I was talking to some young teachers at school and they were asking me what it was like in the mythical times before the National Curriculum. I started telling them about some of the things we did back then. The funny thing is, you could still do these things today, although you would have to think of some Learning Objectives, write them up in big writing and nail them to the classroom wall before you began. This might possibly remove a little of the fun. You do not always know what you are going to learn when you start to do something! So here is the first in a series of small adventures in Primary education. Think of it as an antidote to Govism.
One morning a five-year-old turned up at school with a bird's nest. I have no idea what kind of a bird made it, though I'm sure we looked it up at the time. It was a perfect little bowl, made from fragments of woven straw and grass and beautifully lined with the softest moss and feathers. 'I wonder how hard it would be to make one of those?' I said, just thinking out loud really.
'Easy!' they all said. 'Let's try.'
So we spent a morning collecting materials and couldn't find everything we needed on the school field. At the weekend we collected a lot more, and some clever child (or their parents) discovered that mud might be a useful element in some kinds of nests, so we made some of that too. Then we set to work. It was wonderfully messy, and we didn't make a single habitable nest. It turns out that making nests is just one of many things that birds do much better than us. I guess that's what we learned - making birds' nests is very difficult if you are not a bird.
We didn't write about this activity. I didn't carry out any assessments. But I am fairly sure that those children will still remember the day they tried to make birds' nests, twenty-five years ago.
How to remember Christmas - by Lu Hersey
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