To Infinity and Beyond

October 1, 2021
Paul Gorman
Sally Hurle

To Infinity and Beyond

Creative Practitioner Name: Paul Gorman

Creative Practice:  Creative explorer of ideas

School:  Little Grove Primary School (On-line delivery model)

Teacher: Sally Hurle

Year Group: Year 1/2

Key Curriculum Areas: Numeracy and Interdisciplinary learning

(This project was delivered online with Creative Practitioner Paul Gorman, via a 90 minute session on Webex with the teacher and students each week for 8 weeks, along with project planning and reflecting with the teacher after the sessions.)

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally occurs.” - John Dewey

The Year 1/ 2 class in Little Grove primary school arrived in class one day to discover their numbers had disappeared. Then they met a hairy Scotsman who told them numbers were disappearing all over the world.  Their mystery and adventure had begun.  Over a number of weeks, the children would connect to the Scotsman to inform him of their discoveries which included:

  • A dad who used scales to measure flour to make bread
  • A mum who knew she was driving too fast from the speedometer in her car 
  • The school principal not being happy as the class arrived late for assembly 
  • A cow puppet hosting a birthday party for several guests and worrying about how much food she needs

The children had something to do that existed beyond their classroom.  The initial lure/provocation of the missing numbers enabled the children to notice and discover numbers everywhere and understand how people used them.  This real world, lived-experience nurtured a numeracy rich world for them to play and learn in. 

Intended Outcomes

The focus was on the numeracy curriculum by starting with the pupil’s cultural capital and lived-experience of numbers.  The intended outcomes:

  1. Pupils discovered and explored numbers in their world.
  2. These discoveries were harnessed to develop numerical skills and knowledge. 
  3. Pupil autonomy was supported as they co-created the design of the project. 
  4. Pupils were introduced to, and developed their understanding of, the creativity skills through imaginative play and process drama pedagogy. 

How were outcomes achieved?

These outcomes were delivered by establishing an immersive scenario where numbers in the world had started to disappear:  the numbers on the clock in the classroom, the sports teacher’s stop-watch not working, and the date on the whiteboard were removed. Sally disrupted the classroom by removing numbers and then noticing the children’s response.  

The class met a top Government official from the United Kingdom (Paul Gorman, the Creative Practitioner who would join the class each week on-line via Webex).  They discovered that numbers were disappearing all over the world and nobody could explain why.  

The class were then recruited as number detectives/conservationists to carry out a series of weekly tasks around numbers in their world.  Their initial task was to find numbers in their home, in the playground, on the TV and in the garden.  As the pupils made discoveries, Sally enhanced their enquiry by building curricular numerical skills and knowledge. 

Assessment of Learning 

As detectives and conservationists, they were responsible for documenting their work and keeping a log of it in the class for others to see.  They  recruited family members to help with the case of the missing numbers. 

Feedback from the teacher’s perspective

We found the technology tricky with Year 1s in the beginning, going on the computer without an adult to help was challenging. In saying that, the children found it very exciting, but there were many challenges. It’s been difficult, needing to send little groups out. I got most from talking to Paul and then planning the next lesson from that. He pointed me into directions I wouldn’t think of going and then I’d pass it on to the kids and they would take it into a different direction. It has been good to pass things on to the kids in that way. 

It has given me the freedom to explore more and let the students lead more.  There has been a long-term gain. I would have pushed more learning into that time, but there has been a long-term gain in terms of understanding. I was happy to throw myself into it. I thought we’ll sort the technology. It wasn’t easy, but I was ready to throw myself into a different pedagogy. It was ok to change on the fly. 

For the children the biggest impact was discovering numbers. They discovered units of measurement for everything.  The children discovered it; I didn’t teach them. In the past I would have taught it. When they look at numbers now they put all numbers into a bigger context. That wasn’t part of my planning, but a nice surprise.

The end product was a brainstorm about everything they know about numbers and then making a sculpture – about what they know about numbers. It wasn’t where I saw us going at all. It kept on changing what we were working towards.

I love talking to the Creative Practitioner. It is great for remote schools – just to have someone to talk to. Part of me would have liked to have had a Creative Practitioner in the class as well.