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December 2017. Local transport was a context for big design ideas and deep learning at Omokoroa No. 1 School.

Omokoroa students.

“We built this flyover with a bike lane,” sing students in a cover of 80s pop music as their video about future transport kicks off in high spirits.

The four Year 5-6 students go on to describe their big design ideas about how to help families cycle to school safely from the far side of State Highway 2. The students attend Omokoroa No. 1 School, near Tauranga.

Mia, Natasha, Kayla and Grace, pictured above, went through a design thinking process. The result? Plans for a flyover with dedicated bike lane, and illuminated by solar-powered LED lighting displays.

Learning took place during a cross-curricular term unit organised by the school’s Year 5-6 syndicate. Many students entered designs into the Future Transport Competition. The four girls’ Flyover entry was short-listed among narrative entries.

“Some people are quite close to school, so the kids like to bike, but it’s not very good at the moment, because of the traffic. So that’s why we’d like to make the flyover because loads of people could ride,”explains Natasha.

Teacher planning

Syndicate lead teacher Liz Webster says transport was used as a context for inquiry learning.

“We saw this as a means of supporting students to investigate a problem and move through to them actually planning solutions and sharing ideas.”

Liz says teachers came up with a syndicate plan which focused on technology, maths and literacy. The plan was a good foundation, but the teachers needed to be flexible in how they hooked all their students into the design process.

“We used a diversity of entry points, different YouTube clips and so on. We had to get them thinking about how you identify a problem,” she says.

Teacher Rob Maclaren says local changes in road use, traffic levels and road works meant there was plenty of relevant local context for students to discuss.

Colleague Aaron Joe says the strands of the technology learning area also provided a framework for lessons.

“The students were going through the process of identifying a problem, who are the main stakeholders, what outcomes exist, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. They’re following that whole product development process.”

The teachers created a Google Slide template that helped students to structure their work. Taking time to allow for depth in learning had good results, as Rob explains:

“When they started thinking about future transport they had a lot of outlandish ideas. We didn’t know as teachers if we should go along with that or make it more realistic, more about things around here. The kids sorted that out themselves. Their ideas became more realistic and less outlandish as they did more of their investigations.”

Young designers reflect

One of the students, Natasha, says the team had to find a way to settle on a solution to the local transport issue they identified.

“We came across quite a few ideas and we ended up going through them and each person got to say why they thought we should choose that idea. We all came to an agreement in the end.”

After that came more design work.

“We downloaded a SketchUp image of a flyover and then we modified it to have a bike lane to make it our own,” says Mia.

Grace says the team enjoyed deciding what they should do, and then presenting their ideas.

“The video was fun to make because we all like to act and make voices and dressing up.”

The competition provided an authentic audience for the students, leaving them with a tantalising sense that the ideas of young people could influence decision-makers.

Or as Kayla puts it:

“It’s cool that it might happen. Maybe it won’t. But there could be something cool like that nearby.”


Some learning outcomes

Teachers Liz, Rob and Aaron say learning included:

  • critical thinking, creativity and problem solving
  • contributing and relating to others. This age group is still busy learning how to negotiate and compromise
  • being open minded and able to adjust ideas quickly,
  • gaining a sense of ownership over local issues, realising transport challenges are something for everyone, not just the ‘grownups’.
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