Settlement and Sustainability

June 24, 2021
Jodie Davidson
Ingrid Smith


Case Study: Term 3

School: Brookman Primary School

Teacher: Ingrid Smith

Year Group: 4/5

Creative Practitioner: Jodie Davidson

Creative Practice: Visual Art

Main Curriculum Focus: HASS – History: First Contacts (Year 4) - Captain James Stirling. HASS - History: The Australian Colonies (Year 5) exploring Australia’s history with regards to resources and sustainability. 

Cross-curricular Links: Sustainability and Biological Science (year 4/5) living things and the choices of materials used for construction (cyclic economy).


'If you understand the past you can change the future.'

With this in mind, the aim for the term was to explore the concepts of continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and resources in reference to the development of Australian settlements, such as the Swan River Colony. General capabilities of both ethical and intercultural understanding, underlined each stage of the process. Initially within the class group and later expanding through to a broader collective that included first settlers, original inhabitants, native and non-native animal and plant species and impacts on the environment.

“We get to come outside and work. We have more of a say about what we make.” - Student

Warm up games such as ‘Tell Me More’, class interviews, blind portrait contour drawings and discovering partners with similarities, increased understanding between class members and allowed them to utilise questioning and research skills to record information. The forming of partnerships wasn’t always successful, however, rather than keep individuals apart, we opted to continuously put them together for various activities to allow them multiple opportunities to increase collaboration and persistence skills.

“It's all about creativity, about using your imagination to think about new things that you'd like. It's important to learn so that we can have better technology. Some people thought that the candles weren't enough, so they made a new light bulb. We are learning to be creative so we can come up with new ideas.” - Student

Arriving in a new land with limited resources to establish a community provided numerous hurdles to overcome. Building shelters, transport over water and transport to move over land were all posed challenges that primarily had students working individually before realising they could be more successful by collaborating. The sudden relocation of sites, impact of weather and boisterous students running through the settlement provided opportunities for reflection.

"What are you going to do?" 
"Rebuild but this time making it stronger." - Student

Decreasing resources led to warm ups that incorporated melting ice caps and an increased focus on sustainable practices. Creative thinking and imagination meant that students looked beyond their nominated supplies to expand their material selection, by incorporating plant fibers from the school garden. Failure in the use of larger leaves to offer better protection from the rain, demonstrated habits of inquisitiveness with students asking themselves why some things work better than others. The depletion of flowers throughout the school along with the use of imported sand from the playground purely for aesthetics, resulted in questioning the introduction of non-native species and how this impacts the environment. It also provided an opportunity to consider the ways in which indigenous cultures look after the land.

“The settlement area is great … leave it as it is with the kids using it as a learning area.” - Noongar Language Teacher

The students were wonderful creators but had a limited comprehension of sustainability. They responded to the challenge of creating a new settlement in the same way that the early settlers did. They introduced materials without consideration of what was already in existence and worked with a philosophy of, ‘more is more and bigger is better.’ This gave them an insight into why some of these choices may have been made.


The collaborative activities, warm ups and reflections resulted in a visible increase in empathy, perspective and cause and effect. Warm ups such as the ‘Human Knot’ and ‘Leaning Out’ helped them to understand that not all methods work. By using a group approach to tasks, they built relationships within the group, improving methods of understanding, problem solving and resilience.

“It's about us thinking about stuff, about creative stuff that we haven't encountered that we haven't really known before. We have to use our knowledge and our imagination. It's really awesome, really enjoyable.” - Student

A warm up word relay producing between 57 and 79 words per group, resulted in a new class spelling activity while in their individual groups. Students were responsible for deciding how they wanted to make their movie and whether they wanted individual stories to be represented or to work together with each group filming separate parts. This display of increased collaboration, discipline and persistence became more evident as the project progressed. 

“We have fun activities. And we get to know each other a lot better. We collaborate a lot. It's all about teamwork and everything”. - Student

Students used processes of sharing resources and ideas while recognising different points of view to identify possible solutions in the construction and development of their film. The making became another tool that increased their curiosity for construction and their resilience in working collaboratively; understanding that there are always choices and options by utilising practices of creative thinking. 


“All lessons have thinking and we have to work out planning. But this is different because we actually get to go outside into nature. We get to have more fun in it. And learn as well.” - Student

They began to alter their habits. They chose to rewrite scripts to make them neater, to add information and sometimes to change them completely to make them richer. They are collaborating and helping each other to improve. They are testing their work, reading it aloud and asking what others think. They are imagining how their life could have been different, what they would see or feel if they were something or someone else. They are being inquisitive.

“It helps you learn in a fun way and increases your ability, your imagination.” - Student

Students collaborating


“Building our settlement might help our creativity and that helps us. I mean we were just talking about personification and things, so it may even help us with English as well.” - Student

A collaborative evolving class mind map indicated gaps in knowledge that became more obvious through group and teacher/artist reflections after each session. These reflections identified students' understanding of a topic and fed planning ideas for subsequent sessions. It was this that led to the idea of getting the students to create their own movie of the settlement from five different perspectives.

“We are learning to think outside of the box. We've been doing settlements and thinking like, if we were the people settling or if we were the environment or the animals, what would it be like? We're going to make mini skits, two minutes, about this experience. It is helping us to see different perspectives.” - Student 


Each group used different methods. One recorded audio first then filmed their characters in the settlement, while another created their own green screen, filmed their characters and overlaid it on a photograph of the settlement. Some groups decided to make cameo appearances in other groups' videos, bringing characters and elements together. They modified story lines, asked for feedback and did multiple recordings when they thought it could be better.

“We are now making skits about our settlement. Each group has a different point of view, ours is the environment, like thinking of the trees, for example. Why are you pulling off my leaves, huh? It is helping us become better learners, better at other things in school.” - Student

Groups worked independently, one group practiced their lines, some students worked on their own, some helped a partner, some added to scripts, some cut out their characters. However, what they were all doing was working towards a common goal. They were independently working on building their story, bit by bit. They were engaged, focused and showing responsibility for themselves. They don't have all the information yet. They are still trying to piece it together, but they are starting to wonder, to question, to show persistence and discipline and to understand human nature.

“Girls are beginning to voice their opinions in a boy heavy class. The previously reserved students are more engaged and collaborative, speaking up and being involved rather than standing back. One less academic student is starting to participate. Initially, it was by offering to help with things, now he is attempting to do things. They are acknowledging when they can’t do something or don’t understand. What we are beginning to notice is increased collaboration, teamwork and unity in discussing as a group or in groups.” - Teacher

“The Creative Schools program has enhanced and value added to our teachers’ understandings of not only creativity but the Five Habits of Learning based on Collaboration, Inquisitiveness, Persistence, Imagination and Disciplined Learning; key elements to being a successful learner, a confident and creative individual, and an active and informed citizen. These Five Habits of Learning dovetail into Foundational Literacies, the Competencies and Character Qualities, all key components of 21st Century Skills so necessary for success for our future generation. Students relish being involved while the interest by staff has grown immeasurably as they have witnessed the tangible impact on student learning. We can’t wait to be a part of our ongoing growth.” - Hans Geers (Principal)