School: Merriwa Primary School
Year Group: 1/2
Teachers: Erin Purcell, Renee Rogers and Naydene Duffill
Creative Practitioners: Charissa Delima and Andrea Tenger
Creative Practice: Visual Art
There is this theory that resilient children are more likely to take healthy risks because they are not afraid of fulfilling expectations. This may be true, however, not with the year 1 and 2 students of Merriwa Primary School. On the surface, they are loud, robust, funny and full of energy, but it’s in class that we get to see the vulnerable side of them.
In the first meeting the three teachers; Erin Purcell, Renee Rogers, and Naydene Dufill, shared how these young students have low resilience and are afraid to make mistakes and fail. Together, with Creative Practitioners, Charissa Delima and Andrea Tenger, they brainstormed the Five Habits of Mind; imaginative, inquisitive, discipline, persistence and collaboration. The decision was made to explore all Five Habits, focusing on persistence and inquisitiveness. It did not take long to discover how timid, shy and reluctant the students were, especially when asked an ice-breaker question such as; ‘How are we today?’ It’s a simple question, yet it took them a while to raise their hands and share their answers.
“We rarely asked the children about their feelings. The moment they sit in class, it’s go, go, go. Seeing how they slowly came out of their own shell is amazing.” - Renee Rogers (Teacher)
This first session was the catalyst for the Creatives to collaborate with the Teachers, to design activities that made the abstract ideas more visible in a concrete way. The activities were physical, hands-on, engaging and promoted joy. In a safe space where there were no right or wrong answers, the team continuously asked “how can we show the students it is okay not to be okay? It is okay to question. It is okay to wonder. It is okay to fail.”
During warm-up activities that included pencil and paper, Charissa observed the tendency of students to quickly grab an eraser before they even started the work process. She asked the teachers to gently take the erasers away. The students looked at the team in horror! As if they had taken away their control – a significant tool to make things easier for them. Did they question this action? Yes! Did they stop working? No! Eventually they got the hang of it and moved forward.
“Charissa said ‘no rubbers’. And that is really good for them to learn to let go of the perfection. They are now just accepting it. Now they say, I can do this. I can adapt things. I can incorporate a mistake. They are becoming more resilient through this. They all love it.” - Renee Rogers (Teacher)
Each week, the team gave the students various challenges, which they came to embrace. Slowly they learned that it is okay to show vulnerability and talk about it. They became creatively brave; curious and more aware, more open to share their feelings and thoughts without feeling any judgement.
"In regards to the students, I’ve seen some behaviour changes. They have coped very well with working in pairs and in groups. And their focus seems to increase." - Erin Purcell (Teacher)
At the end of each session, students were invited to Reflect on the session. Reflection as an activity in and of itself was important. It encouraged the students to identify what they had done and how they felt. It gave them a voice. It also created a formal opportunity for Creatives to introduce the language of the Creative Habits.
“Giving opportunities to students to be involved in their own learning was a good call. The students took the challenge and thrived through the creative (learning) process. Their participation is one of the highlights of every session! You received your school placement and research all about them. Yet nothing beats the excitement of meeting amazing students with different personalities. With time, you get to know them and see how their minds are working with every creative challenge you give. They take it, analyse, weigh their options with great enthusiasm. Then and there, you know you made your mark (on them) and vice-versa.” - Charissa Delima (Creative Practitioner)
Next time one asks for an example of being persistent and what resilience looks like, tell them the story of these young students. This here is resilience; they are curious, brave, and trusting of their intuition. They know their limits and they push themselves to step outside of their comfort zones, through their difficulties, tolerating uncertainty.