Cubbies Through Time

October 13, 2020
By
Trudi Bennett
&
Deborah Scanlon

CUBBIES THROUGH TIME

Case Study: Term 3

School: St Mary’s Anglican Girls' School

Teacher: Deborah Scanlon

Year Group: Year 1

Creative Practitioner: Trudi Bennett

Creative Practice: Nature Connection

Main Curriculum Focus: HASS - History

Cross-curricular Links: Mathematics, Design Technologies

CONTEXT

The goal of this project was to make connections between the HASS curriculum, childhood play motivators and new areas of teaching, a learning for the class teacher Deborah Scanlon. The connection points in this project were historical change over time including exploring the future, which was a new teaching topic for Deb, and Cubby Building, something Deb expressed that she was interested in increasing her skill set in. Cubby Building is part of the Creative Practitioner, Trudi Bennett’s, experience and the connection to history and future thinking was a new practice for her. A second year one class, with teacher Lexi Doheney, was also invited to participate in the project.

At St Mary’s there are two classes of 13 year 1 students and these two classes were combined to create one Creative Schools group of 26 students with two teachers and the creative practitioner. The school is very academic results focused and the students are concerned about giving the correct answer with many being perfectionists. It was important for us to have an open project where imagination could be encouraged and where ‘wrong answers’ did not exist.


WHAT DID WE DO?

This Cubbies Through Time project grew both through time but also in size. We started by exploring Nyoongar Indigenous shelters from pre-100 years ago, looking at old black and white photos, identifying materials, collecting natural objects and replicating these shelters in miniature forms as part of ‘small world’ play. 

We used a human timeline to gain a sense of time as we journeyed through to 70-100 years in the past. Through video interviews with older women, the children learned how children in historical times built cubbies, what materials were available then for children, how cubbies were constructed and what games young girls played in them. The children also interviewed their parents or grandparents as part of a home research project to find out stories close to them of past ways to build and play in cubbies. This also brought the sharing of cultural experience with cubbies made of banana leaves in India and out of snow in Russia, luckily with the absence of bears who were hibernating.

The children then were provided with ‘old fashioned’ materials including hessian sacks, canvas, wool blankets and old curtains along with other resources of sticks, lengths of wood, limestone rocks, shoelaces and broken bricks. These materials were mentioned in the video interviews and the children worked in 4 groups to create cubbies, mostly big enough for one child to squeeze in. The children built, experimented, changed and improved these cubbies over two weeks and found that connecting parts was the biggest challenge along with sharing, negotiating and accepting ideas.

We then journeyed into the present and children were asked through the ‘cubby supply shop’ play to identify the materials they use to build cubbies in the present at home. Many children identified that they either did not build cubbies or that they were from cushions and sheets indoors. A video was shown from a 7 year old boy explaining his cardboard box birthday parties and the children were given the resources of cardboard boxes and masking tape to add to their cubbies to represent the present.

Future thinking proved to be the hardest work as students needed to predict what materials would still exist in the future, what changes would be made and what new materials might there be. Some industrial offcuts were provided from Remida Creative Reuse centre and decided on by the students. These materials were then used to create three larger cubbies over the last two weeks. The focus in these weeks were in Design Technologies with the introduction of knot work and tools (hammers and drills) to be able to fasten materials together and make larger, stronger cubby shapes to fit multiple students.

HOW DID WE MAKE THE CURRICULUM COME ALIVE?

We made the curriculum come alive through beginning the session with stories, photos and videos of cubbies in different eras. The students were very excited to be able to build cubbies and were keen to find out what materials and ideas they could use for the ones they were about to build. We then provided the materials for children to have a hands-on experience to live the learning through their use. This connection between formal information and hands-on application was very successful in this context and became an expected pattern of learning within the classroom.

HOW DID WE MAKE THE CREATIVE HABITS OF MIND COME ALIVE?

Each week we would use the Learning Assets language in the introduction of the next part of the project. Together the class would identify the asset most needed for the cubby building and team work task. The following Monday, the teachers would reflect with their students and ask individuals to place their name on the Learning Asset they used most, explaining why they made that choice.


HOW DID WE ACTIVATE STUDENT VOICE AND LEARNER AGENCY?

At each stage of the project students identified materials used in the stories and what they would like to use in their own building. They were able to work together to decide how their cubbies were to be built and reflect on what additional skills they needed. We had a lot of voting on materials used, particularly while we were debating what things would still exist in the future.


WHAT WAS THE IMPACT?

STUDENT

Our students built cubbies from the past, present and future with emphasis on developing connections with nature and focusing on the Learning Assets implemented in class; Communicator, Collaborator, Researcher, Self-Manager, Thinker. This hands-on approach was excellent for developing resilience allowing the freedom for the children to learn by instinctive behaviour. 

"You need to be collaborative as you need to work together and make sure that everyone is involved in building the cubby.” - Student

I noticed more children taking risks and working collaboratively as a team. Many of the students who struggle in the classroom with the written component of learning, were able to shine in this environment.

“I leaned this stick in the fork stick here so it balanced. And this stick here is just in case it is needed.” - Student

The excitement was evident when the children knew it was a Creative Schools afternoon. They were so keen to get out into nature to continue their projects and were so incredibly proud of what they were able to accomplish. During feedback time, the students were able to reflect on their learning and relate this back to the Learning Assets we embed as classroom practice. 

This program has had such a positive impact on the students and instils excitement into their learning. They absolutely love it!

“I felt excited when we finished as it was so big and everyone could fit in it.” - Student

TEACHER

The Creative schools Program has had a huge impact on me this year with major emphasis on my approach to teaching the Curriculum content. It has helped me embed the curriculum and content expected for the year level, through wonderful connections with nature and looking at ideas through a different lens.

I learnt to develop the courage to try different approaches to teaching a topic, and I also learnt to step out of my comfort zone. I thought I might struggle with letting go of my class and trusting someone I didn’t know come in and implement new ideas in my classroom, but I was so incredibly blessed to be working with someone like Trudi Bennett with such an amazing skill set. 

We chose the HASS focus of Past, Present and Future to begin our learning journey together and Trudi led our team. With her cubby building expertise and being an incredibly well-organised educator, our outdoor learning program thrived.

Trudi’s presence, support and planning taught me how to encourage wonderings and adventure and give the students freedom to take risks with their learning, whilst focusing on the learning habits taking place throughout the lessons. 

The children were encouraged to build resilience, develop empathy and develop an understanding for nature whilst linking this to the HASS topic we were implementing in the term.

The learning and wonderings were evident during every lesson and the feedback I was getting from the students was excellent. Not only were they having a wonderful play adventure, they were learning the topic and content required through their cubby building.

CREATIVE PRACTITIONER

Through this project I discovered how useful following the same pattern of learning is, at least for a few weeks in a row. By slowly growing a project and providing a story to gain information, students were able to build on their ideas and skills. This also supported myself and the teachers in preparation of activities and presenting learning where the process was visible to the students. I feel that this was a very successful project as it had a strong focus on change over time and included clear learning opportunities in hands-on construction.