That isn’t a question that neatly fits into any syllabus that I know, but it is still an interesting question.
The answers could be anything – for when it was asked by a colleague of mine, she told her students that they could nominate whatever they wanted, but they each had to be ready to stand up and defend their choice in a reasoned way before the rest of the class.
Nominations that came back included the nearby reservoir (nominated by two different students, one for the local wildlife and one for its engineering), the local football ground (nominated by a supporter), the swimming pool, a run-down housing estate which had just started to receive a major overhaul, Tesco’s, the public library, the local 02 store, the recycling centre…
The list of nominations went on, and of course some places were nominated over and over again. But a handful of places were nominated by just one or two students, and it was upon these that the teacher focussed. It made for a good discussion of what we each find important.
And at the end of the in-class presentations and discussions the students thought that was it.
But it wasn’t, for the teacher then told the students that she would start to pick one place nominated by each of the 12 students in her group and ask the student who put the location forward to lead the visit. And at this point the students began to see what was going on. It was part of their training to be able to do interviews for jobs, take part in seminars, to present themselves seriously to a group. It was a lesson in entering the grown-up world.
Instead of being asked to stand up in class and speak, they were going to have to act as a guide on a site they had nominated.
The teacher contacted the location, explained the project and asked for permission to run the event, which was given in each case. Then the student had to liaise with the teacher over how he/she was going to run the visit, and the event was booked.
It was, the teacher told me, just about the best event she had ever run in terms of helping the students to present themselves to others and learn what organising meant. “These young people will go into work or to university knowing how to organise an event. Most of their contemporaries won’t have a clue.”
It was thus a great project, with a unique teaching point. But none of it would have been possible without one thing.
“If we had been using public transport, then the availability of the buses would have determined which visits we could do, and that would have meant some students would not have got to do their presentation at a place of real interest – just because of transport.” the teacher told me.
I have to say that I love this story, simply because I can see it at once as the most powerful of ways of getting students to organise their thoughts, to think about their ideas, to give of themselves to others – all of which are so vital in adult life.
And it includes a use of a minibus I had never come across before. Of course, the bus is just the facilitator, but even so, it was an essential part of the project. It just shows the value of having more than one minibus on site and encouraging as many members of staff as possible to drive.
There’s a PS to this story as well. The teacher who told me the tale gave me one other piece of information. She said that although her school had two minibuses the usage of them was fairly limited to what might be expected – sports matches, geography field trips, visits to the swimming pool…
This project made her colleagues sit up and look. The students talked about each trip so much that the whole school was awash with the project – even more so when photos of the visits and presentations were put up on the display boards. When the head heard what was going on, he insisted on some of the students doing an assembly based on their choice and their visit.
“The only downside,” she told me at the end, “was that bookings of the minibus started to go up. No one wanted to be left out. We’re all doing learning outside the classroom now.”
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