This diorama was produced by a girl in Grade 3 in a US elementary school. It’s featured in a new blog called Re-inventing Project Based Learning
Jane Krauss, the blog’s author has some kind words about the Classroom Displays blog and group and then asks an interesting question:
What do class displays tell us about what goes on in school, and about what we value in student work?
My own feeling is that in this case some of what we are valuing here is that ‘doll’s house’ urge that many little girls go through. There’s a delight in the miniturisation of the world combined with an almost obsessive eye for detail. I have vivid memories of just such a topic that grabbed my attention as an 8 year old. I spent a whole term obsessed with yurts, gers, and all things Mongolian. I built a tiny village of gers with my own handmade felt and willow twigs, made covers, rugs, and saddle bags and generally lost myself in the creation of my own tiny world. I’m not sure how much I actually learned that term, when others were doing maths or writing poems, I remained steadfastly perfecting my village. Long after the project was over I continued my interest and even now I still love yurts.
That was the topic work of the long ago ’60 and ’70s and it was swept away in England with the introduction of the National Curriculum. But of course it was never really totally swept away. Good teachers always look for ways of introducing themes, it’s just that now they might be called ‘cross curricular integration’. They’ve always looked for ways of providing work that caught children’s interests at a particular stage of development, that channeled children’s skills and built on their existing capabilities. It’s just that now it might be called ‘personalisation of learning’.
I recently asked a teacher who does a great deal of work that could be described as themed how she felt about the latest swing of the pendulum back towards project work. She surprised me by recoiling in horror. With all their faults there was no way she wanted to abandon the Literacy and Numeracy hours and return to “the chaos of the classroom free-for-all.”
So what does this diorama say to you?