Creating great students

• Students from North Freo get creative. Photo by Taryn Hays.

A PILOT project encouraging North Fremantle and Melville primary school students to get creative has helped improve their academic learning while giving teachers back their “mojo”, says a UWA researcher.

Mathilda Joubert has been evaluating WA non-profit creative agency FORM’s Creative Learning program, which was rolled out across 16 state schools last year and is based on an Australian-first collaboration with UK-based educator Paul Collard.

Ms Joubert says students are put together with people from creative industries, and the signs have been encouraging.

“It’s putting children in the driver’s seat of their own learning,” Ms Joubert said.

“The biggest impacts have been that it gives students agency and a voice in the learning process.”

She said “run of the mill” schools often needed targeted help with student engagement, and Creative Learning gave teachers permission to teach in alternate ways.

“Comments that I hear most from teachers are that it’s given them courage to teach the way they have always wanted to teach, to try more creative approaches and to see them through.”

International research has highlighted the importance of creative learning, nature play and child-led practices in education outcomes, and how the effects can ripple throughout a school.

North Fremantle principal Linda Chandler says the school’s approach was to nurture the kids to help them become lifelong learners, and while the teachers were always on the lookout for interesting learning experiences, Creative Learning gave them an extra edge.

“The FORM program gives primary school students intense, arts-based learning across the WA curriculum,” Ms Chandler said.

“It includes a professional learning component for teachers and artists, followed by an artist-in-residence over two terms in one school year.”

Fremantle artist and educator Charissa Delima has been North Freo’s artist in residence and says the program has helped her share her own knowledge creatively.

“The five habits of learning has been a great foundation in this process,” she says.

“As a creative, one power outcome is the quiet students felt they have been heard – it’s empowered them and given them a voice.”

Teacher Roberta Slattery says Creative Learning has helped her teaching.

“The gift that [it] brings is invaluable as the personal growth we are all experiencing is phenomenal,” Ms Slattery said.

Perth educational leader and researcher Gillian Howarth says Creative Learning is a good start, but the school system could offer more well-rounded education.

The co-founder of the Conscious Education Movement works predominantly with homeschool communities and educators promoting creativity, mindfulness and child-led observance as a foundation for teaching.

“Our schools don’t represent the needs of the future,” Ms Howarth said.

“They don’t even represent the needs for now.

“It can take a big shift in perspective, though, in order to bring the changes to education and schooling from the way things have been done in the past towards a more relevant model for the future.”

by TATIANA DALIN

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