Wooranna Park Primary School is a pioneer innovator in creating Stimulating Learning Platforms for children. The school first developed the "Dragon Boat" for its Year 2 Learning Unit and then the "Spaceship" for its Year 3 Learning Unit. In 2013-2014 it launched the Enigma Portal, based on the ideas of David Thornburg. See Principal Ray Trotter's letter describing the school's philosophy and practice of utilizing Stimulating Learning Platforms in conjunction with "using young childrens imagination to create life-like experiences."
The Collage above shows the four Stimulating Learning Platforms that Wooranna Park has developed and implemented over the past 5 years, including: 1. The Bus (Year Prep Unit); 2. The Dragon Boat (Year 2 Learning Group); 3. The Spaceship (Year 3 Learning Group); and the Enigma Portal (Year 4, 5, and 6 Learning Groups).
Documents describing the Stimulating Learning Platforms:
You can learn much more about these SLPs at the links below:
From: Trotter, Raymond RA [mailto:Trotter.Raymond.RA@edumail.vic.gov.au]
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2012 2:18 AM
To: Bob Pearlman
Subject: RE: Wooranna Park Primary School Web Profile
Thank you for your flattering email. Creating attractive websites is not a strength of mine, so I appreciate what you have created. Unfortunately, the pictures of Wooranna Park you have used are rather staid by comparison to the learning environments we have been trying to create in recent years.
Not long ago I sent Randy Fielding a copy of a short TV presentation featuring a "Dragon Boat" we had build in our Year 2 Learning Unit. The Dragon Boat has five distinct learning areas Science ICT, Workshop Area, Reading Cubby and Dark Room. The impact of building a large Dragon Boat in the Unit has been quite profound and has encouraged the school to build a new Year 3 Unit featuring a Space Ship, in an old hall. This too has generated extensive interest even though it wont open until the start of the 2012 school year. We call features like the Dragon Boat and Spaceship, 'Stimulating Learning Platforms', and we hope to research the impact of such environments on our school community with Monash University in the coming months.
The Dragon Boat capitalises on childrens imagination to take their boat on voyages using Google Sea, or as in the case of the new Year 3 Unit, take voyages through space. These imaginary voyages place children in life-like situations in which they are forced to grapple with complicated mathematical and scientific principles. How far is it to New Zealand? What direction do I turn the boats compass to? How fast are we travelling? How long will it take to get there? Our children are also learning Morse code and communicating via naval flags.
We believe that our Year 2 Unit, along with the new Year 3 Unit, is a significant step forward in using young childrens imagination to create life-like experiences. The learning involved is highly experiential and interdisciplinary and often involves students from other year levels. One of our senior students is writing a story book about the Dragon Boat. Our Year 2 students were captivated when the first draft of the book was read to them!
Our planned research is not so much about proving that the Stimulating Learning Platforms, built in our Year 2 and 3 Learning Units, have impacted positively on students, teachers and parents. Rather it is about explaining why these learning platforms have had such a profound impact. It is also about assessing the value of young childrens learning from imaginary, play-based environments. We are also interested in assessing the relevance of such experiences when compared to more authentic learning experiences.
Anecdotally, the school has known for some time that such platforms can provoke powerful responses from within the school community. The removal of a time machine from the Year 1 Unit over the Christmas vacation of 2009/2010 prompted one parent to inform me that her son had been anxiously waiting throughout the holiday break to experience said learning platform.
Again, my expectation that the Year 2 Unit would revert to a Year 1 Unit in 2012 - following my decision to allow Year 1 students to stay in the same area in 2011 - had to be quickly re-thought when our present Year 1 parents realised their children would not experience the benefits of the Dragon Boat!
Our Year Prep Unit, has for some time had a school bus for children to play out imaginary experiences of driving a police car, fire truck or ambulance. Such experiences can be filmed for children to enjoy at a later date. But are such experiences just good playful fun, or do they have a greater social and educational value? Research would say they do! (see 'High Scope Education Research Project) And can we learn something from the numerous visitors to the school that seek to have a photograph taken of themselves, sitting behind the steering wheel wearing a firemans hat. Just good fun, or is there something instinctively cathartic in such experiences?
Recently, I read a book by Richard Gerver, titled 'Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today'. In his book Richard asks why can't schools be as exciting as Disney World. I can't help thinking what kind of school Walt Disney would build. If we receive funding for our research I hope to ask Randy the same question!
If you are interested in what we trying to do, I am happy to keep you abreast of our progress.