Holistic Curriculum - Metaphors

Approach to curriculum  Metaphor... Luiza Raducanu

The curriculum is a narrative where learners construct and reconstruct knowledge through the individually continuous and socially interactive nature of experience. Each individual’s experience, filled with unique past memories, present actions and future intentions is always in interaction with the social and physical environment. From a narrative perspective, curriculum comes to life within classrooms as teachers and students create lived curriculum texts. Curriculum, then, is what they experience situationally and relationally, each person constructing and reconstructing his or her narrative knowledge in response to interactions. Although outlines prescribed in curriculum documents shape classroom curriculum stories, individuals author these outlines within each classroom, according to personal and situational particulars. These lived curriculum texts contain a variety of characters, settings and plot lines that shift and change over time.

A Climbing Partner as a Metaphor of a Teacher - Climbing as a Metaphor for Teaching and Learning... Aida Fahoum

There is no metaphor more powerful for me than that of a climbing partner for a teacher. Although a climbing partnership assigns roles to each individual – climber and belayer, both participants have opportunities to exchange roles and thus continuously offer needed support to the other, in addition to sharing details of the experience. In such a partnership there is a constant flow of perspective exchange.

A teacher fulfills two main roles in the classroom – that of a guide, and that of a learner. As a guide a teacher creates opportunities for learning or highlights natural opportunities that arise. As a learner, a teacher engages in inquiries created by children with children – in both roles teachers view children as resourceful, view their inquiries as valuable, inspire innovative thought and action, provoke awe and wonderment, and act as supportive, caring, and compassionate beings.

The role of teacher and learner are acutely mirrored in rock climbing. Both climber and belayer are passionate about climbing. They are well prepared for the task of climbing – safety mechanisms are put in place and are secured by both participants. Both fully understand that unexpected challenges may arise.

My belayer is key to my safety while climbing. He/she must always be attune to my thoughts and actions – how I am feeling, how I am moving, where I am going (and in times when he/she cannot see the see me, my belayer must imagine probable activity). He/she must listen for my voice, look for falling rock, and be aware of any possible safety concerns. My partner must be fully present in the moment, aware, available for support of all kinds, and must act as a safety net upon which I can surely rely. With all this my partner must not overly interfere with my experience; there should be a fine balance between allowing for self-discovery and offering advice or support. He/she must also be supportive of any decision I may make. In times when I am apprehensive or frightened, my belayer may offer words of encouragement, or may invite me to stop and rest and reassess the situation. In the case where the experience may be overwhelming, only after making a final attempt at encouragement may my belayer let me down to the ground. My belayer always reminds me of my right to rest, reassess, continue, or even quit. We both understand that as long as there are attempts, there are no failures.

But in times of triumph, my belayer joins me in celebration. He/she yells in excitement, and shares in my joy. I will sometimes request that I be kept at the top to absorb, and enjoy the view, reliving my journey and reflecting on my accomplishments. If my journey was challenging or troublesome, upon my descent I will share the challenges and we will discuss any contributing factors, and ways that troublesome areas can be better dealt with next time. We then switch roles and I become the guide, my partner the learner-explorer. At the end of each journey we are excited about different terrain to cover, and more challenging walls to climb.

Climber and belayer often exchange information about the type of rock they are climbing. They do this not only to determine a style for climbing appropriate for the natural features of such rock, but they do this in reverence for the rock. They wonder how old it might be, how the climate affects it, how it was formed, how historical people used or traveled around it, and what creatures inhabit it. In the same way, teachers provoke children to think of all creation both in isolation, and in context …the history, materials used, various uses across cultures, and the stories of those who had their hands in its creation. In both scenarios, being with the studied and developing a reverence for it, in-and-of-itself is of extreme importance. Perhaps more profound is the consideration of what is studied as not merely a final product, but more as an infinitely changing creation through process, and offers opportunities for us to connect with it. In both climbing and teaching, beauty is acknowledged and celebrated.

