Following my last post on curriculum design, I thought I would give an example of how those questions have been answered over the last few years at Hawes Side. We are still asking questions, constantly, in order to keep the curriculum as exciting and relevant as possible and this example gives you an idea of one of the ways we have attempted to do just that.
Our Year Six team were keen to take our Comenius Partnership as a starting point and get the children to look at other countries around the world. The children went away and thought about which cultures they would like to study. A cultures day was held for us at one of our partner high schools and a theatre group and dance troupe came into school to work with the children in the initial stages. These ‘entry point’ events gave the children the initial stimulus they needed to kick start their learning. It was agreed at the outset that the ‘big finish would be a ‘Night at the Museum’ an invitation to all parents and families to come and look at the children’s work. The Y6 classrooms were to be turned into a museum with children acting as guides to the work. Their work. This also helped fire the children’s imagination – what would be on display? What would they exhibit? In what form would their learning be presented?
The ‘models for the museum’ were famous landmarks from the countries the children chose for their independent study. Fantastic castles from Bavaria, the Hollywood Hills, Sydney Opera House and many other models showed that the project had gripped the interest of families at home as well as children in school, and how great for the parents to be involved! It certainly helped the children. Healthy competition existed not only between the models but also in the written projects. Innovative and exciting presentational forms were a joy to pick up, hold and read through. The children found this freedom to be creative a hugely powerful and liberating force. Their enthusiasm and motivation was driven by seeing the efforts of their peers. They shared ideas, methods, techniques and sources in a way I hadn’t witnessed before. I remember picking up one pupil’s written project on China. It was bound and beautifully presented, contained a range of calligraphy and evocative images that really gave the work a very professional appearance. It certainly didn’t look like the work of an eleven year old and I doubt if the same results would have been achieved working within the more traditional parameters.
In addition to the models and the written projects, the children also had to recored their findings using AV technology. Many chose to use podcasts, powerpoint or photostory. These audio visual presentations were then played on a loop on individual laptops as part of their museum display. As we have a number of screens around schools we were also able to play the children’s presentations around school for others. The screens are a great way of displaying digital content across the school to all classes and year groups.
As with any topic in school we are always interested in how parents might be involved. The decision to create a museum was inspired because the children had been building up to it for the whole term. Their parents had also been aware it was happening for a good while before, so they were able to commit themselves to attending for an hour after school. We were delighted with the turn out as these things are always a bit of a worry beforehand, especially as the children had been working up to this point all term.
The children talked about the work on show, their models and written projects, their artwork, journals, reports, photographs etc.. The powerpoints and photostories showed the parents just how adept they were with technology and the reaction to the work, the presentation and museum idea was really positive.
The ‘Night at the Museum’ was a great way to pull together a term’s learning. It engaged the parents and excited the children. The topic had a strong entry point stimulus, it asked the right questions and challenged the children to think critically and creatively. It also had a ‘big finish!’ Other projects have worked equally well this year but this was a great start to the year. The children reviewed the project afterwards and their feedback was quite telling. The freedom to be creative, to share ideas, to work both collaboratively and independently with a range of media was extremely well received by all.