Earthquakes, excursions and localised learning experiences

Issue: Volume 97, Number 21

Posted: 21 November 2018
Reference #: 1H9oik

A Canterbury geography teacher is using the context provided by the Christchurch earthquakes to help his students explore their personal and shared local histories.

Today’s Year 11 students were in primary school when the 2011 Christchurch earthquake struck, so, for some Kiwi kids, the post-quake city is the one they have grown up in.

Shirley Boys’ High School Social Science Curriculum Leader Mike Skinner was organising a visit to Canterbury Museum’s Quake City exhibition when he realised there was a wider learning opportunity available. He decided to extend the scope of the excursion to help students reconnect with their city.

The trip included 18 different stops including the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, the EPIC Innovation Precinct, Victoria Square, Christ Church Cathedral, New Regent Street, the Margaret Mahy playground and a visit to the headquarters of urban regeneration social enterprise, GapFiller.

Costs and impacts

Students discussed both the financial and cultural costs to the city’s character of rebuilding versus repairing and the importance of art through the council’s Scape public art project.

Using the Margaret Mahy playground as an example, they also learned about urban design and planning and the impacts these can have on a community.

“One of the reasons [for the playground] was to get people to come and live in the city, so we walked down One Central in the East Frame, where all the apartments are going to go,” says Mike.

“So the city dwellers or the apartment owners who don’t have any backyard, they don’t have car parks, everything they need is in the area so they walk and do everything. These guys as students are not going to understand that side of things – they’ll go to Margaret Mahy playground and see it’s a cool playground, but not the overarching city council planning.”

Student Jack Hearn says the trip helped him to understand the teaching content by making the learning more fun.

“It was all interesting to me, I enjoyed all of it ... it’s the heart of the city so it was good to get in there and see how they’re giving life to the city,” he says.

Personal experiences shared

When planning the field trip, Mike was careful to recognise any potential triggers for students. For example, one student lost a family friend in a particular part of the city, so the excursion did not involve that area.

“There were probably 15 guys from the residential red zone, so they had a real connection with that because that’s our main zone,” he says.

“Everyone in Christchurch, if they were here at the time ... remembers something, whether it’s moving house or the actual event.”

In class, students were asked to write about their personal earthquake experiences to share with others if they felt comfortable doing so.

Student Harry Cameron attended Redcliffs School when the 2011 earthquake struck. He and his classmates were outside during break time and watched the cliffs behind the school crumble in front of them.

“What I found was while walking through the town, a lot of the memories and a lot of this information came back to me. Then while taking in all these facts, I also thought about all these personal encounters that happened with the quake,” he says.

Localised teaching and learning

It is important for students to know about the places they live in because they will be the ones to influence how the city grows in future, Harry says.

“The future is a big thing that we’re going to be a part of.”

The trip tied in with the students’ learning about an extreme natural event, which included looking at the responses, geography and science involved in an earthquake.

Student Hamish Church says it was interesting to see how much the city had changed.

“You see all the demolished buildings and empty spaces and they’re just used for car parks, but they’ve changed it heaps with all the Gap Fillers and the new little things they’re trying to do to improve it to bring more tourists in,” he says.

“It made me go out and see stuff that I haven’t seen and it’s useful because I can go there with my family or my friends … it opened up the city more.”

Mike chose to localise his teaching so his students would be able to tell their own stories.

“They’ve got this innate knowledge that they can use to do well in a formal assessment, it’s just sort of tweaking it to make it more technical,” he says.

“It’s using personal experience and that’s one of the cool things about the curriculum. The curriculum is ‘try and cater it to your guys’, so our guys have lived through the Christchurch earthquakes, their families have, they’re involved in it. As Harry said, they’re going to grow up in it and they’re going to have the benefits of our awesome city.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:33 pm, 21 November 2018

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