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Place based curriculum in social sciences at Logan Park High School

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Paul Enright, head of social sciences at Logan Park High School in Dunedin, explains that he found the New Zealand Curriculum allowed freedom to experiment. Paul explains the development of a place based curriculum at his school. 


As we began to get to grips with the new curriculum we realised that we’d have to approach what we currently did in a quite a different way. Also we started to realise that there was an awful lot of potential to do things that we’d talked about and that sort of thing. That there was a new freedom to experiment and people were very keen to get involved in finding new directions and finding new ways of approaching what we currently did as well.

The school as a whole did a review of its curriculum. We consulted with the community and we came up with a variation or something that sits inside The New Zealand Curriculum, which is The Logan Park Curriculum. It has a strong focus on past, present, place and so on and so we decided of course that we’re actually very well placed in the social sciences to examine all of those things along with heritage and various other things that are, if you like, our local variation on visions and the themes and so on of The New Zealand Curriculum.

We had a series of meetings as a department and came up with a set of what we thought were proposals that we could put to the students and discuss with them. Students liked the idea and this was both juniors and seniors because we wanted those that were in a position to be able to reflect on what they’d experienced as well as those that were currently expecting it. They liked the idea of themes and so we hit upon the theme of ‘the search for a fairer society’ because we felt that that allowed us to pick up on all of the sorts of things about using past and present, about using New Zealand focus, about using a global focus, and so on.

What we’re trying to do is provide students with a really strong sense of place. Strong sense of what shapes this place and so it’s that notion, I guess, of trying to make sure that the place that you’re at is represented in your curriculum, that it’s not a distant thing that it’s not all overseas; important as European and American and Asian history may be - that they nonetheless are seen as part of the picture and that the local picture has a role as well. The crucial thing about introducing a new course like that is that there needs to be support for it. It can’t really be driven by one person’s enthusiasm and the more we talked about it, the more enthusiasm there was for it. It’s meant that one or two of the department members have undertaken a bit of extra study and a bit of extra reading. That’s been useful as well because that’s added another dimension to things like staff meetings and this sort of thing. Where we have our departmental meetings we’re often talking about, if you like, content, whereas previously it often used to be talking just about the mechanics of these things.

Students are discovering different capabilities, it’s interesting watching them work together. It’s one of these things that I suppose the key competencies have alerted us to that we need to be looking at things like self management but also at participation and these sorts of things. Encouraging that in a formal sense but the measures that we get are that students are more engaged. There is also a feeling that you don’t have to grind your way through a topic because it’s prescribed or this sort of thing which from time to time could happen. By applying the values and vision of the new curriculum and so on, it’s perhaps opened me to a bit more consultation and a bit more dialogue about what’s happened and that’s been really interesting and revealing both in terms of what the students perceive and also in terms of what my department perceives and wants. So hopefully what we’re doing is achieving a better understanding. 

Published on: 29 Oct 2012