On Tuesday 6th September, 24 Year 4 students from Beechboro Christian School, accompanied by their teacher Mrs Ilse Wagner, experienced the ultimate learning experience.
Hand picked for this workshop as one of only 10 schools in WA, the students were immersed in a carefully crafted series of inquiry exercises with FORM experts Paul Collard, Chief Executive at Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE), and international artist, Paul Gorman.
We asked Mrs Wagner to tell us more…
How did your class get chosen?
FORM is an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to the creative development and cultural enrichment of Western Australia. They were looking for a diverse range of schools in Western Australia to run some creative learning workshops with, in order to plan a pilot creative learning program suited to the young minds that are representative of our state.
I submitted an application, including possible areas for exploration (linked to class programming), which resulted in a uniquely designed workshop planned by Paul Collard and Paul Gorman, especially for my Year 4 class.
Who are Paul Collard and Paul Gorman?
Paul Collard is dedicated to unlocking the creativity of young people in and out of education. Paul Gorman heads up a production company, Hidden Giants, which creates experiments in learning to develop purpose-built projects that are at the frontier of nurturing curiosity, exciting learners and progressing thinking in students.
What did the day entail?
Students viewed visual arts pieces and were encouraged to “see, think and wonder” through questioning. In response to specific pieces, students were asked to use “WOW” words or powerful vocabulary to create “epic” or “mind-blowing” stories from their perspective, using no more than two sentences.
As students grew in confidence, articulating their observations and asking questions, they were asked to do the same in response to a William Bradley painting used to explore perspectives around the arrival of the First Fleet in Australia (linked to the Year 4 curriculum). Students were encouraged to not only consider recorded history (which is often partial to one group’s perspective), but to also consider those voices who may not have had access to traditional mainstream recording methods of the time (thereby having no ‘voice’).
Students listened to, and pondered the meaning of lyrics from the Australian Folk song “Botany Bay” and added two stanzas of their own in small groups, writing them from the perspective of the convicts looking onto the historic scene captured by William Bradley.
After a recess break, students viewed a 2009 television news report which detailed different perspectives regarding an alleged/witnessed UFO sighting, again illustrating the importance of perspectives and our innate human responses to information that may challenge our thinking.
Finally, in closing, students were asked to prepare an audio-visual news report (using modern communication media) with the purpose of delivering information to the Aboriginal Elders at the time of the First Fleet landing.
Our session concluded with students and facilitators reflecting on the insights gained over the course of the morning. These included the value of good collaboration skills and the importance of a plan of action when tackling those fun, but challenging tasks. Students realised that yes, it is fun to be challenged as we learn!
“The highlight of the day was when we were learning about the First Fleet and seeing photographs in a different way, and not just to look at a photo and say ‘the person looks happy’, but instead you can question yourself. And I loved doing the news report because we learnt how to work with different people.Kyann Dunjey
What did your students learn?
Students learnt about the importance of seeing, thinking and wondering about the images and information they encounter. They learnt skills to discover and negotiate meaning with their peers as they ‘unpacked’ visual information or considered recorded perspectives.
As an educational practitioner, it was interesting to see how traditional inquiry in specific subject areas was linked to understanding the information we encounter all around us today, as was the example with the television report which was on a different subject, but which still required critical evaluation skills.
What will you implement in your class?
I will definitely continue to practise the art of applying reflective learning from one scenario to other unexpected scenarios for deeper student engagement. I will also incorporate the idea of different perspectives into subject fields.
Teachers want students to understand others’ perspectives and days like today just go to show, that students are enthusiastically willing to do this. Similarly, I do believe it is a great challenge for classroom teachers to also embrace other perspectives for approaching engaging lesson design.
On a personal level, it was wonderful to feel ‘on the same page’ as the educational facilitators in terms of my approach to learning. To me authentic learning is more about student thinking processes and less about student outputs.
It was a privilege for our class to be an ambassador for the SCEA Group of schools and I am grateful to Mrs Mathilda Joubert, Principal of the SCEA Institute of Teaching and Learning, for encouraging me to pursue the opportunity.