Powerful provocations

Full credit for the idea for this goes to Dr Debra Kidd, who I have been lucky enough to work with on several occasions and led some wonderful training  in our school earlier this year.

Our final UOI for the year was Sharing the Planet, with the central idea of “Habitats provide homes”. I wanted to fully explore the ideas Debra had discussed with us about developing empathy, and dilemma-led learning to create an invested learners, so we looked at this picture:

The learners had to adopt the pose of the panda and choose one word to describe how he was feeling. Adopting the panda’s pose encouraged the learners to think more deeply about it. There were a large range, from “tired” to “hungry”, “happy” to “disappointed”. We then panned out a bit further to see a grubby enclosure. The learners formed a square around the panda and became the “walls”.  They described things they had seen.  For example, the keeper only comes in once a day to bring food, the poor panda never has any company, people stare at the panda all day, I’ve seen people throw rubbish into the enclosure.  All these activities were designed to create empathy for the panda and a sense of injustice for the hand he had been dealt.

Now the empathy had been developed, it was time to introduce the dilemma. I told the learners that the zoo keeper was coming to visit us!  They sprung into action, making lists of questions and comments they wanted to direct at the zoo keeper.  Every learner was eager to improve life for the panda.  (Just to be clear, I regularly reminded them that this was a role play, there was no real panda or zoo keeper!) When the “zoo keeper” arrived, the learners were full of anger towards them, until the keeper explained he’d found the panda in a burnt bamboo field, no family around, and about to die.  He knew he couldn’t afford to keep the panda, but had to try and help.

The learners reflected on his story in silence, and the “zoo keeper” departed.  At this point, my aim was for the learners to research the pandas habitats and use this information to create him a new one…but they had much bigger hopes ideas:

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The empathy and dilemma had provoked the learners to create new, exciting pathways we could explore, which would help them develop a multitude of skills in different areas.  They broke off into groups to discuss different aspects:  how can we raise awareness of the plight of pandas, how can we enclosure be redesigned, how can we raise money to support the zoo keeper, what skills and knowledge does the zoo keeper need to care for the panda properly.

Every single learner was committed to their task.  And the results were just fabulous:

Enclosures were designed (within a budget), donation boxes were made, information videos were created, and, finally…

…a bake sale was held (they were insistent – I gave the money to WWF!).

Using a simple provocation, and using dramatic roleplay, had made an exploration into the effect of human impact on a habitat really come alive.  They picked up so many skills, values and understanding along the way.  I really hope this unit realised they are able to take action to make a difference in the world.