It's time to play 'The Game of Life'

26 February 2018

Simon Batchelor's My Creative School creative catalyst project is designed to teach British Values in a fun and creative way

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How do we teach British Values? This is a question a lot of teachers are currently asking themselves. It's a tricky subject which makes a lot of us feel uncomfortable, but why? Defined as 'democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs', are these values actually unique to Britain? Should we be teaching children that ‘British Values’ are as good as or better than other people’s values? Using such language can be dangerous by implying we are somehow morally superior to other nations and cultures.

The message we need to get across is that it’s not ‘British Values’ we're teaching, but ‘Human Values’. Then, we need to consider how we take the ‘Human Values’ concept and create a safe and successful community. How can we celebrate the different cultures, opinions and beliefs that make our community the place it is? And how do we do all this while keeping it exciting?

The answer is simple: play with it! Turn it into a game with challenges. Take the My Creative School catalyst project I've been working on with Regina Coeli Catholic Primary School for example. ‘The Game of Life’ is a game which can be created by one class and then rolled out across the whole school community - developing a dynamic and collaborative learning process through which to explore our shared values. I have been working on the project with a Year 3 class (or, ‘Game Creators', I should say). The first time I outlined the project to them there was a buzz of curious and contagious excitement in the room as excited young minds started thinking of ideas and asking questions.

To begin with, the children generated a set of values together through creative exploration. A big sheet of paper was rolled out and the children drew around each other, filling their body shapes with their colorful personal interests and values. It was then expanded out to the school community values. 9 values were settled upon, all of which the children believed were necessary in order to become a safe and successful community. They were: Respect, Knowledge, Kindness, Empathy, Helpfulness, Teamwork, Friendship, Patience and Listening. It was important that the children led the process and had full artistic ownership in deciding these.

Each week the children have been taking a different value and creatively exploring it to generate challenges. Every session begins with the students sharing thoughts and experiences about the chosen value. This value is then brought to life, with the children being given time to visually represent the word through physical movement and 'freeze frames'. Following this, they then complete an example challenge which gives them a chance to see different exciting outcomes to challenges - whether it’s a poem, story, sculpture, physical act, sound etc. The ‘Game Creators’ then put on their thinking hats and begin designing new and exciting challenges of their own. In small groups, they generate their own ideas for challenges based on the chosen value for that particular week - considering what they could do to challenge people to do to show ‘kindness’, or what ‘respect’ looks like. The final idea is then chosen by the group and they are given the chance to pitch it to the rest of the class.

As well as creating the challenges, the children have created a board game and shared space for the challenge outcomes; a place to share and support each other’s game playing, providing insight into different opinions, perceptions and shared understanding.

Collaboration between teachers and practitioners can be difficult at times due to differing approaches and boundaries that may have been put in place, but if a good relationship can be formed where there is trust and listening, this allows everyone to take risks. My job as a Creative Practitioner is to work with the teacher to try new ways of working with students. This can be as simple as 'let’s push the tables and chairs back’, or 'let's get the children to lead and create the challenges with no input from us’, and ultimately 'let’s see what happens!’ Above all, it’s about having space to take risks, play and discover, and finding time for the teacher to experience a creative way of working and to see how beneficial it is.

The project has been great for me personally and I am learning a lot in the process. It’s provided a chance for me to share my practice with a teacher and have time to explore it together. I feel that this time is invaluable as I get to share what I truly believe in, the way education should truly be; letting the children lead and putting creativity at the heart of learning. In giving the children and teacher the space and permission to try new things, whether they work or not, has been amazing to watch and be a part of.

This process has led me to begin writing a blog to share creative activities which teachers can try out with their class. I intend to add a selection of quick activities to spark children’s imaginations on a weekly basis. Take a look here. So teachers, as an experiment, I urge you to factor in just 10 minutes a day to try out a creative activity/child led activity. See how your children respond - I think you will be pleasantly surprised...

These ideas have informed a tool and case study for the MCS Learning Resource - read about it here.