I’m Gay Gilbert and I’m the deputy principal at Hillcrest Normal School in Hamilton.
And my name’s Lynette Townsend and I work at Hillcrest and I’m a senior teacher there.
And we’ve been working on a joint project with the Faculty of Education from Waikato University and Teaching and Learning Research Initiative run by NZCER and our work’s based on Dorothy Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert which is an approach to inquiry, and it’s a dramatic approach in teaching and learning. Just quoting Dorothy she says in Mantle kids are talking like responsible adults with a job to do. I think about it’s authentic children’s voice. For me, that’s the power. The children feel stepped up, they feel that their views are vitally important, they really believe in it. They are stepped into an imaginary world, children don’t have difficulty with that. And once they’re in there, it sort of feels like, it opens up so many places for them to step up and step into. And I guess that’s just so enriching, especially for teachers. And when you see the high engagement of children, it’s just very exciting.
I think to begin with, when I did the first one, that was in 2009, it was a little bit difficult as you sort of lost the thread. I mean, each day it took a new pathway. And I suppose each evening I was sort of thinking, well, where are we going to go with this? And we have to go with what the children are thinking, a little bit daunting to start with and then it was really exciting, I really loved it. What basically we started with, was we looked at the interests of the children, and then we used a photo of horses in a particular agitated state, and then we went into an effigy which caught the children’s interest straight away and hooked them in. So we proceeded then to work in a company, and we made a commission, and set up a logo and made a portal to our company which was the beginning of the mantle. So part of the pre-documentary focus was to look at both sides of the story. So we looked at the protesters side and we looked at the enviro issues. So there was tensions along the way which made the children think and they had to interview a DoC worker.
They agreed that they were working for the World Wildlife Fund. And they decided that they would be the - they were called problem solving people. And they decided that they would tell the story from both sides. At one stage we felt that the children were getting far too involved with the horse side of the story. So I sent an email as head of DoC saying that I was concerned that as they had promised in their company statement that they would tell an honest and truthful story but I’d heard that the protesters had their ear and that they were not presenting all of the facts and I would like to visit. So I then went in, as DoC Ranger, didn’t I Lynette?
And they interviewed her and then because the DoC workers were so busy they had to help out and conduct experiments in the field to be able to talk to the other DoC workers. So that was our link with science.
And through the storyboarding, the children used a lot of dramatic techniques they did a lot of freeze frames and they took photographs they also used a lot of technology, they took photographs from the net, they superimposed themselves on horses, they went around the playground and dramatized certain events and took photographs and storyboarded the whole thing.
We had our junior team working in Mantle of the Expert they decided to be art curators, they are only five and six year olds and they - we’re going to talk about them as well. They learned about famous artists, they painted and then they held an exhibition they were the curators of the gallery and they had an expert in and that was highly successful. So bit by bit more and more teachers in our school are experimenting with this form of inquiry, and we’re all on quite an exciting journey really.
We found that quite quiet children stepped forward and took on a leadership role. And they were participating a lot more than they would in other curriculum areas so that was exciting to see. They made comments like they felt like adults and they could make adult-like decisions, and they felt very much part of the company which they were in.
And it is a brave teacher who goes down this pathway. But I think you just have to put your toe in the water and have a try, and I guess the advice I’d give to teachers is to have a look at Dorothy’s work, and then have a dabble, have a go, just try it, try it in your own room with nobody watching you because you know you just can see where it takes you, and I think just small beginnings, that’s what we’ve had, small beginnings but we’ve grown each time we feel that we’ve learned a lot more and I think this year we’ll learn a lot more again.