Monday 10 October 2011

Willow crowns and wands

We made crowns, bracelets, wands and stars ready for 'The kiss that missed', medieval & magic themed Garden club at Kings Heath Community Centre this Wednesday.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Search for a hero

Last week has been really exciting as Paganel Primary School decided to take a whole week to explore heroes in every class - Greek, local, vegetable and every other variety.  Everyone loves heroes.  It's a great tool for learning - to think about our heroes and villains, those we know, we imagine, or the ones in all of us.

I was leading two days of workshops on, 'Food heroes and villains'.  First thoughts on 'Food Heroes' was nutritional and healthy food - Initial chat with school suggested children and parents are not necessarily very familiar with fruit and veg (See brown bags vs. mystery meat).  This fitted well with my feelings to try and keep what 'heroes' and 'villains' the children chose (and why) open - partly to see what they already knew, but mainly to see what they thought about fruit and veg.  We choose to only look at fruit and veg, and not muddy the waters with processed or other foods.

Only veg and fruit (no obvious sweets, crisps or other bad boys) meant focus was on veg and fruit, but also on what children thought about the good stuff.  Not surprisingly, the look or the taste seemed more important to children than any health or other considerations.

So what makes a hero, or a villain?

Spiky Cucumber is caught stealing.
 Pumpkin and Sweetcorn save the day.
'Heroes save the world.'

'Heroes always help people.'

'Heroes are kind and think about other people.'

'Villains want to rob and keep it all for themselves.'

'Villains take over the world.   They want to control everything.'

The children understood straight away.   Every child in the school has been encouraged in this week to tell us about their own (personal) hero.  Children as young as four were quite capable to articulate what made a 'hero' and why.  Whether it's a Daddy, an Uncle or a family friend, children understood:

'He is kind because he helps people by taking them to hospital for treatment.'

Pyn Stockman, the creative practitioner working with other classes was making masks of heroes, based largely on the children's personal heroes.  We had vegetables, and not really enough time, staff or proper risk assessment to introduce carving.

So we concentrated on accessorising our vegetables, and creating scenery, lighting, other means of making a story, with the help of our storyboards.  Every child made their own hero or villain, but worked towards developing teamwork - children working together to create their stories.   The stories needed at least one hero and one villain for a story anyway, and this provided a means to make teams and explore why or how a hero does what he or she does.  Teamwork is recognised as important by teaching staff, but:

'We don't often work together like this.  It's not easy to assess individuals.'

The heroes lent a helping hand for the children to reflect:

'Heroes can work together.  Villains aren't very good at it.' (child comment)

The project has been really well supported by all the staff at the school, and both the Head and Deputy visited and talked to the children.  For a moment I worried what response the head teacher would get when he walked into a lively class and ask children, 'Where's the learning?'  Everyone was having fun, but the heroes were working tirelessly on the learning - children were having discussions together about what being a hero is all about, and the challenges of working together to save the world!

Teacher comment:

'Some of them found it quite difficult to work together...[The children said] 'I don't want this to happen, I don't want that to happen'.  They're a very independent bunch that like their own ideas.  They all enjoyed will help teamwork in the class, and tomorrow if they actually put other people's heroes into their [creative writing] stories, that'll be great!'

Child comment:

'It's hard to work together when it is working in a noisy team.  It can be hard.  You need to listen to each other.'

Useful links:

Fruit and veg city

Bad School Lunches uncovered

What is a fair share?