Teven Tintenbar Primary School, near Lismore in NSW, initiated a Learnscape project to enhance the school’s Languages program. The project featured a small-scale version of a South East Asian rice-growing farm and was planned as an example of sustainable intensive agriculture combining language and culture.
It is an example of including environmental education into a selected Languages topic “The Rice Growing Cycle” unit, developed at the school. In this unit, language and cultural aspects of Indonesia are presented in the context of the rice cycle. The communicative functions, language structures and language learning experience suggested in the unit, can be integrated around the topic of the rice cycle.
The program was planned as the focus for the introduction of Languages (Bahasa Indonesian) learning into the school curriculum, with the aim of integrating other Key Learning Areas, such as Science and Technology, HSIE and Creative Arts. The project also made use of the school grounds and involved students in outdoor activities, an essential component of environmental education.
The “stages” of the rice-growing cycle then became the focus for developing learning activities. Links with other KLAs and the Learnscape Program were forged. Students, staff and parents in a partnership used problem-solving skills to build the resource.
The Rice Farm
The South-East Asian Rice Farm consists of three terraced rice paddies, a gravity fed irrigation system; a shelter hut; a shade-house for seedling raising; a landscaped garden with tropical plants such as bamboo, taro and palms; a pond and small stream for frogs, lizards, insects etc; a scarecrow; signs in Indonesian and Japanese language, and so on. Further extensions, such as an outdoor classroom and a number of linked Learnscapes, have since been added.
This demonstration model is fully operated by the students, with assistance from parents and teachers. The working of the farm follows similar farming practices and growing cycle as in South-East Asia, i.e. raising seedlings, preparing ground manually, transplanting seedlings, harvesting, threshing, selling or cooking of the rice (with seed being saved for the cycle to continue). With 3 rice paddies, more than one class can be involved at the same time, at varying stages of the rice growing cycle. As the cycle progresses, the appropriate language and cultural aspects of life in South-East Asia are drawn into the learning, with an environmental perspective.
A practical project such as this gives students the opportunity to put what they are learning into practice. The program has a predicted life span of perhaps 5 years, with at least 2 complete (overlapping) rice-growing cycles per year.
The Unit of Work
The process involved in designing the unit is:
- the content or topic selected
- outcomes that match the stage and the topic or focus question are chosen
- indicators that demonstrate student achievement of the outcome are listed and learning activities are designed to achieve the outcome
- resources are identified, and at the same time, plans for making new resources are made
- finally, assessment procedures are developed.
For assessment, students were presented with a list of expectations, which they could monitor themselves as the unit progressed. The school is involved in an exchange program with a group of five schools in Vietnam. Similar to Teven-Tintenbar School, these five schools are concentrating on developing their playgrounds and re-establishing trees and native vegetation in their grounds.