Creative way of environment learning

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Creative way of environment learning

Between March and April this year, children at Rushcombe First School, Corfe Mullen, aged between four and nine, have been learning about the environment in an innovative and creative way that has led to a wealth of high quality learning across the curriculum, as well as
developing their commitment and enthusiasm for caring for the environment.
Gavin White, deputy headteacher at Rushcombe, invited Tony Horitz, artistic director of Colehill-based State of Play Arts, to collaborate with the school developing a curriculum project based on a new version of the classic picture book The Lorax by Dr, Seuss.
Written 50 years ago, but still very topical, the story tells of a fictional land called Gricklegrass, where creatures known as Barbaloots, Hummingfish and Swomme Swans live happily, protected by a hobbit-like spirit of the trees, called the Lorax.Tony brought in a team of three actors to begin the creative process with a short performance in the school hall. Working in role as Ecological Experts (‘Wildlife Warriors’), the children were tasked with finding out what happened to the Lorax and working on ways to make Gricklegrass better. As part of the project, the teachers and children utilised a teaching and learning approach called Mantle of the Expert (MoE).
In MoE, children work with their teacher in a very different relationship to the conventional model of education, co-constructing the learning experience with their teachers and peers, and solving either real or fictional problems by working in role for an extended time – the Learning Adventure based on the Lorax lasted five weeks – incorporating all key aspects of the curriculum. This approach, combined with three theatrical inputs during the project by State of Play Arts, made for a rich and stimulating learning experience and a buzz all around the school.
The children’s work included researching a range of environmental issues at their age level, including making maps, 3D models and composing pieces of music to express their feelings and ideas about the theme. They also wrote poems, diaries and letters of persuasion. Children and staff were extremely positive about the Learning Adventure, which culminated in each class planting a tree in the school grounds, and every child planting a flowering plant.
One Year 3 child said: “The environment is important because it keeps us alive. “Trees help us breathe – they suck in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. So please plant more trees!”
Another child commented on the value of the use of the mantle of the expert approach: “It teaches us to be inclusive because in the story everyone gets a say”.
There was evidence that the children incorporated their learning into their real lives, including inspiring litter-icking outings with families and the children engaging in gardening activities. The project represented how children are a beacon of hope for the future of the natural world.
If you have a child who is of school starting age, and would like to find out more about Rushcombe First School, please contact the school office on office@rushcombe.dorset.sch.uk or 01202 695722. You can also visit the school’s website at rushcombe.co.uk.

by Tony Horitz

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