As a teacher, I relish in my opportunity to act as a guide as well as a learner-explorer embarked on learning journeys with my students. As a guide I may create rich opportunities for learning that I believe may be relevant to my students, as well as provoke children in various ways to engage in personally meaningful inquiries. As a traveler I will not only observe students in their constructions of knowledge and meanings, but I myself will engage as a learner in making connections, building webs of understanding, and seeing beauty in all things anew. I have been blessed with the opportunity to create opportunities for children to realize their giftedness, use their bodies and minds for Self-and-other discovery, take risks in an environment where they feel safe and know in their hearts that if they fall they will be caught, and develop a lasting harmony with all beings and creation around them. Climber, belayer, and teacher must always be aware of possibilities, must be supportive and compassionate, creative and innovative. When parts are missing, the experience is part, when all parts are present the experience is whole. Perhaps above all else, climber, belayer, and teacher must believe in their journeys, themselves, and their partners in exploration.

  Food For Thought... Rowena Mascarenhas

 When we prepare a meal, whether it is for ourselves or for others, we take the time to ensure that we have the necessary ingredients and materials.  Sometimes, despite our careful preparation, we may discover that we are missing a much needed ingredient.  In some cases, we may need to improvise a bit in order to account for our own tastes and preferences, or to accommodate for our guests’ dietary needs.
 As the chef we like to make sure that we prepare quality products.  We want to give our guests well-balanced meals, covering the food groups, with the essential nutrients in each of our courses.  The presentation of the meal is crucial.  We like to garnish each platter in ways that will invite our guests to taste what we have created and to share our meal with us.  The meal at a social event brings people together; it unites a community.

In many ways, curriculum is best described in terms of food.  We need food to sustain us; we need an education to help us develop into thoughtful, responsible and informed citizens.  Our bodies and minds would not be able to function without food. Over the years there have been a number of fad diets that have gained popularity, but, at the same time, have been questioned.  Likewise, politicians and educators have disagreed about what should be taught and what is the best way to deliver the material.  Ultimately, we have realized, in both cases, that a balance is needed.  We need the carbs, proteins, and fats just like we need the English, mathematics, and arts programs. Many of us enjoy eating a buffet meal.  Buffets offer us with many choices.  There are things that we may like, but there are also things that may not suit our tastes.  Similarly, the curriculum guidelines are overwhelming at times, but we must decide what is needed and to what extent they should be applied.  We need to consume the basic sources of nourishment (i.e. reading, writing, and arithmetic), but hopefully we leave enough room for the dessert (i.e. the arts).

Metaphor for Teaching and Learning:  An Adventure Trail Guide... Catherine Combs

I see an ideal teacher- a holistic teacher - as an adventure trail guide.  This teacher keeps her students on their feet, being active, learning by doing, by experiencing the world around them. Sometimes the teacher will lead the journey, at the front of the trail, demonstrating risk taking, questioning, a passion for learning as well as skills and knowledge. Sometimes she will guide from the back, letting the students take the lead. The teacher will help the students build a safe, inclusive, trusting, collaborative group dynamic so that all students will be free to take risks and to fully develop.

The students’ learning is an adventure in the real world where what is in front/beside/around is constantly changing and moving. They will experience the world through all of their senses – not just by looking at pictures and hearing words. The students will see themselves reflected on this journey.  The students will come up with questions on this journey and both teachers and students will have the power to help them find the answers. The students will not be boxed in by spoken and written language –other languages available to them such as the language of music and the language of their bodies will be validated on this adventure.

The expectation is that the adventure is meaningful, exciting and authentic.  The hope is that the students leave the journey with this guide/teacher and look forward to their next journey.

Metaphor: The curriculum is like a cloud in the sky… Shara Bernstein

A cloud exists in many forms. While it often appears in the sky, when it rains it exists in the droplets of water that hit the earth. Bodies of water, in turn, evaporate to form new clouds. Clouds thus exist as part of a web, a system. The curriculum should also stress the relatedness of all people, the relatedness of all people’s actions and the relatedness of all people to the earth.

