Competition at Arlington

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It never ceases to amaze that when the weather lifts, the level of activity rockets up too. Our children are making wonderful use of the campus and all that it has to offer. Our Kindergarten and Lighthouse children are spending time again in our Bush Nook, the Pines, the new stairs have been trialled and found to be satisfactory, and in Hut Alley our architects, builders and designers are sharing their creativity.

Hut Alley is a source of amazing learning that is entirely owned and driven by the children. It is an expression of their collaborative endeavour, preparedness to take measured risks and their imagination. It is at times joyful, and at others hard fought. There is immense competition amongst the children to secure real estate, a posse to share it with, resources with which to embellish the cubby frames, and to be the one holding the hammer – seemly at all times! This is competition of a special kind.

At Preshil we have a very deliberate position when it comes to competition and learning; as our vision statement makes it clear, Preshil “does not, overtly or subtly, use competition or punishment to motivate through the fear of failure.” But we are not opposed to competition that is generated by the children, and we do not shy away from the challenges that it brings. Competition that is born from the endeavours of the children is embraced and celebrated, perhaps in no better place than in Hut Alley. 

Across all break times our staff are on hand to support builders to embrace their competitive spirit, and to temper it with the needs and desires of their neighbouring builders. In the past we have seen the children establish ways to address these tensions through the election of a Mayor of Hut Alley, currencies of nails, broken china and even charcoal which can be used for bartering. More recently, we have determined to make use of our classroom Essential Agreements to find common values as a means of testing these tensions. It is the balancing and rebalancing of these competing desires that gives rise to creative tensions, and to the wonderful cubbies these produce. 

A lot has been written and discussed regarding the skills that our children might need in their future endeavours. At a recent Webinar for PYP educators, hosted by educator Kath Murdoch, these skills, as identified by the World Economic Forum were shared. If you take a look at this list, so much of what our children are learning in Hut Alley is not only pertinent to their learning today, but will positively impact them into the future. Skills like:

  • Active learning and learning strategies,
  • Creativity, originality and initiative
  • Reason, problem solving and ideation.

A Little Cubby Allegory:

All of this led to me reconsidering a story that Marilyn shared last issue. When we returned to Campus in Week 2 of this term, someone who shall remain nameless (me) forgot that she had locked away the precious hammers and saws during the lock down period, so when the children came back, there was just one hammer to be found. As you might imagine, competition for its use was unprecedented! When we discovered my mistake, we also discovered that the children had somehow found a way to share the single hammer amongst the cubby builders. 

As a staff we have had to manage our surprise and delight, and we’re still unpacking just what this means, and just how the children managed this. We know that lots of hammers does not solve the competition for limited and communal resources. A single hammer, however, appeared to do just that. To be clear, there is no suggestion that we should go back to a single hammer system, but it is pause for thought.

Cressida Batterham-Wilson
Acting Head of Arlington Campus

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