Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day Two


"Wake up...guess what....!"

"I can't believe it....!"

This morning we worked in small groups to create freeze frames to show the moment we heard a piece of exciting news on the radio. We learnt that in the 1950s families gathered around the radio for evening entertainment, and to hear the news. Each group decided what news they were hearing, either Edmund Hillary reaching the peak of Everest or Yvette Williams winning her gold medal in the 1952 Olympics. Each group came up with a caption for their freeze and spoke aloud thoughts in their head as they listened to the exciting national news.


Next we worked as one group to create a map of a New Zealand country town in the 1950s. We decided to call it Elizabethtown (after the Queen!).

Elizabethtown Station and Railway Cottages for Railway Workers including the Station Master, the Porter, the Guard, and the Signalmen.

Moffat Farm

Elizabethtown War Memorial

General Store and Doctor's House

Community Hall, Church, and Cemetry

Longdon Farm


We ended our day going into role as members of the Elizabethtown community. We imagined that we travelled as a community by train to a neighbouring community for a shared picnic and organised sports and races. We then listened to conversations happening amongst small groups of picnickers.

We listened as people of Elizabethtown talked about the Queen’s arrival in New Zealand, upcoming Christmas preparations, the sports events they had competed in, how life on their farm was going, the neighbour’s excellent apple pie and so on…

Groups of People in the Communtiy at the Picnic

We then wrote letters in role imagining it was the end of the picnic day and we were writing news back to friends or family who still lived in Britain. Here are some excerpts from the letters we wrote.


Dear Mum,

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m missing you so much but if I went back to Britain I’d probably miss my new cottage. The new cottage I have moved into is so perfect. It’s right next to the river and has a stream running through the garden to a pond in the middle. […] On the other side of the street from my cottage is a big meadow with lots of buttercups and a hill in the middle with a weeping willow tree on top. I have learnt to make chains from the buttercups and enjoy going for picnics on the hill. Just on the other side of the river is Moffat Farm. Hannah Moffat lives there and owns it and we are becoming great friends.

I have used the money you gave me before I left to buy some ducks, some chickens, and some fruit trees to grow an orchard. I am making a decent amount of money selling eggs and fruit to the other people who live in Elizabethtown. […]

Now it’s Christmas Eve I’m finding things really strange, like did you know that here on the other side of the world Christmas is in summer! […]


Dear Alexandria,

Today is Christmas Eve and the children are so excited and it’s quite obvious they will not sleep easily tonight.

We had a very enjoyable picnic with Charlottetown just yesterday. I made some of my famous apple pie. We travelled there by train. At the picnic there were a lot of interesting games lots of which were very exciting.

I saw the Queen in the paper and I was astonished at how beautiful she was.

Best Wishes, Zara.


Dear Rory,

Yesterday I went to the community picnic. It was Rosa’s first train ride. There was a rugby game and Elizabethtown won.

Did you know that on the radio Her Royal Highness said she will be coming to Elizabethtown!

Farm life is good. Lincoln’s sheep wool is great, we are a lot richer now.

Love from your sister Hannah.


Dear Marie Shamon,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. How are you? I’m more than happy, yesterday we met another town and we had a great time, the place was called Charlottetown. We had sports games, picnics, races like egg and spoon racing and sack races. […]


Dear Cousin Heather,

Our community had a magnificent picnic at Charlottetown today. The children did sack races. The only horrid thing was that the Charlottetown rugby team cheated! It was horrifying! Although we still won. But apart from that the picnic was splendid!

When I went to the railway station I heard from my friend, who had returned from seeing the Queen, that she looked like an angel in a long white evening gown.

Best Wishes, Emma


Dear Alex.
Merry Christmas. It’s been awhile since I’ve written to you. Life here is great and yesterday I went to a community picnic, it was fantastic. We had lots of games and food, we even had a rugby game. We talked about the Queen’s arrival. […]

From your best friend David


Dear Norman,

Things have been going great. I hope the same with you too. […] All the women are working so hard making food and the kids are leaping with joy. […]

Yesterday the community had a huge picnic. I came first in the sack race and had a nice relaxing sleep afterwards.

Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander, climbed Mt Everest earlier this year, amazing right?

Hope to hear from you soon,
From your great friend


To cousins and family,

For Christmas I might have silly putty, or a Frisbee, a hula hoop, or a Mr Potato Head! Dad is farming as always, mum is putting candles up and my older brother Jack is cutting down the Christmas tree and putting it in place. […]

Best wishes, Olivia

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day One

This morning a group of twelve year 5 and 6 students at Muritai School came together for their first day of an 8 week enrichment programme. These students will be coming together one day a week to learn through Mantle of the Expert. They will create belief in a fictional company called 'NZ Documentary Designs' and their roles as principal researchers and documentary designers. We are going to be investigating the early 1950s and the Tangiwai Disaster. This blog will record our learning journey. To check out more about 'Mantle of the Expert' see the links on the right hand side of this blog page.


