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One Class, One Community, One World

January 18, 2022
Chris Clayton
Daniel Burton

One Class, One Community, One World

Creative Practitioner: Daniel Burton

Creative Practice: Nature Pedagogue

School: Hudson Park Primary School

Teachers: Chris Clayton

Year Group: Year 3/4

Stewards of Space - when children take ownership over their environment.

“Everyone is collaborating really well, it’s like a giant family. Because everyone gets along like a family, they are not a real family but that doesn’t matter, we get used to each other and we get more friends. Creative Schools helps with that.” - Student

When we provide children with the chance to take ownership of their environment, they feel more connected to it and are empowered to be stewards of that space.

Schools are often places where adults make all the decisions about the physical spaces and the environment is something that the students exist within as opposed to having a voice in the way that it is set up and utilized. The year 3s at Hudson Park Primary school explored the way that they can be co-owners of an outdoor learning environment, setting up a cubby village for themselves and their fellow students to use as a part of their recess and lunch time, but also as a learning space to engage the whole mind and body!

“Building. Learning - like you picture the thing you have in your head and then building it. Thinking about materials that you can share with others.” - Student

Exploring risk, hazard, resource management, rules of engagement and community building, the year 3s worked as a team to have their voices heard throughout Term 3. They planned together, resourced their plans with items from home and the local community and worked alongside other key school staff to activate an abandoned ‘out of bounds’ space behind the school’s library.

The adults working with this class wondered alongside the students and were interested to answer some big questions:

• Can students have ownership over their environment?

• Will adults listen to students’ requests and make their voices truly heard?

• How can agency be generated from a simple cubby?

“The cubbies look like a house. We work in groups to make Cubbytopia. We are working together, and we share ingredients and don’t keep all the things you get, you need to share them with others.” - Student

Involving the wider school community

Once the students had developed the new culture of the space, constructed shelters, and began to connect deeply with the space it was time to explore ways that this new zone of play and learning could become a more permanent feature of the Hudson Park Primary School landscape. The students expressed their wish to be able to use this space beyond our session of the Creative Schools program and suggested that this could become a new play space open to students from the whole school during break times.

One of the limiting factors was the need for the space to be ‘supervised’ by duty teachers and that the current duty roster was already set and didn’t include this ‘out of bounds’ space.

“Persistence is.... not giving up, for example building a cubby, it’s hard to calculate what you have to do like when there are limited resources. You have to mix your creativity. Sometimes you feel like giving up, but when you are persistent you don’t give up. I can collaborate with others to help me persist.”  - Student

Together, the students worked on a series of persuasive texts, creatively developing ways to convince school management that a new duty space could be created, or an existing space could be combined to ensure sufficient supervision could be put in place in this new space. The students designed movie trailers, wrote powerful speeches, developed posters, and presented their ideas to the principal. They discussed, and outlined very clearly, their reasons as to why access to ‘Cubbytopia’ was beneficial for student’s social and emotional wellbeing, physical development, and academic achievement. They also made sure they had explained the ways in which they would ensure the space was ‘safe enough’ for students to play in and outlined their plan for maintaining the space.

In addition to their efforts of persuasion, the students also came up with a series of guidelines that they would share with the other classes to ensure student safety, respectful use of the space and to communicate the importance of caring for the space.

“We need rules to keep people safe but also, so people respect each other and understand each other.”
- Student
“Responsible. The kids are responsible in every way to build what we like. We need to be kind to others and show your ideas, you have to be responsible.”  - Student

Rules of Engagement:

• Please play with the resources carefully

• Please use appropriate words when speaking

• Please ask to enter other people’s cubbies

• Share the resources equitably

• Keep a lookout for hazards in Cubbytopia, fixing the hazard or reporting it.

Outdoor spaces in schools hold within them a powerful force to develop agency and self-belief. The outdoors can become the student’s domain, a space where they feel they have power and control over their environment. When we take learning outdoors and provide students with opportunities to guide the learning journey, as questions of the adults in their spaces, voice their ideas, thoughts, suggestions, and concerns, we engage them on a deep cognitive level. Their hearts and minds are engaged, and passion drives the learning journey. We, as their educators, have to simply stand back with open ears and support the students by resourcing their ideas, fueling their passion and supporting them to lead their own learning.

"I used to think as a child that being disciplined was about having strict parents. Now that I’m doing Creative Schools, I realised I didn’t understand what it means. I did research on it. When we did the rules of engagement I wondered “is this discipline?” Is it about following the rules? I still don’t truly understand what discipline means.” - Student
“I’m learning about how to survive in the wilderness. About how to make a cubby and how to survive if the rain comes. Knowledge is about building, helping and being respectful to others.” - Student
“It’s been really fun. At first, I thought he (the Creative Practitioner) was scary but then I realised he was going to help me be more creative. I thought this is going to be a funny adventure and journey. We have come a long way from building tiny houses to building giant cubbies and now a fire pit as well.” - Student