A study based on local and famous churches.
Students potato printed background.
The other day I was visiting my old friend John Cunningham. He had been recently sorting through old notes ( John is a bit of a hoarder) and had found some photos from his 1970 classroom and I suggested they might make an interesting blog.. In all areas of life we need to look backwards to move into the future; ' Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it' ( Santana ).
A little bit of pre-history.
In the 1950s the Director of Education Dr Beeby established an art advisory service led by Gordon Tovey. The advisers encouraged teachers to develop integrated related arts programmes breaking away from the then tight timetables. In the 60s many teachers ( mainly in rural schools ) developed such student centred programmes and John Cunningham was one such teacher. An important influence the time was the work of Elwyn Richardson who worked in the far North in the 1950s - his book In The Early World became an inspiration to us all..
|John's 1970 class. All now in their late 40s!|
As an adviser ( in Nature Study and then Science) I worked with teachers developing integrated programmes in our province - Taranaki. .We were all impressed with an open ended approach to science known as the Junior Nuffield Science Approach. One UKteacher we admired was Henry Pluckrose whose school I visited.
In 1970 I began working with sympathetic local teachers to meld the related art and open ended science approaches. One idea that impressed me abut UK teaching was the emphasis they placed on motivational displays to motivate curiosity room environments celebrating quality student work in all areas of learning.
In the following decade teachers involved became recognised widely throughout New Zealand as the Taranaki Environmental Approach.
The 'environment' referred to the intellectual, aesthetic, social and emotional aspects of the classrooms involved - today maybe 'culture' is a more preferable word.
John Cunningham teacher 1970
So this brings me back to John Cunningham. Contrary to other teachers involved John taught in a large urban school in what we now would call decile one. His 1970 year was an exciting and somewhat challenging one but finally a very successful one.
|An emphasis on displaying quality students work. Extra display boards were provided.|
Developing observational skills vital - the above relate to Land Wars study.
Work framed and mounted and displayed on coloured hessian.
In Johns words the first attempts to develop four active social rotational groups 'were an absolute disaster'. The students did not have the skills to take advantage of all the opportunities offered and John wrote 'I had neglected to take into account the need for a gradual change' and he continues 'there was an important need to slow down the pace of work and to encourage the idea of craftsmanship and finish'.
Class studies linked all aspects of the curriculum. The display above was centred around
Hemmingway's book The Old Man and the Sea which the class really enjoyed.
Trips into the environmental feature - this photo is a part of an extensive bridge study.
Slowly the students learnt the need for slow careful work giving John the opportunity to help students, or small groups as required. Lessons were taken to develop observational drawing ('OD') and presentation skills and students began to understand their concept of achieving their 'personal best ( ' PB'). Student bookwork began to show a real growth in quality - study books and personal writing books in particular. Four page concertina books (made from a half sheet of cartridge) were developed to present finished work and aspects were part of the rotary group work.
As John wrote 'independence, initiative and genuine interest were being fostered'.
|Blackboards defined group rotational tasks as well as reading and maths.|
Whole class themes rotated with group studies and individual research projects. Field trips into the local environment were a feature of the programme as were the variety of art media introduced. As success developed parents became involved both working in the classroom with designated groups an on field trips.
Spider unit. John made use of the Learning in Science inquiry approach
|Display based on class trip to Mount Taranaki,|
John's programme was constantly evolving as skills developed. Later John was to develop the ideas in an open plan situation working with four other teachers but that's another story. John's experience in an open plan environment provides insight for those developing today's Innovative Learning Environments.
|Display of work based om monarch study|
|Quality art work based on local house study.|
Students regularly visited from the Palmerston North Teachers College and one of their lectures , David Aitken, complied a photo book on John's classroom, The book was shown to Dr Beeby who commented the this was the kind of teaching he envisaged in the 1940/50s. Unfortunately this valuable record has been lost.
Art work from a snail study
John appreciated creative diversity in his classroom
An illustration from 'our' booklet
Learning from the Children