The first thing we did this morning after welcomes, introductions, and some warm up games, was to co-construct some goals about what we will be doing over the next 8 weeks. This is what we came up with together:

To be involved in a different way of learning called Mantle of the Expert
To do some drama
To learn to work in role
To have belief in our roles and to create a story together.
To learn about the Tangiwai disaster including the people who were involved, the place where it happened, and the science behind the Lahar that caused the tragedy.
To be creative and inquiring
To have the chance to make decisions about how we do things – like adults in real jobs
To learn how to work as a group, learn when to lead and when to follow
To have fun


“It’s 8 o’clock in the morning and there is a group of people who will be starting a new job this morning. They are all at their houses packing their bags for their first day at work…they open their bags and start to pack the things they will need on their first day.

I wonder what thoughts these people have as they pack their bags….”

Photos of the students frozen at a moment when they were packing their bags. When they were shoulder tapped they spoke aloud a thought that was running through their heads in role.

The spoken aloud thoughts:

“I really hope my new boss isn’t strict”

“Oh no, where’s my laptop?”

“I wonder if this top goes well with these pants…I want to make a good impression”

“I wonder where my phone is?”

“I’m nervous”

“I hope they have snacks at the office”

“I’m late”

“I shouldn’t have slept in”

“do I look good in green?”

“I hope I don’t mess up”


Fictional Staff Notice Board: Newspaper articles, Qantas Film and Television awards for winning documentaries, ratings information, letters from companies wanting to advertise during screening of documentary, and letters from the public in response to documentaries made by 'NZ Documentary Designs'.

Fictional DVDs made by NZ Documentary Designs.

The next thing we did was explore a fictional company space to look for clues about what kind of company it was, what kinds of people worked there, what kinds of work the people who came here everyday did, and whether the people who worked there were good at their jobs.

We learnt that this space belonged to a group of researchers who worked for a company called 'New Zealand Documentary Designs'. We learnt that this company valued intelligent research, creativity, honesty and accuracy of facts, unique research, ability to present information that was interesting to both young and old audiences. We also learnt that this company made award winning documentaries on interesting topics. The team that worked here was of a very high calibre!

We then agreed to believe, that in the story we create over the next 8 weeks, we are going to be stepping into role as this team.


In the afternoon we came together for a discussion/'think tank' around the following question:

Is there such a thing as a New Zealander today?

Here are some of the thoughts that were shared:

“yes there is. New Zealanders are people who are born here”
“also people with New Zealand citizenship”
“it also has to do with blood relations, if you are born overseas but your parents are from New Zealand you would still be a New Zealander”
“having different cultures and races in New Zealand doesn’t mean you are not a New Zealander, that is what makes us unique and different”
“Paul Henry got in lots of trouble because he said ‘is the next Governor General going to look like a New Zealander’ – it was really rude”
“it was an embarrassment for New Zealand”
“he had to apologise to India”
“you can’t look like a New Zealander cos we all look different”

“New Zealanders speak a certain type of English that is different from other countries that speak English – kiwi English”
“we sound different”
“we have an accent”
“we have lazy, short vowels”

“we are different because we are a small country, we have a small population”
“we are quite a new country we don’t have big towers and castles”

“people can tell you are a New Zealander by the way you act”
“New Zealanders are easy going”
“New Zealander is a term for someone who represents New Zealand”
“we lead the world in dairy”
“A New Zealander split the atom and climbed Mount Everest first”
“we were the first country where women could vote”
“There was Yvette Williams who was a famous sportswoman in the 1950s”
“There is Valerie Adams, she throws her discuss 20 metres and the next closest is 16 metres”
“Ryan Nelson is one of the best soccer players in the world"


To finish up we looked at an article written by Joy Cowley who ponders the answer to a question that an American professor once asked her:

“You have such a small population,” he said, “and yet if you take the top ten names in the world in any field – sport, medicine, education, music, whatever-one name will be a New Zealander. How do you explain this?"

Joy Cowley says:
“I can think of a number of contributing factors: isolation, a small population, a pioneer-do-it-yourself attitude, opportunity. But the main indicator for excellence it an education system that encourages creative thinking” (From 'Education Aotearoa' Spring Issue)

Lots of food for thought! Next week we are going to begin work on our first job as principal researchers for our company 'New Zealand Documentary Designs'. We will be exploring the early 1950s to see if we can unearth any New Zealand heroes or heroic events. Having discussed whether there is such a thing as a New Zealander today we will consider whether there was such a thing as a New Zealander in the 1950s.