In my degree, a large majority of teaching methods we are taught are often best suited for teaching outdoor education skills, such as rolling a kayak. I was unsure how these teaching methods would relate in a classroom context and to younger children, and I wondered if I would be successful in teaching them anything at all. When I learned of the plan for this week’s Bush Farm school, I was slightly sceptical towards the outcome. I wondered if the kids would be interested in bushcraft and if they would be able to complete the tasks. I anticipated tears and frustration. Whilst there were a few tears shed, I never could have predicted the learning that transpired this week for the kids. As well as myself.
After morning tea, the team gathered in a circle on the mat with our sticks that we had collected on the walk-in. John demonstrated how to split the harakeke into fine threads to make a rope to lash two sticks into a cross. At first, this was challenging for the children and they wanted a lot of help. John then explained how to weave the harakeke around and over the sticks and the God’s eye began to come to life. Some of the children were frustrated with the complex pattern but with some individual coaching, they began to weave and no longer needed us.
I was surprised at just how relevant these teaching methods were and I found myself practising DEDICTS without even realising. The teaching method DEDICTS is an acronym to demonstrate, explain, demonstrate, imitate, correction, training and summarise. The children would first watch John demonstrate and he would explain what he was doing, they would ask for another demonstration from me before they would begin to imitate what I was doing. With some correction along the way, the children would then be able to complete the skill on their own.
Once their own God’s eye began to take shape, they were excited. The chatter became much louder. They all rushed to get out what they had collected to decorate the God’s eye with such as feathers, leaves, flowers and bark. They showed other students what they had brought and how they planned to decorate their God’s eye. They were also offering their supplies to others who had less. John then crafted a frame for the God’s eyes to hang on and as they were done the students came and hung their creations up. After balancing them so it hung evenly there was a breathtaking moment when all of us stood around the mobile, while the sun shone through the trees and wind every so slightly spun the mobile around. I am incredibly grateful to have experienced this moment with the students when they stepped back and quietly admired the piece of art they created. This created a sense of unity and a special moment which marked the space they so proudly called their classroom. Some children didn't even hesitate to go and start making another one without asking for help.
This was an incredible journey to go along with the students, in which they all learnt a new skill from scratch. As a new practitioner, this was extremely valuable learning for me as I was able to put teaching methods into practice and see the effect when delivered strategically they can have on students learning. My time spent as a volunteer has become a valuable opportunity for me to put my personal teaching style in practice. This has helped me test what comes naturally. As my teaching style will continue to develop over the years I will remember the experiences that Bush Farm School has given me, experiences and a new way of facilitating learning and I hope to implement this in future practices.
Brynlea Stocks. April 2020.
The final year of a Bachelor of Sustainability and Outdoor Education, Ara Institute of Canterbury.