Saturday, 5 November 2016

Week 6 - September 2011


Week six - finalising the commission

By the time week six rolled around, students had done quite a lot of work on their concept designs for the playground. With Lynette's support they had worked in small groups, each responsible for a designated 'zone' within the whole park. Lynette encouraged them to work collectively, but also individually - thanks to the fact that this was a fictional context there was plenty of room for each child to make their own individual decisions and pursue their design ideas (the client would take these away and consider all of them carefully). The designs took on board the movement qualities they had explored together, and the features of bats they had researched. Account was also taken of the features of each zone, as discovered on the field trip (e.g. whether this was a sunny or shady corner, whether tall trees could be incorporated and so on).

In terms of ensuring real learning about design principles, Lynette worked with the children on the concept of "flow" - making sure that one design zone flowed well into the next. Thus, children had to communicate with people from other groups and maintain an awareness of how the overall playground was shaping up.

And the ideas were terrific - they included flying fox type zip slides, a steep slide that drops the user into darkness, flips them upside down and wraps them in winglike covers (giving the experience of being a bat) - a water slide for summer, which over winter could be pumped dry and used as a skate park - the list was long and exciting. Children had also taken into consideration the neighbours' concerns and included a dog walking area (even an adventure area for the dogs and owners to share), soundproofing walls, height limitations (to allow the roosting bats to continue their flightpaths - as well as protecting the neighour's views). There was also a Tai chi garden in zone one (taking into account the fact that someone had been in that part of the park doing Tai chi when we visited). The educational possibilities of the play area had not been forgotten either with information boards about the bats included at strategic points around the pathways.

The intention for this session was to deepen the learning in the technical aspects of design.

Our objective was to teach the principle of "Birds eye view" drawing. We could have done this by having a teacher 'up the front' of the class. We considered framing this as "professional development" for the company.... a mode which has worked well in the past. But by putting the student teachers into role as 'trainees" without a clue about the plan, we found a way to bring the new learning to the children without breaking their status as experts....

So Children were invited to watch as the student teachers went into role as company 'trainees' gathered around a playground design plan. This was a 'proper' professional lanscape plan that had been drawn up for a school playground and garden (Heathcote always stresses the use of "real" "adult" resources and this one was provided by Anna, one of the student teachers, who had done a course in landscape design... she made a few amendments to make it look like the plan had come from the "wild at Heart" archives.)
Children gathered round and listened in whilst the trainees looked confused about the plan "I found this in the archives - and I was wondering what it was? It says that bit's a building - but where are the doors and the windows?" etc etc. Periodically, the scene was 'paused' and children were asked "what do you see here?". They successfully arrived at the idea that the plan was a bird's eye view - and clearly the trainees didn't understand this. I finished by saying "Would we have the time, do you think, to offer some professional development to the trainees in how to understand and draw from a bird's eye view?"

In pairs, children took charge of a trainee and explained birds eye view to them. In preparing for the lesson, the student teachers had brought a range of small objects with them (cylinders, boxes etc) and the children "helped" them work out how to draw these from directly above. The value here, of course, was the ways that children found to explain and describe bird's eye view... "Oh dear, you are doing a good job but it's a bit wrong... If I could just explain it to you one more time ... yes, that's looking better ...."
When everyone had had a chance to try the exercise, I travelled around and placed a hand on the shoulder of the "trainee" / student teacher. Children / company members were invited to speak the thoughts of the trainee and express what they had learned.

Statements included "I think I get it now" and "I see - You don't draw the bit that's underneath unless it's BIGGER than the top and sticks out". Of course this was really a way of getting the children to speak up about their own learning and understandings of the birds eye view drawing process.

After practising on the small objects, the groups moved out to the playarea (the ACTUAL playarea) outside the classroom and had a go at the much trickier job of creating a birds eye view of the large pieces of play equipment. Again, some rich discussion was had here as the children / company members mentored the trainees / student teachers. "You can't actually get up above it, so you have to imagine you are flying over it". One child paused to ask me "How HIGH is the bird flying that's got the bird's eye view - because that would make all the difference to what we draw". What a super question! Where children were still a little stuck on the principles of bird's eye view, there was an opportunity for the student teacher to take a more 'instructional' stance and some did this.

Back to the "board room" to close the session and make a list of what still required doing before the presentation to clients next week. There was quite a long list created by the class - from invitations to the client (and the neighbours), to completion of plans, internal communication to the construction team, rehearsal of the presentation, provision of refreshments and so on.

With only one week to go until the presentation of ideas to the client, we made a list of what we felt needed to be achieved. Children

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