Anzac memorial builds student understanding of conflict

Issue: Volume 98, Number 6

Posted: 9 April 2019
Reference #: 1H9swF

As well as learning about three curriculum areas, Oxford Area School students are paying tribute to those who fought in World War I.

For eight hours each week, Year 9 and 10 students at Oxford Area School take ‘Fusion’ – a project-based learning class combining technology, mathematics and social studies.

Early last year, social studies teacher Justin Thompson decided to design a curriculum around World War I to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the war in November.

The school had a new building with a space behind it that had yet to be landscaped.

“It was just grass and pretty average drainage. I thought that a project like doing a memorial garden out there would be good because the kids would have somewhere to hang out and it’d be made by them.”

Teachers began by spending three weeks team-teaching content about the wars and battles New Zealand had been involved in.

Before beginning construction, students learned about the wars and looked at how memorial gardens were designed.

Technology and social studies focus

“As a part of that we also taught them about memorials – different aspects of what you would see in a memorial garden and what they might possibly want to try and build. There’s a heavy technology focus and a heavy social studies focus in the topic,” Justin says.

“With Fusion all the teachers are in there with all the Year 9s and 10s, so there’s three teachers and 75 students and we work a very integrated programme.”

A tribute to the animals whose lives were lost in the war.

For the next seven weeks students were given different tasks as a part of a Matrix (a hybrid of a SOLO taxonomy and Multi-intelligence matrix) to help them design and build their aspect of the garden.

“They put themselves into teams of what they wanted to achieve and do. We had a team in charge of the mural, we had seats, a swing and a raised garden bed, different things like that. They went ahead and had a go at building those and then we had a couple of working bees over a Saturday and Sunday to install it all,” he says.

“One of the students’ mothers is tied up with Corrections and she was able to organise a couple of teams of periodic detention guys to come down and dig out the pathways for us on the weekend. Their help was key because that was the hardest part … there were slabs of concrete and all sorts of objects just beneath the surface. The local businesses that supported us in this project have been amazing.”

A mural painted by Oxford Area School students.

Community unveiling

At the completion of the garden, the school held an unveiling, inviting parents, helpers and other important community members.

“At the end of every topic we do what we call an OXPO, which is an exposition of their completed work,” Justin says.

“We invite all the parents along and we also invited some dignitaries. We had a team of students who had finished doing their item in the garden so they then put themselves in charge (with one of the teachers to support them) of getting ready. They invited all the board along, they invited the mayor and the former principal to come along and have a look at the garden.”

Local RSA members also attended the unveiling. The school has close ties with
its local RSA and holds an Anzac Day service at school before the end of Term 1 each year.

“We do the full service that would happen on Anzac Day for the whole school outside by our flagpole, so that relationship we’ve built over time has been really strong. We had the Oxford RSA representatives come along to the [garden’s] opening to look at what everyone had done,” Justin says.

“We have our head students, who speak at the Oxford Anzac Day service, practise their speeches and see if there are any bugs.”

Students worked in groups to create different parts of the memorial garden.

Learning opportunities

Creating the garden from start to finish provided a variety of learning opportunities for the students, Justin says.

“[There was] a lot around the key competencies of managing self, using symbols and contributing to society and trying to do better. We looked at all of that and, obviously, there are links to the curriculum in terms of the technology with the stuff they built.

“There were learning intentions from all three subjects, measurements that the kids needed to do ... then obviously the social sciences around looking at conflict, war and strife and making sure that there’s some understanding by the kids about what happened, so the history side of it.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 9 April 2019

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