Performing arts programme delivers learning from living room to stage

Issue: Volume 97, Number 10

Posted: 11 June 2018
Reference #: 1H9j9J

Learning by distance opens up a world of opportunities for the students involved.

When visualising distance education, most people think of students sitting at home on their laptops. That’s not the case for students enrolled in Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura)’s performing arts programme, specialising in music or dance.

Te Kura Arts Kaihautū Mātauranga (Curriculum Leader) Dr Jan Bolton says teachers and students communicate by many methods, with video being one of the most common. Students generally work one-on-one with their teacher, although Te Kura also encourages collaboration between students via project work.

“We set up quite intentional projects for students to collaborate with other students and collectively create an end product, like a music video or a composed song,” she says.

“They typically work on their own individual contribution and then that is shaped by the group.”

Why individuals use Te Kura

Students in Te Kura’s performing arts programme choose to learn by distance for a number of reasons. Some are students living abroad who want a New Zealand qualification, while others may have a variety of needs which makes face-to-face learning difficult. The school also caters to students who are occupied with a professional training programme (such as the New Zealand School of Dance) but still want to achieve NCEA.

One of the biggest challenges faced by students is having the right environment to practice their art.

“Sometimes they haven’t got enough space. It’s the living room where someone else is or it’s their bedroom,” Jan says.

“Our students and their whānau come up with creative solutions, which lead to success not only in gaining credits but also producing some pretty unique performances.

“Meeting the need for equipment can also be an issue, but, interestingly, that has become less and less of an issue for students over the last eight years. Some have quite elaborate equipment, and some have a borrowed instrument and a smartphone and that works well.”

Te Kura encourages students to nominate a local mentor in their chosen field, such as a teacher or whānau member involved in the art form. They also have regional offices and learning advisers to facilitate learning.

Why schools use Te Kura

Marian College uses Te Kura to deliver a dance course to students involved in Polyfest. Although the school does have a performing arts programme, it does not currently have a teacher specialising in Pacific dance or offer a dance course. Instead, they have developed a successful relationship with Te Kura’s dance teacher, Margaret Roche.

Head of Drama Helen Moran says students put a lot of work into preparing a dance item for an event as big as Polyfest.

“It really benefits the students to have all that learning recognised and it gives them confidence which is then reflected in their other subjects,” she says.

“The biggest challenge is finding the time when it isn’t part of the class timetable, because these girls put in a huge amount of work to do this performance, it’s like doing a whole course along with their regular classes.”

Feedback from parents and members of the Pacific community has also been positive.

“The whānau are very supportive. Our school community recognises that cultural knowledge is a taonga to be valued and is a crucial part of our students’ wellbeing and achievement.”

Dance by distance

Te Kura dance student Siyanna Yarr spends 30 hours a week teaching dance at three different dance schools. She also works with a community dance group which performs at rest homes.

“Learning with Te Kura means my study can fit in around other things. Today I’m performing at the Pacific Vodafone Media Awards as a dancer. I’ve done heaps of rehearsals and it would be hard to get time off school for this,” she says.

 “Learning with Te Kura does require more self-motivation than at a face-to-face school where you can be more ‘drip-fed’ but it allows me to be out doing what I love, and I love the feeling when I dance.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:10 am, 11 June 2018

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