Thursday, 18 September 2014

Build Our Culture - bringing together the important ingredients


When starting a brand new school, you are creating more than just a brand new learning environment, you are creating a brand new culture.  In addition, at Hobsonville Point, we are opening in a brand new community.  This in itself is an authentic situation that allows for students to contribute and participate in meaningful way.  Helping to develop a new school culture is a task worth tackling.  So with this in mind, the first 'big' Big Project at HPSS was a challenge to our students...

A WORTHY CHALLENGE: Help build a positive new school culture through the exploration of our very own Hobsonville Habits and promote these in our wider community.  See Sally's great poster of our habits here.

(note: Challenge based learning is a great concept - check out this website for some ideas - CBL)

In addition to this challenge, help meet the needs of construction companies in this area, by helping to create a positive community spirit and hide the visual pollution of very large construction site!

This project was developed with two community partners...


AVJennings - a large property development company responsible for designing and building a range of housing projects in the local area.  And...   

Hobsonville Land Company who are responsible for the entire re-development of this historical airbase site.  They have a responsibility to also develop a positive community spirit.  

In partnership, we worked together with representatives Joanne and Kathleen from HLC and AV Jennings to create a Project Brief:
    • Designing banners (1.8m x 3.0m) to be printed and displayed in the community next to construction sites, to reflect the past, present and future of this new community using HPSS Hobsonville Habits
    • Exploring this context collaboratively, developing technical and thinking skills alongside conceptual understandings of community and cultural values.  Modes of exploration can be wide-ranging such as performance, design, writing, visual, action based, history, sculpture, sport, etc. Non picture based contexts will be captured in a photographic visual for the banners.
    • Exhibiting and sharing these new skills and understandings in an Exhibition at the school and Hobsonville Point Farmers Market - where the community can see our learning journey and final outcome of this Big Project.   

To ensure the most authentic 'real world' partnership, an artist and consultant (Naomi McCleary) was commissioned by AV Jennings to work with our students.  Naomi provided guidance and feedback, throughout the project, on a range of elements such as billboard and banner impact, colours, shapes, themes and overall design ideas.  


To ensure every student could engage with the project we developed a range of project contexts in which to explore the Habits. Sport, sculpture, robotics, drama, music, dance, conservation, design, photography, poetry, and outdoor education were some of the areas we offered opportunities in.  Personalisation and student voice came as the original project idea EVOLVED with our students.  Our project guides 'co-constructed' what the project finally became along with their students.  Some examples include: 

Sally, who chose 'contributive' and helped her students develop coaching skills to use with the local primary students.  They worked hard to develop drills, game plans and taught a range of skills including how to work as a team. 

Cindy chose 'responsive' and helped her students audit and restore the native wildlife around our community. Activities included a community survey to gauge community beliefs and awareness, tree planting in the wetlands area, installing pest tracker tunnels around the school and testing water quality of local stormwater.  

Others, such as Liz and Kylee took on the role of the physical banner construction - teaching students valuable skills in design, photography and Photoshop which lead to the projects all being photographed and 11 banners being constructed!   Collaborating with all other groups, these students were responsible for the habits being expressed in a visual medium.  They took other student groups work and actions and formulated the concept we see in the community today.


Our Build Our Culture Exhibition Invite

Our final exhibition evening was a fantastic way to see everyone's hard work and celebrate all that we had accomplished.  Liz, our wonderful exhibition coordinator, professionally 'hung' the printed banners with the help of her design students.  We had over 250 parents attend the event.  They met with students, asked questions about their projects and discovered a little more about our Hobsonville Habits.  They also had the opportunity to give our students feedback using our exhibition  feedback form.  

Our music, dance and drama projects also put on a small performance during the exhibition.  


A Build our Culture website was created (linked to a QR code found on all the banners) that shared not just the final banners but the LEARNING STORIES  of our students.  The website achives the full story behind the 15 week project , where a range of ideas, experiences and outcomes are shared.  Here we can find videos, websites, blogs, brochures and many other ways in which students have shared their project journey with the community. The website also symoblises the 'we' not 'me' values of Big Projects - everyone together meeting the challenge and working with our partners.  

An article in the local paper helps share the project further.


With all Big Projects there is a critical reflection and analysis of what was achieved over this time.  Our students could do this in a number of ways, but for many the structure of a Final Look Activity Sheet really helped their evaluations and reflections.  

MY OWN REFLECTIONS: As a 'project director' I learned a great deal during this time. One would think 15 weeks is a very sufficient amount of time for project learning, with time being a very important component of a projects success.  But, when you include an entry event, a planning phase, time to create a quality outcome, a learning journey to record, inquiry to undertake, expertise to connect with, an exhibit to plan, collaboration to do and reflection to make... 15 weeks kind of flies by!!!!

I think for a first project for our Year 9 students, the efforts of everyone should be be celebrated.  Students were engaged and the feedback was incredibly positive. Students enjoyed the challenge, developed a range of skills and felt a strong desire to do a 'great job' for our partners.  

Like all learning experiences, there is room for improvement.  Limited time left our design team highly stressed and struggling to ensure a quality outcome for every project group.  While some groups struggled to keep the momentum going for the entire length of the project.  Not all groups produced a learning story to share with others, leaving gaps in our understanding of how the project was undertaken.  But with no exemplars and a very first effort, I feel it will only get bigger and better!

Our team of project guides were fantastic and they took on the challenge with energy and enthusiasm consistently each week... amazing!  

Finally, John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller from ASCD have produced an interesting article entitled "the seven essentials of Project Based Learning".  I feel we incorporated these in Build Our Culture, some more deeply than others, but all in some capacity.  We may not have the 'need to know' within a curriculum subject area, but we have a 'need to know' in an authentic context with an accountable outcome for our students to meet.  Instead of a driving question, we had a meaningful challenge - both provide the same thing, a framework to help engage and inspire our students.  Our Hobsonville Habits were in full force throughout! 

I look forward to our next Big Projects... yep, next time there are two on the go!

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