Thursday, September 24, 2009

Principals doing some real learning

Northland principals learning how to paddle the canoe at Waitangi.Impressive to observe the growth in their co ordination and style. Next step onto the water!

The past month has seem me presenting at Principals Conferences from the Bay of Islands to Franz Joseph but the best lesson I learnt was watching a group of Northland principals learn how to to handle the paddles for the big war canoe.

Watching them learn how to paddle and move from un co ordinated individuals to working in harmony was truly impressive. It made me think of the research of Graeme Nuttall's written up in his book 'The Hidden Lives Of Learners'. In this book Nuttall records that learners need at least three experiences of any learning event for it to become part of their thinking.

First principals had to 'volunteer' - so only the brave ( or the slow) came forward. Learning obviously involves an element of risk taking. Earlier others 'volunteered' to enact Mrs Busby landing on the foreshore while others came forward to pull up the first New Zealand flag. During these role plays our teachers informed us of the history involved, including the story of Hone Heke chopping down the flagstaff. One of our guides also dressed up as Mrs Busby to take us through her house explaining construction details. All very enlightening. History coming alive.

Back to the war canoe.

First the 'expert' tutor lined up the 'novice' paddlers and explained what was going to happen and then he demonstrated the movements of the paddle and the chants involved for each movement. It was all , at first, quite complicated. He then took them through the movements slowly paying attention to vital points. One one point of the practice half were paddling followed by the second group. After three or four practices the end results to those watching was very impressive. For the paddlers their first awkwardness and lack of confidence was transformed into a powerful demonstration of learning. For those involved it was a transformational experience, by paddling and loud chanting - they gained a real 'feeling for' the art of paddling.

The 'next step' would be on the water.

For us all a great example of powerful teaching -and we all learnt a lot about the history of New Zealand.

Learning by doing. Seems like a good idea!

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