Less us, more them!

I have always been a passionate advocate for ‘getting out of the way’ of the students. That is, releasing control and allowing and encouraging students to THINK and WONDER.

My motto for the students is to:

  • Be curious
  • Be brilliant and
  • Be the change

Last year, I unknowingly started what was to become a new experiment- an experiment in yard play and ‘getting out of the way’ of kids.

In the back section of the school ground we had approximately 500 bricks stacked behind a wire fence. They weren’t being used and no one had any plans for their future use. The kids were forever being told off for stealing the odd brick to add to their cubby huts etc. One day, a few students got in and ‘stole’ a whole heap of bricks from behind the wire fence and started building a brick house with them. While on yard duty I visited the back area and didn’t make any negative comments to the students who were building with the ‘banned’ bricks, rather, I enquired about the rooms and the layout of the house. The students took this as permission to use the rest of the bricks- and so the experiment started.

Within a week, students had come up with their own rules about the use of the bricks, there was to be no throwing of bricks and they were to be stacked to a maximum height of 6 bricks only. Each day a group of 20+ students became busy worker ants as they transferred a 4 bedroom house with bathroom extension one day into a castle ten meters away the next day. Interestingly, they number of issues in the yard declined during this time- this was not something we expected when students were playing with such dangerous objects!

The bricks then became the foundation of a remote control car track, laboured over by the usually boisterous and often problematic senior students at the time. Again, yard issues were reduced and, in fact, a new culture of car lovers and role models emerged as young boys followed the older boys around in awe of their machines and their daily work on the RC track. Towards the end of the year, discussions in the yard turned to the inevitable ‘handover’ of the track from the year 6 students who were heading off to high school, to the next year’s grade 6 students, who had eagerly been awaiting the coveted land title.

This year, the bricks have continued, as has the variety of their use- one week a mini golf course, the next a fort. It is truly fascinating to watch the creations emerge and change each and every day. Here is today’s house with grand front entrance:

brick house

This year, a twist in the experiment has occurred- this time in the front of the yard. It started with one student hitting a tennis ball against a wall, it progressed to a group of students standing on the seat in front of the wall and dodging the ball. The game was aptly named “Dead Duck” and quickly emerged as a favourite activity for students in the yard. The game obviously has its risks (there is a high chance students will be hit in the head with a tennis ball! ) and it was fo r this reason some members of staffed called for it to be banned.

“Less us more them,” chanting away in my head throughout the discussion, I decided to put my experimentational foot down and allow the game to continue and evolve by itself. The game has been a terrific addition to the play in our yard and one that has seen students identify issues, problem solve, develop solutions, modify, negotiate and collaborate- all the skills we bend over backwards trying to get them to learn in the classroom and all without the intervention if a teacher!

This newfound freedom and release of control has now lead to a very exciting new development- students have started to THINK and WONDER…

think and wonder

A few weeks in to the start of term this year I had two students approach me and ask if they could start riding their bikes and scooters on the basketball court. I obviously thought of the worst case scenarios immediately but decided not to can the wondering before it had been fully wondered. I told them they would have to write to the school council to state their case and ask permission. “Can we start straight away (at lunchtime)?” asked the two reluctant writers…

Last night I read out their letter to the school council and was bursting with pride at the demonstration of curiosity, team work, persistence, professionalism and leadership shown by the two students. The school council were highly impressed by the work and thought the students had put in to the letter (which included suggestions of possible issues and rules that could combat the issues) and wrote a response letter, granting permission for a trial.

I handed the letter to the students today and they were beaming with utter disbelief that their idea, the one that they dared to THINK and WONDER about, was about to become a reality! I am so proud of these boys for being the change and can’t wait to watch the next part of this unfold.

I have a meeting planned with them this afternoon to further plan the next steps so watch this space!


How have you built curiosity and student voice in to your settings?

  • How do you celebrate it?
  • How do you support students to be the change?


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