While my role has slightly shifted my focus on using place to enhance our learning has not. This unit we are looking into how artifacts can help us understand civilisations and societies. It’s pretty exciting because I’ve been telling all kinds of Singapore folk stories.
While we can’t go out to the sites, I’ve been using video, pictures and stories to connect people to the land. While most of my class (all but one) has been here for at least two years, so many students haven’t heard of any of Singapore’s stories. It’s always surprising (even though it shouldn’t be really).
So, the plan is, I’ve started with stories, pictures and video. Today we had a guest speaker who is an archaeologist video conference to tell us about the way archaeology is done here, and some of the findings they have discovered. For the next couple of weeks we will be looking at things that represent the individuals and to finish off the unit we want to think about the things that describe us as a class, here and now. I want them to be able to focus on who we are and where we are in place and time. I’m hoping we can make a little class civilisation that will focus our learning a little more as the year goes on.
I”m struggling through this idea of a conceptual framework right now. What is driving my study, what are my theoretical understandings? Sommerville (2010) talked about the different underpinnings that have defined her work, and the authors who helped her clarify her understanding.
Both of us have been moved by Gruenewald (2003) who challenges us to take part in a place responsive pedagogy. We need to deconstruct and decolonise our relationship with place, we need to know more about how things have developed, where the power lies and try to sort out what that means for us.
This is a challenge to most modern thinking that doesn’t believe or value the idea of a specific or special place. Schooling, Sommerville (2010) argues is the perfect placeless area. Schools want us to be standard, to be normal, to not have outside aspects influence our learning or our thinking. We should be able to apply anything to a global level, without thinking about place specifics. This deeply challenges ecosystems and most systems thinking (from an environmental perspective at least).
For me, so far, this always goes back to love, and how to love. We need to spend time in our places and really get to know them. We need to love them, see how they work and value the places for what they are (not what we want them to be). I’m wondering I guess, how do we get out of that way of thinking, how can we really deconstruct ourselves, is this even possible for international teachers?
Sommerville, M. (2010) A Place Pedagogy for “Global Contemporaneity”. Educational Philosophy and Theory 42(3)
Our grade 3 students are looking at how migration happens as a result of challenges, risks and opportunities. one of their activities we were working on was interviewing people in Chinatown.
At first the students were hesitant, they were a little shy and they didn’t know what to expect, but it worked out much better than I had anticipated. The adults around Chinatown were really curious about what the kids were up to and many waited in line to be interviewed. We wanted students to feel confident talking to others, but also learn how to collect data with purpose. Their biggest take away was people come from everywhere.
Sometimes when ex-pat students are living in a new country we have a tendency to think everyone is either from the places we are from or a local, this showed us how blurred those lines really were and the students loved it. After we worked on the interviews we explored some reasons why people may have moved and how things have changed in Singapore over the past 700 years, but the reasons for migration are pretty much the same. It helps tie our present situations to other’s feeling throughout history and now.
For our fifth grade Open Minds we are looking at how artefacts help us understand civilisations. So we go out on a dig. I have to get up early (almost too early) to go and dig a huge trench, then I place artefacts in the trench and then the kids come and dig them up.
It’s a pretty great process for them, when they find things they absolutely love it. We work the rest of the afternoon on looking at the form and possible function of the artefacts and start seeing how we can place them in a story. It’s all pretty interesting and the kids learn a lot.
For me one of the take aways is how we can socially construct our understanding of the world around us. When encountering new artefacts people draw on previous experiences and we’re not always sure how they get to certain conclusions. It’s always interesting to see what they think and why they think the way they do.