A Missed Opportunity:
c H Have some teachers become so constricted by formal curriculum requirements - and the comfort of teaching the same old lessons - that they are blind to the possibilities of educationally rich situational learning opportunities? lT WAS the second most unusual object l'd ever seen on the beach and I had no idea what to do with it. As we walked back along the sand, a group of school kids came tumbling towards us. They looked to be in Year 11 or thereabouts, in various stages of uniform disarray. The girls descended on my small dog, who had just spent a very intense five minutes digging frantically for crabs and had uncovered a plastic bait bag as well. l'm trying to teach him to spot plastic rubbish on tfte beach and sit beside it like an airport sniffer dog. Last weekend he found a woman who insisted on flaunting her silicone implants and sat beside her. I guess his education isn't complete yet.
He had also just uncovered an angry crab. I thought the kids were planning to rescue the crab but no, they just wanted to pat the dog- who is extremely cute.'What are you doing today, kids?'t asked.
obviously been in the ocean for a very long time, as the flora and fauna were all well established and strongly attached. It was a most unusual sight.
Two teachers brought up the rear, shepherding the stragglers. Here's an opportunityl I thought. Walking overto the
What to do? As a former biology teacher and marine biologist, I saw a real dilemma. lf I put it back in the watel the most probable outcome would be that it would simply wash up again and shellfish would all die, anyway. And
teachers I asked them if they were interested in sharing a situational dilemma with their students.
'l found this on the beach this morning. I wonder if you would like fo use it with your class. I thought perhaps you might like to have your kids decide what shoutd be done with it, as I'm not too sure.'l held the object towards them.
putting a plastic bottle into the ocean went against all my environmental beliefs.
lf I put it into the estuary I would need to weigh it down to prevent it floating away to a similar fate. I could simply treat it like rubbish, which is what usually happens to the plastic we find, but that would kill the creatures.
Avoiding the Uncertain
A Situational Lesson
The female teacher recoiled as if I was the strange object.
I thought this presented was a perfect and very unusual opportunity for a situational lesson. What intrigued me
I had no problem with that but her next statement floored
me. Wo, I've never seen anything like it but no, thanks. lf we took it then it would be our responsibility to decide what to do with it.' 'Yes, that would be the whole pornt', I replied. 'These kids use the beach all the time. lsn't helping them learn to be
obseruant and responsible impoftant?'
The young male teacher stood by silenfly, obviously not planning to disagree with his older colleague. She finished the conversation with 'We already have our activity organised for today', as she walked away.
What I had offered was something I had never seen before. I walk on my beach each morning and night and always collect garbage that has either been washed up or left by thoughtless day trippers. The locats get so fed up with cleaning up afterweekend visitors it does sometimes become quite a source of tension. lnstead of a Clean Up Australia day, one friend has suggested a Clean Up your Act Australia Year. I thought that was a great idea.
Unusual Treasures This was the second time in a month l'd found something incredibly unusual on my beach. The first was a tiny dead dolphin. A perfect little body so newly born that part of an umbilicalcord was stillattached. lt appeared to be a stillbirth. I couldn't help but think of the poor Mum frantically looking for her baby and how the others in the pod would rally around to support her. The lifesavers had sprung into action to help with this one. This find was different, a large empty plastic drink botfle. The lid was tightly closed on the botfle and around the seal a whole range of shellflsh had gathered. Their feet were gripping the plastic seal so tightly that there was no way to either remove the lid or release them without damaging, and probably destroying, them. The botfle had been washed up onto the sand and the tiny creatures were all opening and closing, searching for water. The botfle had
ptrn" focus spring
most was not the teachers' reaction but the sudden realisation that it is exactly thirty years since I taught exacfly the same lesson the kids told me they were doing. Not one of the many professions l've been involved in since has ever used any of the information contained in that lesson.
It brought home to me that we need curriculum that is relevant to many, not just the one or two students who will ultimately specialise in a particular field. ls it possible to achieve this and still meet the needs of students, parents, universities, businesses, communities and other stakeholders? Most definitely. Would this be easy? No way, but why are we so reluctant to tackle the issue at a macro-level? For the sake of our kids and our future, it,s imperative that we do. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ms Julie Boyd's career encompasses a broad range of professional roles. ln addition to her time as a teacher (K-university), educational psychologist, principal, administrator, curriculum adviser and international consultant, she ls also experienced as Managing Director, Entrepreneur of the year, Australian Buslnessuzo men'E Hatt of Fame inductee, educator, publisher, author, and stock market trader, among many other roles. Julie is currenily integrating her many years of learning, teaching, health challenges and experience across muttipte fietds, to develop a new framework for life development called Wealth Literacy. Julie's current passion is this evolution of her prior work with anfi-sfress, resiliency, leade rsh i p an d teachi ngl le a rni ngl cu rricu I u m consultancy. lt is based on the concept of weatth as wel/ness in all of its senses - personal, professional and financial and is the culmination of knowledge gained through her own education and commitment to continuous learning, and her many years of learning, practice, experience and wisdom. Ms Boyd can be contacted by email at: au.
i nfo@j u I i eboyd. co m.