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Primary Insights: Design & Technology
Well hello there and welcome to update #034!
Many primary teachers have responsibility for designing subject curriculum despite not having academic backgrounds in that subject. This was the case for Kate Taylor, assistant head in charge of curriculum at Colebourne Primary School in Birmingham: in Primary Huh, Kate talks about how collaboration and shared expertise created a rich, ambitious Design and Technology curriculum.
‘In the past, we had teachers with expertise in aspects of D&T but no-one to oversee the subject. Now, we have a team of D&T champions. One specialises in cooking, one on craft, an ex-Scout leader focusing on engineering, pioneering, den building, for example. We’ve found that having people to bounce ideas around is incredibly useful.’
‘Our D&T curriculum is a spiral learning journey with skills which are revisited over the the topics. Prototypes and preliminary sketches are used to develop problem solving, and we identify the key vocabulary we think is important for pupils to know. We have found that giving pupils a purposeful context and showing them how their learning has an impact on the world helps to build more interest and results in better outcomes.
‘Challenge is important: pupils need to realise that the first idea isn’t always the best; that it’s important to try things and not crumble when we hit a hurdle. They learn how to listen to feedback and to understand that it's not personal, it’s about how to improve.’ These life skills develop self-reflective, independent learners.
Learning in D&T starts in EYFS. Say they've used blocks to build a tower, an adult might ask them ‘Was that the best way? How could we improve that? Is that tower going to fall?’ On that basic level, from the get-go you’re encouraging pupils to think about adapting their ideas.
‘From Years 1 to 6 we have broken the curriculum down into three elements of design and technology. We have a ‘Cook’ unit, a unit that we call ‘Make’ and then a unit that we call ‘Sew’. From Years 1 to 6 every year group gets the opportunity to do a cook, a make and a sew with the plan being that it is progressively more challenging and complex.
For example, in the ‘Make’ units in year 1 pupils will be making a bug house The key learning is how to join simple things together in the most appropriate way to create a structure that is functional. ‘How can we fold toilet rolls to create particular shapes and then join them together to create a bug house?’ The notion of joining materials is the core idea, and how to create a solid structure, obviously one that’s not going to just fall over, but one that’s going to be able to withstand the elements: ‘What do we need to do to make sure that it stays secure and safe?’
‘In Year 3 the kite D&T project is linked to the geography unit ‘Let’s Go to Pakistan’. It’s taught in the second half of the spring term when there is a kite festival in Pakistan. It’s got a purpose – obviously they are going to fly the kite when they’ve made it because that is the fun bit! – but rather than just joining two pieces of the same material as they’ve done in Year 1 with their bug house, they’ve now got to join two different materials together. They’ve got a material, a fabric, and then a sturdier component in the frame of the kite, whether that be wood or cardboard, or whatever they’ve chosen as their component. They have to build the frame and then add the cloth to make the kite, so, joining two separate materials together with very clear outcomes.
‘We link the units to significant people throughout the D&T units. When pupils study bug houses, we show them clips of conversationist Michaela Strachan looking at different bug houses. When it comes to kites, we’ve chosen Mozi, who was documented as one of the first people to design kites in ancient China.’
Want to hear more? Watch the full conversation with Kate at Myatt & Co (£/free trial)
Until next time
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