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Hudson Park: It's A Jungle Out There

December 21, 2021
Brad Crooks
Shona McGregor

It’s a Jungle Out There!

Creative Practitioner: Shona McGregor

Creative Practice(s): Visual artist

School: Hudson Park Primary School

Teacher: Brad Crooks

Year Group - 2/3

Main Curriculum Focus – HASS

Cross-curricular Links  

Literacy and Language (listening & speaking, oral presentations, vocabulary, social interaction)

Maths (number, measurement, shape, data)

Science (physical & biological)

Arts (making ideas, skills & performance in visual arts and performance), Technologies (processes & production, knowledge & understanding of design and digital technologies)

Health & Physical Education (personal, social & community health)


Hudson Park Primary School is situated in Girrawheen, a northern suburb of Perth, and was established in 2009. It has a small student population of 224 from kindergarten to year six and is overseen by their principal, Andrew Britton. The school has a large multicultural student population with around half the children coming from cultural backgrounds outside of Australia and this is reflected in our year 2/3 classroom with around ten different cultures present between the 24 students. The students in Brad’s class also have various special needs ranging from autism to processing issues and an Education Assistant is present during Creative School sessions. Literacy is difficult for many of the students in the class due to issues caused by having English as a second language, and their assessable outcomes across the curriculum tends to be on the lower side of the state average. Brad Crooks, their primary teacher, has been teaching for 10 years and has been a teacher at Hudson Park Primary School for 6 years. Creative practitioner, Shona McGregor, is an ex-special needs and early childhood teacher who is now a practicing visual artist and Creative Practitioner with the Creative Schools program.

When we began the project Brad was keen to use the 5 Learning of Habits to explore HASS as a subject and improve the student’s critical thinking skills. With this in mind we considered the students’ backgrounds and interests and decided to create a project that would draw on their cultural experiences and allow them to contribute in a more meaningful way. With a focus on the concepts of communities and place and space within HASS, we speculated that we could find a way to provide a rich and purposeful learning experience if we asked the students to create their own imaginary land - Jumanji style. We wanted them to explore what it meant to be part of a community socially as well as explore aspects such as dress, food and music that were unique to a group.

In order to give the group something concrete to focus on, Brad created a video with his own children which introduced the topic and told the story of the class being sucked into a video game and consequently finding themselves in a strange new land. We then had the children walk the school grounds imagining it as the new island, and map the location and landmarks. This gave us an opportunity not only to speak to the students in a more informal manner and get to know them, but it also gave us an idea of what their interests were and how they liked to learn. For example, we could see that literacy in a written form was not a preferred mode of recording information for many students, but drawing and speaking were high on their list of styles of communicating. The students also clearly loved the outdoors and physical movement which inspired their learning. This information informed our lessons going forward, and allowed us to really tap into what would motivate the children to learn at an optimal level.

The Creative Schools 5 Habits of Learning have formed the underpinning of everything we have been teaching. Most of our lessons have been collaborative, which has been a slow but successful process for many students who find working with others difficult. We have worked in planned groups of our choice, as well as offering the children the opportunity to choose partners in order to allow everyone to have a voice and to have their ideas heard and acknowledged. Persistence has been a big focus for us: giving the students uncomfortable yet achievable challenges that allowed them to learn from their mistakes and push through the discomfort. They are all now very comfortable with the fact that we have to fail to learn and there isn’t always one way to do something. Imagination and Inquisitiveness were also in short supply when we began the program, but through the use of many different forms of learning via iPads or videoing small productions, whole class map drawings, recycled material costume making and 3D map construction to name a few, we have pushed the class to come up with new ideas and rework existing ones.

We have seen a real change in the class since the beginning of the program. They are excited when Wednesday rolls around and eager to take part in activities that initially left them feeling uncomfortable and confused in their ‘learning pit’. Students who are often absent are coming to class more regularly, and are able to focus and enjoy their learning experience in a way that they couldn’t when we first began the Creative Schools Program. One of our students who struggles to participate and often has disruptive behaviours was recently able to set aside her incident before recess and be fully part of our session challenge creating an island from playdough.  She articulated wonderful ideas and pushed through logistical building challenges, which was a real achievement for her.

Brad believes that through the program and through watching a video with the students called Austin’s Butterfly, students have been encouraged in areas of reflection and feedback. Brad found that the students are growing in confidence and felt they had less fear of failure when approaching their work because they understood that it is ok to make mistakes. They were also developing the mindset of thinking about how they can improve, and were more willing to listen to and receive feedback from others.  As a teacher it has given Brad greater confidence when using a more creative hands-on approach to learning. The students are also becoming familiar with the questions around how they can solve problems themselves, and are beginning to come up with interesting ideas instead of giving up before trying.

After all the progress we have seen this term, we are looking forward to next term’s project and pushing the students further to create their own mini projects in groups of their choosing, based on their interests and talents. It is going to be a challenge for everyone but we feel that the students have a much better understanding now of how to handle conflicts, ask questions and use their imaginations. They are also more reflective about the 5 Habits of Learning which they are using and are able to give each other constructive feedback. Our sessions may be loud and messy at times (we love it!) but it’s worth it to hear the language the students are now using, and observe them taking risks which they would previously avoid. It’s a happy and unpredictable creative learning environment that is catering to all the learning styles and also giving the adults a fresh and stimulating look at teaching.

“Austin’s Butterfly has resonated really well with the kids on how to improve their work.” - Teacher
“Creatives Schools is awesome. The kids are really creative; they have very, very creative minds. What they create they really try to make it look awesome. The effort that each individual puts into their work is amazing to see.” - Education Assistant
“I’m finding that we are really covering lots of areas of the curriculum and ticking things off.” - Teacher
“I’m getting more time to come alongside individual students.” - Teacher
“It’s given a couple of the quieter kids a voice.” - Teacher
“In Creative Schools you are disciplined and persistent. Because you are always trying and never giving up in Creative Schools.” - Student
“Some people can help you and if you don’t have teamwork you have to do it yourself. With teamwork you can do anything. I love Creative Schools.” - Student
“Creative Schools is playful. Because we get to play and build and enjoy our life.” - Student

How is this different to other lessons you do in school?

“We do more activities. We don’t do work like in other lessons. We do things outside and we make things. Like we make clothes.” - Student
“Normally we are doing work. Normally it’s writing and listening. Creative Schools is more about making things and trying. It’s imaginative. And you are really thinking about what you need to do then you can create. It’s important to keep on going and never give up.” - Student
“In different lessons you have to write and you do some work. Like spelling, maths, writing, reading and stories. There’s lots of questions. That’s all different to Creative Schools. Creative Schools is about having ideas and thinking differently. It’s a little easy and a little hard because to think differently you have to imagine things that you have never seen before. Like having a warm-up game to think differently. In Creative Schools you build houses, build a country and build an island.” - Student
“We usually do lots of work and it hurts my hand. But in Creative Schools your hands don’t hurt and you get to make things and it's softer.” - Student

Have you noticed a change in any of the kids in your class?

“They are really excited. They find it hard to wait and listen. They come up with more ideas and more learning.” - Student
“The first time Shona came I thought it would be us writing about creating stuff. But to be honest it’s about having a go and trying. Shona tried to show us that we need to use creative ideas and that we need to be persistent and collaborative.”
“Yes they are thinking about new ideas instead of thinking of the same ideas. They are getting more creative. Because Shona gives ideas and then we do those ideas and we get more creative.” - Student
“They are becoming nicer to you. Because school is for making friends. Creative Schools helps you make friends.” - Student