Schools learning programs inspire federation fun and games
One of the highlights of my first year at the museum remains the visit I received from a teacher at a local girls’ school. I had heard from one of our staff members that this teacher had been very creative in devising a learning activity on Federation. Federation, although a fascinating and energetic episode in our political history, can be difficult to teach. It has the potential to be as dry as a dinner of sawdust. How can it be taught more digestibly? Obviously a visit to the Museum of Democracy is an important component, but to find out more I invited Barbara along to show me what she had done.
The school where Barbara teaches is part of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP) and thus needs to teach across two sets of curriculum requirements. In the Australian curriculum year six students study the period from Colonial Australia to the development of Australia as a Nation, particularly after 1900. Students explore the factors that led to Federation and experiences of democracy. In the International Baccalaureate PYP, the trans-disciplinary theme encompasses an inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.
From these two requirements the year six teachers distilled one central idea: that people have developed different styles of government to manage decision making in their societies. As part of this, the year would develop its own Parliament. Barbara, as School Librarian, was given the task of producing a supporting activity on Federation to inform their understanding of the Parliament. To make this more appetising, she came up with the idea that students could submit to a fictitious publishing company a game, quiz or crossword to teach others about Federation.
As expected of this age group, prior-knowledge testing revealed sketchy understanding about Federation. Further information was needed to increase their knowledge to the level required to make up a whole game on the subject. The students were provided with a snapshot tool—a paper-based plan with structured questions in boxes. These questions were designed to guide their research. An early component of the exercise was a visit to the Museum of Australian Democracy Schools Learning Program ‘Who’s the Boss?’ to inspire and inform the students. The students were also provided links to appropriate websites and YouTube clips were given to students. Barbara also collated a resource box of pamphlets and books on the subject. The girls were so keen to produce the games they were visiting the library at lunchtimes to work on research and production.
When I saw the games I was thrilled by the variety and the imagination displayed. There were board games, trivia quizzes, true and false quizzes and even a computer game. It was not just the physical appearance of the activities which uplifted me. It was also the effort, research and new learning that had palpably gone into the production, and behind that, the imaginative teaching which had supported and challenged the students. During our programs at the museum we aim to inspire students and teachers by bringing alive the concept of Democracy and the importance of a democratic Parliament. It is wonderful to see such creative teaching and to realise that our programs have inspired such a rich response.