artistic skills through experimentation with shape (geometric shapes), line (broken, jagged, dashed), space (background, foreground), texture (familiar objects, changes in texture, transfer of texture) to create artwork. Exploration of techniques and art processes, such as mixed media, colour mixing or drawing. Use of visual art elements and techniques to create 2D and 3D artwork, that communicate an idea to an audience. Display of artwork, personal opinions, feelings and ideas about artwork that the students view and make.

Drama - Improvisation skills (contributing to the progression of action) to develop dramatic action.   

“Seeing the curriculum through a different lens has been the most rewarding part of this whole experience. I have loved watching my students start using the Five Habits of Learning language when talking about their learning experiences and how this has filtered into other learning areas and lessons as well.” - Teacher                                                                

CONTEXT 

Ellenbrook Christian College Primary School aspires to instill a sense of excitement in their students and ensure that they excel at school. Teacher Jessica Beasy joined the Creative Schools Program to develop her Year 1 student’s sense of character and their resilience to face day to day challenges that are shaping the world around them. She was matched with Creative Practitioner Claire Davenhall, who is a visual artist specialising in sculpture. Together, their focus has been on building better learners by providing regular opportunities to develop the Five Creative Habits of Learning in their students, during their weekly sessions. Students at Ellenbrook Christian College are committed to the lifelong process of learning and are encouraged to take ownership of their achievements. 

“The children are loving it and so do I. When Claire [creative practitioner] is running activities, I get to ask the children questions that I can’t when I’m running the activity, so I am really getting an opportunity to grasp their level of understanding.” - Teacher

WHAT WE DID 

The year 1 class worked to explore the chemical science of everyday materials and the biological science of living creatures. The students investigated how materials can be physically changed in a variety of ways and they made their own curious, creative creatures from recycled materials. They conducted experiments, responded to and posed questions, and made predictions about familiar objects and events. The excitement of learning has extended to other areas of the curriculum, with the project partners reflecting that much more of the curriculum was covered than initially anticipated. Reflective activities around the Five Creative Habits of Learning, gave the students a new language of learning and helped the children to develop a keen sense of awareness around their developing skills. 

“We are learning all about the Five Habits of Learning.” - Student

To make the curriculum come alive, we utilised a range of creative spaces around the school that would best fit with the learning planned for the day, depending on the weather, the level of collaboration needed and relevance to the topic. The term started with exploring and discovering natural habitats around the school and where we might find creatures great and small. The students were encouraged to look at the world around them, to wonder what they might find and to question how they got there. They were surprised to discover large dinosaur bones, they noticed tiny ants that changed colour in the sunlight and birds flying high in the sky.

“It’s cool you can do fun things like making our animals. And we all go to our oval and hide our animals.” - Student

Looking further afield, we fostered creativity out of the classroom and the school environment by going to the Zoo. The curriculum literally came to life in an excursion called ‘Rainforest Detectives’ looking at the survival needs of animals in the Asian Rainforest. The students were able to engage with the Zookeeper's and ask questions inquiring about the habitats of different living things and how their needs are met.

“The best bit was watching the otters catch fish in its little claws and then watching the fish fall into its mouth.” - Student

Students had the opportunity to hold some of the smaller creatures in their hands. They could relate to the native Australian animals, while others made connections from other countries that they had visited, or countries that their parents had migrated from. Making these personal reflections added meaning and value to their experiences in a social, emotional, spiritual and physical sense.

The Creative Habits of Mind came alive in the classroom by drawing attention to them during each part of the Creative Schools sessions.  The students made clay beads that were fired in the kiln and then painted using the colours of the Creative Habits to make the learning visible. Each week, they would select a habit they had used the most in the activities, share their learning experience with the group and place a bead into their personalised learning jars.

 

“In the beginning we rolled clay and painted them the colours of the habits of learning. It’s fun because we get to do different things each time.” - Student

Each activity focused around one or two of the habits, and each aimed to bring an awareness of the student learning at the end of each activity. This reinforcement reassured the students that they were becoming better learners, even when the learning became hard, they were able to say “I’m sticking with difficulty today, that is being persistent!”

The students created ‘Curious Creature’ sculptures, by using their imaginations, playing around with possibilities and having to deal with uncertainty. They really didn’t know what the end result would be until they had finished. Each week they were introduced to new materials, explored different possibilities and observed the chemical changes taking place, with the focus being on the process rather than the end product. They observed and predicted what would happen each week to their creatures when they added another process. Every week they would ask to take them home and every week they were told “not yet!”

“We do lots of experiments. It is really fun and exciting to see what happens when we do experiments.” - Student

Student voice and learner agency was activated by asking them which of the creative spaces they would like to explore next, somewhere the creative practitioner may not know about! Each week they were able to select an appropriate place by giving and receiving feedback from the group and being able to think critically of a place that wasn’t too far, big enough for a whole group collaborative activity, out of the wind or rain and wasn’t their classroom.

They enjoyed reflecting on their work and developing their sculptural techniques, they often provided and received feedback from each other or the teacher on how to improve their creature. They laughed and giggled as they slowly crafted and improved their work, watching them transform into different animals, for example from wolves, to dinosaurs or even to an egg! They learnt to deal with this uncertainty of letting the creative process take over, we called this using our intuition, playing with possibilities, making connections and problem solving. 

These shared collaborative experiences have brought this group of learners together; they like to help each other and can work together in different groups of different sizes. It's an inclusive model, where each and every student is valued and supported.

“When we do Creative Schools we feel collaborative and we get to do creative things.” - Student

WHAT WAS THE IMPACT?

The students have become better learners as they now understand how to use the Creative Habits of Learning and actively use their new vocabulary in other lessons throughout the week. The teacher promotes and practices all Five Habits of Learning, to reinforce the student’s learning and help them become better learners. The project covered a lot more of the curriculum than we had originally planned and embedded more learning units.

The creative practitioner found it extremely rewarding, observing the excitement in the students, who were engaged with all the activities provided to them this term. The students have embraced the program with so much energy and enthusiasm, they have been a joy to teach and it's been a privilege to share their creative journeys.

Pam Tyrrell, the Curriculum Coordinator at Ellenbrook Christian College, has been involved in the creative school project this year and has observed the difference between groups of students who have done creative schools and those that have not. She noted that the project has allowed all students to be challenged, whether that be through sticking with difficulty or learning how to be inquisitive and she is looking forward to continuing to use the Habits of Learning next year and beyond.

“The Creative schools project has allowed all students to be challenged, whether that be through sticking with difficulty or learning how to be inquisitive. The students understand what skills they are applying when they are working and are all engaged. I am looking forward to continuing the Habits through into next year and beyond.” - Pam Tyrrell (Curriculum Coordinator)

The school Librarian noted that our project coincided with the book week theme of ‘Curious Creatures’ and was very excited to display the student work in the Primary Library. They will be showcased again at a special Creative Schools assembly where parents will be invited to share their creative journey during the project.


“During the beginning of Term 1 2020, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Creative School Program. Working alongside our creative Claire Davenhall, has been a wonderful experience. Claire has this sense of calm about her, nothing the students do is too messy, too noisy or too abstract, which has allowed Claire to build this really wonderful relationship with them. Every time they see her enter our school they just wonder what fun and exciting things she has brought with her this time. Seeing the curriculum through a different lens has been the most rewarding part of this whole experience. I have loved watching my students start using the Five Habits of Learning language when talking about their learning experiences and how this has filtered into other learning areas and lessons as well.” - Teacher