Sam Cunnane, head of the arts faculty at Fraser High School, talks about the curriculum integration project. It is an experiment in cross-curricular teaching at secondary school level. It’s based on students working to produce a visual culture magazine. The first half of the year results in a Passionfruit Magazine which is completely written, designed, produced, by students. The essence of the project is that by working to produce an authentic product, in this case a visual culture magazine, students generate evidence of rich learning that can then be assessed against a range of NCEA standards. Sam says the scheme is about “turning the way we approach NCEA upside down by getting students to produce an authentic project.”
The curriculum integration project is an experiment in cross-curricular teaching at secondary school level. It’s based on students working to produce a visual culture magazine, for the first half of the year at least, followed by some externals, primarily their art folios, design, painting, photography, and some English, and possibly Art History, and Media Studies exams.
The first half of the year results in a magazine, Passionfruit Magazine, which is completely students written, designed, produced, with advertisers in it to support the printing costs essentially. So it’s an authentic project. Working with a real life series of learning experiences.
The programme basically makes up the entire timetable for a class full of NCEA level two and three students. They have one other subject that they study, so they go off and do their Sport Science, or their Geography or History, or whatever it may be, but the rest of their timetable is based within this classroom studio space, so they do basically all of their learning here apart from as I say one other subject line. Primarily they cover Visual Arts in a couple of fields, maybe three fields, Media Studies, Art History and English, but there’s the opportunity for them to be assessed against any number of other standards if that’s relevant to what they do. The idea is that the work they produce for the magazine is evidence that’s assessed against a range of standards. So although it comes out of those areas, Media Studies, English, Art History and Visual Arts primarily, if the evidence can be measured against any standard it may be, and so it’s the learning, it’s the project driving what they do rather than saying, “Hey here’s a list of standards and we’re going to produce work for each of those.” So it’s kind of, it’s flipping that idea of assessment driving learning in an attempt to take the New Zealand Curriculum seriously I guess and let that drive what we do rather than the other way round.
Talking about the curriculum, the front end of it, the key competencies, their thinking, their managing themselves, their participating and contributing have been absolutely central to what they’re doing here, and without those I suppose all the other stuff doesn’t really happen. They’ve got to be able to work together to produce the thing, they can’t all do it on their own, and the project demands that they work as a group, that they engage with each other with their learning, they apply a whole lot of problem solving, and they interact with a whole lot of agencies outside of the school too.
The standard for print drives the level of work that they’re producing so that they are performing as high as they possibly can because they know that other people are going to be looking at it, reading it, seeing it, and that’s what drives it rather than any form of assessment.
In terms of the tools that they use, that’s completely dictated by what they need to do for the magazine. They’ve used Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, a range of different communication tools in terms of say Blogger and their emailing, Google Docs and bits and pieces. So all of that’s dictated by what’s the authentic context requiring them to do, there’s no sort of, “We’ll use this tool just because,” it’s about, “What’s the tool that’s going to help us do this?” In terms of that with the interaction with the real world going in to see Print House and see how things happen there and having people from industry coming in, it’s exposed them to a whole range of potential futures for themselves. That’s been kind of a spin-off I suppose, but a really important part of the whole project, that they see where they could fit in a wider, bigger world of creative industries in one form or another.