Saturday, May 08, 2010

Real in depth learning

Too much teacher time and energy ( a teachers two most valuable commodities) are being distracted by the imposition of national standards. So when you visit a school and see real quality learning it is a reminder of what creative teaching and learning is really about - not endless assessments and data crunching.

At Moturoa School, in New Plymouth, native plant are a feature of the school grounds most grown by students themselves over the years. Not only do they propagate a range of native plants, including some species rare in Taranaki, they also study them in class and have made use them as the basis of extensive mural making.

The school is lucky to be able to draw on expertise for both the propagation and artistic expression.For the latter they have the help of an ex art adviser and such expertise makes areal difference.

It is a shame that the early range of advisers - in art, science, music, physical education etc are to be replaced by literacy and numeracy advisers who will, no doubt, be peddling, and imposing, academically devised 'best practice' ideas. Conformity and standardisation, it seems, is to replace creative teachers insight and professional judgement.

At Moturoa the students first collected samples of the plants they wanted to include in their mural. Chosen plants were closely observed and good ideas selected for possible inclusion in the final mural.

Plants could well have been studied scientifically as well in class and this could have well involved pertinent literary and mathematical experiences. The best learning is based around real authentic studies.

After observational drawing decisions and choices needed to be made about placement on the mural.

Observational drawing is a vital skill for all learners as it helps children really see by slowing down the pace and allowing adult helpers to interact so as to provide assistance as necessary. Students who have been help to see closely by making use of their senses, looking for patterns, lines, textures, shapes also develop extensive verbal and written vocabularies.

It is a shame such close observation is not a feature of more classrooms. As students observe their minds can be encouraged to think of questions to research and poetic idea noted to later transform into their own poetry As well the observational ideas are available as the basis for imaginative expression.

When the idea are sorted out the painting begins.The mural are completed with a a range of acrylic house paints mixed to get a range of colours. This painting involves experimentation, perseverance,choice and decision making - all vital competencies for future learning.

The whole process is a wonderful example of the creative process in action.

It is all about doing something really well. The feelings children get in the process are beyond measurement but will stay with them for life. The finished murals are regarded by the artists with great pride and admired by school visitors.

The process can be applied to any animal or plant study, or any study at all, and need not result in a mural - often simply a class display around a chosen theme is enough

Great work!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is the sort of teaching I love to do. I have had enough of jumping through hoops and conforming to 'mediocrity' because it looks like someones perceived example of best practice. I notice that many school's now only offer whole staff development, so what you're given is all you get in terms of development. I've chosen to resign because actions speak louder than words.