Saturday, July 01, 2006

Are you my Mummy?

  Posted by Picasa Last day of term I drove to see the culmination of an eight week integrated study based around the theme of Egypt – called ‘Are You My Mummy’?

It was well worth the trip and I spent a couple of enjoyable hours reading, viewing and absorbing the wealth of content the various classes had studied. Just as impressive was observing the obvious pride shown by the young children taking their parents and grandparents around the display to show them the work that they had done. And what I also liked was that all the work was of real artistic quality – the whole exhibition was simply impressive.

Each term the teachers at this school collaboratively plan a theme arising from suggestions gathered from the students themselves about what thay wanted to study. Earlier studies had focused around space and Harry Potter.

These are no superficial studies. The themes involve the whole school and for the first few weeks student work in family groups completing tasks devised by various teachers. This requires the teaching of co-operative learning skills so the older students can assist the younger students. As the study evolves, and as the students get greater depth of understanding, further questions develop and students then work at tasks in their own classes. Inquiry learning skills are learnt as students undertake their ‘action research’ and a full range of information technology is integrated as required. As well some students take on extra homework tasks that they complete with the help of their family members.

The theme was introduced by a mock presentation by teachers of getting a body ready for mummification – complete with body parts provided by the local butcher!

All the work culminates with a two open days and a night for parents and friends. Two spare rooms are converted with student murals based on the theme, lighting, and displays featuring the various topics the classes has researched. This includes a large sphinx, a pyramid with a model mummy inside, a life sized mummification process etc.

A data projector PowerPoint runs continually illustrating research on making pyramids, mummification etc, and computers screen various animations and plays.

A closer look at the displays illustrates the: science of building, model making, jewelry making, Egyptian style art, cooking, making paper, hieroglyphics, model mummified cats, pottery, Egyptian maths, and water clocks. Every area of the curriculum, and every intelligence, seems to be included. The study also asked the students to compare life in their town and ancient Egyptian life. I particularly liked the similarities between the Egyptian ad Maori myths of creation.

Being present is a powerful experience, from the overall effect, to the most intimate detail of each individual students work. Quality in depth learning!

The students have learnt a lot from their study other than content. They have learnt to work together and share ideas. They have learnt 'how to learn' and how to go about presenting their ideas with sense of aesthetic design. They have learnt to value their various strengths. Most of all they have gained in 'learning power' and pride.

And all this in school that a couple of years ago was struggling.

The greatest benefit of might well be in the new understandings about learning, and the power of working together collegiality, that the teachers have gained in the process.

Their pride was as obvious as their students - they are a true learning community

It was well worth the visit and I can't wait to see their next exhibition.


Anonymous said...

It is great to see integrated studies (and family grouping) still being done in primary schools. The results look fantastic.It must be a great school! It would be amazing if secondary schools started doing it as well, at least for their year 8 and 9 classes.

Anonymous said...

Sure makes a change from this obsession with literacy and numeracy! Inspirational!

Anonymous said...

I have had the privilege of seeing 'Are you my mummy' at Opunake Primary School, as well as all of their other open days. It truely is awesome learning. The proof to learning is to hear 6 year olds explaining to their parents about words such as hierogryphics being the ancient people's picture language or that only rich pharohs got to be mummified poor people just got wrapped up and put in the sand.
I believe our children at secondary schools are missing out on this important learning as well. Instead they are subjected to boring rote learning that turns them off education and does nothing to continue ownership to their own learning.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Seeing is believing, as they say - and there sure was a lot to see. And I also overheard several childen 'informing' their proud parents about what they had researched and made - and also parents who came back for a second time with other family members!

If only teachers in the local secondary school could build on such developmnts.It is ideally suited to year 9 and 10 year olds!

Learning, as you say, is always about 'ownership'!