So I’ve just finished working at the wonderful Merrylands East Public School. My last several weeks saw me working on a history project with year 6. In my last post I explained what the project was about – basically we all had to learn about the Federation of Australia, and I tried to put an interesting spin on it by getting students to work towards creating an episode of Horrible Histories based on the content. As is always the case with PBL, the project was naturally cross KLA (cross-curricular). You have the obvious links between subjects which shouldn’t be put in separate baskets anyways, like history and literacy, but there were some interesting links that came out of this project, too. Mainly to do with the creative/performing arts.
For example, I wrote a theme song for the project, uploaded it to YouTube and included it as the introduction to the final product. If I’d had more time with the class, I probably would’ve got the students who were able to play the guitar to record the song, others to write the lyrics, and some others to sing it. However, I was pressed for time, so it ended being me who did all of those things. You can watch it below, but be warned, you’ll wanna turn your volume down a bit and if you’re not into bad singing, it’s not for you!
The other, more obvious link given the nature of the project was between history/historical inquiry and drama/performance. Students really had to think about their intended audience, for example, it wouldn’t necessarily be a good idea to parody a predominately Australian show given our original intended audience was a year 5 class from the US. Students also had to get creative with how they were going to make the content funny! So part of the research process involved not only the research focus on content but also which shows would be likely to be popular both here and in the US.
A great application of this came from one of the groups in their skit entitled, ‘The Colonies of the Smurfs’. This group were aware that The Smurfs weren’t specific to Australia and were likely to be well known internationally. The group rolled with the idea of conceptualising the different pre-federation colonies, with their independent taxation and defense systems as separate smurf villages. The push for a federalised taxation system comes into the plot when Vanity Smurf has to travel between villages to get a new mirror from Grouchy Smurf, who then demands a high tariff for trade. The various smurfs then discuss how the system isn’t working for them and how a nationally organised tax system would be better. The concerns around defense are heightened when Gargamel attacks the colonies and they have trouble getting together to defend themselves. Papa Smurf and Brainy Smurf then decide that it’s a good idea to establish a national defense force. All of the skits in the episode are fantastic, and I’m stoked with what the students managed to do!
I wanted students to be as self directed as possible with the whole thing, so in terms of explicit teaching of the events leading up to and surrounding the Federation, there really wasn’t much. Of course, I pushed the content where I saw the need but let’s face it, the last time I had to learn stuff was about 20 years ago, so I’m hardly an expert. I wanted it all to be student work and, for the most part it was. I mainly stepped in for editing, song writing, green screening and set control! The final episode is online at the weebly, this too was designed and created by one of the students who put in a very professional application to me via edmodo to put herself forward for the role. Go year 6! Please have a look at the final product and leave a comment, it’s so important for students to have an audience for their work, thanks!