The Slow Burn

June 24, 2021
Andrew Frazer
James Duncan


School: Donnybrook District High School

Year Group:

Teacher: James Duncan

Creative Practitioner: Andrew Frazer

Creative Practice: Visual Artist and Arts Management

Between Term 3 and Term 4, I was talking with my brother sharing the challenges of engaging with the students and creating content that would inspire. I was feeling a little frustrated when he reminded me that "... it's not all about you. For you, this program is such a big part of your practise, but for many of these students it is a small part of their busy lives and you need to understand that. It's not personal. You just need to keep turning up and keep showing them that you care." This feedback set the tone for Term 4 before the content was further developed.

It is tempting to get caught up in results and how to continuously draw correlation between the program, students and their respective results at the end of the year, when all the while forgetting about the need for deep learning. Consistency is a vital practise that I had been learning about in my own life as a father of two young boys, but now it was time to transfer it to the students. James was an incredible example of this reality. He has the ability to maintain such a consistent response to the students to let them know he hasn't given up on them. This was a cultural shift that gave room for the learning to occur and it's a shift that began to happen within myself as the term unfolded.

We continued the built momentum from Term 3 by exploring various house design methods underpinned by the question - 'what is the home?' It was quickly apparent that the materials of a house don't mean so much when the perception of the home is so varied. The discussions we had around individual stories of the home and what gives or takes away from making a house a home, was very moving. It collectively reminded us all that learning is best done when there is personal meaning ... a sense of purpose that fuels change. Allowing these discussions within the classroom allowed everyone to have a voice. It provided opportunities for everyone to contribute and to shape their own learning. I'm not saying that everyone engaged, but everyone was at least offered the invitation. This was the core message from James and I ... 'we want you to be here. Now it's over to you'.

We began to research local sites that could be suitable to develop a series of tiny homes that responded to community, connection and collaboration. The designs needed to be affordable to make sure that all people have access to a home. We allowed the site to be selected by students who engaged most with the process. It was important that we celebrated those who were being courageous enough to try something different in order to experience a different result. It was brilliant to see how this celebration caused increased ownership and investment within the learning process.

The designs were inspired by various profiled architects and the local Donnybrook Goods Shed redevelopment with valuable input provided by Perkins. The ability to walk down to see how innovative and thoughtful the design was being applied at the Donnybrook Goods Shed, was one of many benefits of being located within a smaller regional town. Connecting the students to these real life experiences is essential in increasing engagement and inspiring future endeavors. These points of inspiration informed the students' design ideas with the final application being the construction of a 3D scale model showcasing the responsive relationship between natural and built forms.

James and I committed to consistency in our own responses, attitudes and care for the students. We didn't always get it right, but we kept short accounts with each other to make sure that the students were valued. The students continued to challenge and inspire us in many ways, causing us to take greater responsibility for our own actions. Our hope through Creative Schools is that the students will grow in their desire for consistency, not be rocked by every ripple and have empathy for those around them. It's the slow burn that inspires lasting change.