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Project based learning: Jez Maurice Smith from Arnold Hill Academy says ……

Heads up

“Remember to lift your head and take in all that’s going on in the classroom”.

A frequent piece of advice that I give teachers that I work with. It’s all too easy to get stuck head down moving from group to group with questions, guidance and intervention. In doing so the needed help and direction can so easily be missed. So just like on an arduous hike, don’t forget to take your eyes off your feet and take in the vista.

Last June I was challenged to design and deliver a Learn2Learn, cross-curricular course taught by a mixed team of subject staff. All I knew was that I didn’t want to simply deliver a set of worksheet driven, skills sessions. The learning had to have a reason... Keep your head up.

By chance I came across the charity Friends of Chernobyl’s children. They foster children from Belarus for a month long medical respite visit for 5 years. A month in the UK is life extending to them as they grow up in a country affected by a disaster 30 years ago in a country that wasn’t their own. Head down and looking at my feet I might of missed this. Suddenly the course was born. We had a reason and a purpose. Y7 now study their situation and their circumstance through all the different curricula. We’ve learnt about the radiation, debated the ethics of nuclear power. Explored historical sources, learnt some Russian and written poems about the disaster. Why? The answer is simple because this is the life of the 13 ten year olds that we are raising money for. The 13 that want to spend a day in our normal lessons in June. The children whose life is so very different to our own.

The teachers of Project Based Learning are not experts in all, they are role model learners. My teachers take risks, learn with their students and endlessly amaze with their creative delivery of the course. They love it.

Half full or half empty that my favourite and most challenging learning and teaching should come from a cataclysmic disaster. Whichever, my message remains simple. Keep your head up and find the learning opportunities around you.

Jez Maurice Smith