Curriculum Delivery - Our Approach
At Tamariki, the curriculum is not just about what we learn. It also includes the way we learn. As stated in the Tamariki School Special Character, emotional and social growth are regarded as the base for cognitive development, and strategies which support these growths have priorities over all other activities. Our curriculum is highly responsive as we give our students freedom to learn in the context of their own interests.
As teacher/learners (everyone is a teacher, everyone is a learner), we support each other to understand what learning is for us as individuals and to construct our own “next steps” as a result. Next steps for one child will be focusing on “learning to focus”, while another will be concentrating on “not dominating others” and another will be working on “improving their spelling” or “learning to read”. Likewise the teacher needs to be adaptable and open to their own learning. As students are able be the ‘teachers’, the students regularly share knowledge and skills with each other and the adults. This occurs across the whole spectrum of school life, much of it during play.
The school provides a multi-faceted environment that will provide many significant learning opportunities for every child. We do hold expectations that the way we deliver each learning area of the Special Character and the NZ Curriculum, will enable children to develop competency in that area. The child’s learning, however, is to a very great extent under the child’s control, so that they can genuinely advance at their own pace in response to their unique developmental sequence. Students will actively choose areas of learning and play that they wish to be involved in and also choose what learning they obtain from that involvement. This means that although we have high expectations of the learning that we are delivering, we do not have expectations of what a particular child will ‘get’ out of that learning or their Free Play, on any given day.
Curriculum Delivery – Our Framework
Children are involved in inquiry learning and reflection throughout their day and days at Tamariki, as this approach to learning is implicitly embedded within the School’s Special Character. Tamariki emphasizes self-directed learning through free-play, so that learning is ‘owned’ and determined by each child and is supported by the adults and other children within the community - who may assist, will respect, and sometimes inspire the self-directed process.
Inquiry Learning and Reflection skills through Free Play
The challenge for Tamariki in maintaining a school-wide framework for inquiry learning and reflection through Free Play is that it cannot be pre- determined or pre planned as may be [or would be] expected from the learning model prevalent at more mainstream schools. Play in ints very definition is not pre-plabnned. Formal classes can be planned, however play cannot.
Because we hold true to the maintenance of the Special Character Statement, and the child’s control over their own learning through play, the learning that happens may possbily be the result of a random set of events, involving different members of the community, at different times; and no two events and circumstances are ever likely to be the same. However, the learning which occurs for the children is deep, genuine and very relevant to who they are.
“Children are biologically predisposed to take charge of their own education. When they are provided with the freedom and means to pursue their own interests, in safe settings, they bloom and develop along diverse and unpredictable paths, and they acquire the skills and confidence required to meet life’s challenges. In such an environment, children ask for any help they may need from adults. There is no need for forced lessons, lectures, assignments, tests, grades, segregation by age into classrooms, or any of the other trappings of our standard, compulsory system of schooling. All of these, in fact, interfere with our children’s natural ways of learning.”
[Gray, 2013, pp. 5-6.]
The Tamariki approach to learning encourages the development of Key Competencies that are essential to learning through inquiry, for self-reflection and for goal setting…
The Framework itself is structured around the many possibilities for learning that are offered by the Tamariki school environment. This environment provides the canvas, the materials and the opportunities – but it is the children and their play that provide the colour, the form, the light and the life which come together to form the whole picture of the learning that occurs at Tamariki.
The scaffolding which supports this learning is the meeting system (both Whole-school Meetings and Small Meetings), the Special Character values, and the close relationships between the children, teachers and the Tamariki community. These features of the Tamariki environment provide the support for Tamariki children’s self-directed learning through free play. This kind of approach, as shall be discussed in more detail below, provides our children with strong cognitive and socio-emotional foundations which equip them to be flexible, autonomous, self-managing, life-long learners.