School: Boyare Primary School
Year Group: 4/5
Teacher: Lynette Chua
Creative Practitioner: Felicity Groom
Creative Practice: Music and Visual Art
The main thing that I have taken away from the Creative Schools program is recognising the subtleties of learning. Before starting the program I would overlook the small breakthroughs that a child might be making, as the focus tended to be more related to whether they were on task with what had been assigned, or how the task was going to be measured, quantised, proven and displayed in some kind of document or test.
I identified with this way of learning in my own schooling and the value that was placed on testing, as well as the value placed on certain subjects. I went to a private high school that was academically high achieving and it helped me a lot by elevating my academic capabilities. However, there was a lot of pressure on students to do well in their year eleven and twelve exams, particularly in the Maths and Science areas of study. In part, this was to help students with their future work and studies after high school, however, I also feel that a lot of the academic pressure was driven by the school’s own expectations to be considered a high achieving school, so that prospective parents would be willing to pay a hefty price for their child’s education.
In year twelve I was Art Captain, and even though that was my favourite subject, I gave myself less opportunities to study for it. Instead, I placed more importance on other areas of study, which ultimately have not proven as valuable to me as what I learnt in art class, since finishing high school. For me, art class was a place of mindfulness, reflection and experimentation with new ideas. Almost all of the other areas of study at school would already have the idea formed in the way of an answer, and it was our job to find our way there … and once we got there, we had to repeat it for a test.
Last term was the slowest moving Creative Schools program I have ever participated in and I say that with absolute delight. We weren’t running towards the answer and as a result, we were able to respond to the children’s learning in a really constructive way, making room for recognising when learning was occurring, even if they weren’t going to be graded on it. We had set the objective of covering space and space exploration and we had some tasks that we were going to assign, but the pace at which we travelled through space allowed for us to chat about the other incidental things that popped up in a lesson.
One day the kids were painting planets and they were given plastic take-away lids to use as their pallets. When the kids had finished their planets we had time to line up all the pallets and discuss them, observing the shapes and the colours that they had incidentally created. Each child contributed to the discussion with what they saw on the paint pallets, forming their own interpretations. Looking at the planets, we decided to do another day of painting to create more depth on the work that they had created. The children received the same paint pallet that they had the previous session. Some children needed to replicate the same colours and some children were adding new colours to their planet. Having spent that session looking at the pallets and discussing what they observed, all of the students were now engaged in a richer conversation about colour and colour matching. Another thing that was going on for the students in this lesson, was that what they thought they had finished, they could now see needed to be developed more and worked on further.
Whilst painting the planets was a ‘finding one's way to an answer’ activity by colour matching the student’s creations to the real planets, two things became very important in helping us reach the final result. Firstly, we valued the learning experience that occurred just by observing and discussing some paint pallets. Secondly, it was important to make room for this in the lesson as when we revisited the planets, the students could give them a second coat of paint and make any final changes. If we didn’t have time on our side and the ability to make room for all learning experiences, then we wouldn’t have achieved that rich dialogue that was going on in class while painting our planets.
Other than the students gaining better results in the painting of their planets, why was this exercise of looking at the pallets so important? Prior to starting the Creative Schools program, I may have missed this aspect of learning and perhaps in such an uncertain world, it is the most important lesson of all. These kids had the time to look deeper into something that had no correct answer and while they were doing that, they were enjoying the simple beauty and vibrancy of rich colours swirling around on a piece of plastic. In order for students to learn the necessary skills to develop and thrive in the future, they must first learn the ability to know when to stop and observe the world and all it’s beauty, vibrancy and richness.