The position of clouds in a water cycle also undercuts the notion of distinct boundaries. Clouds thus reflect a connected, un-fragmented existence. The curriculum should also transcend conventional boundaries and limitations to emphasize greater relatedness and wholeness.

Clouds reflect a multitude of perspectives. You can look at a cloud and see a cloud, or you can see a woman, an ice cream cone, a flower….Cloud gazing allows you to think in an abstract way – to accept mystery, awe, fantasy and wonder as ways of knowing. The curriculum should also foster and value divergent approaches to explaining experience.

A cloud sometimes exists alone in the sky. Other times many overlap in an overcast sky. Sometimes the teacher is a guide, a resource in the classroom (one cloud). Other times the teacher is right up front (many overlapping clouds), and other times there is an even balance.

Holistic Curriculum Metaphor: Fire Pit... Sharon Grossman

The holistic curriculum is the fire pit where each flame will grow towards its greatest potential with the help of a caring and inspiring fire starter.  Each flame receives a good balance of wood, oxygen, and encouragement from the fire starter.  As the flames concentrate on the growth of their light, they experience stronger feelings of connection to their base, each other, and the whole great fire, and seem to just know how to creatively journey towards the sky.  As each flame brightens, it radiates the warmth and light it has gained from its growth, and exists in wholeness and beauty, transforming everyone and everything around it.

Metaphor of an educator as a trip leader... Jen Stephenson

A trip leader has a very unique job.  Her job is to provide safety and structure for a number of trippers whom she takes out in the wilderness for overnight excursions.  During these excursions, she is responsible for the well being and safety of all group members.  Throughout their varied length of time together, the group and its leader distinguish goals and desired outcomes.  Group goals are planned by all trippers whereby increasing member ownership and personal success and enjoyment.   Members must learn to trust one another, as everyone is not always involved in similar stages of the planning.  For instance, when planning meals one group may be responsible for a certain day and others may have no knowledge of what will be provided.  Even though the members may not be aware of what is going in all stages of the planning, the trip leader is very much aware.    She constantly encourages all members to work to the best of their ability to ensure that their contribution to the group is of highest quality. The level of experience and comfort usually varies within each individual.  She respects each tripper as an individual and acknowledges strengths and weaknesses.  Preparation and experimentation is very important as a tripper.  Each trip the trip leader learns something new about how the group has approached its task or something new about human dynamics.  Before departing a final check on members and their tasks is performed.

     Once on the trip, all the theory and ideas that have been spoken about are put into practice.  The learning becomes more internalized as trippers match what they are seeing with what they have learned.  The learning comes to life.   Although there are a number of expectations while on the trip, the learning becomes more self-directed and internalized.  The students begin to experience learning beyond the walls of the classroom.  The connection to nature and our surroundings resonates with each stroke of the paddle.  The serenity and calm of an early morning rise and a swim in the lake gives one a greater sense of being.  Silence has developed a whole new meaning. Trippers begin to realize how they fit into the world while gaining a truer understanding of many important things such as trust, friendship, peace and thanks.  Upon return the trippers share what they have learned regarding the experience.  They consciously and unconsciously learn many important skills that can be transferred to everyday life and education.

     I feel that a tripper is a teacher and as a result share a number of commonalities.  A tripper must love what they do and I feel that a teacher should feel the same way about her work.  A positive role model can create the positive learning environment required.  This love translates into how the students then view their learning.  A great deal of planning and preparation goes into a successful trip whether it is one night or two months, planning is key.   Planning is also key for a teacher, who must ensure the many demands within the Ontario curriculum are met.  Trippers as well as trip leaders learn the importance of planning and preparation in addition to the outcome or goal.  This is an essential part of learning.  Trippers learn that they too have responsibility and control over their learning and understand the positive benefit to becoming fully engaged in their own learning.  Of great importance is the learning partnership between the tripper, the trip leader and the experience of the learning (content).  The three walls of this partnership are connected and lay the foundation for a solid education.  Mother earth is the classroom of the trip leader illuminating the connection between the self (ves) and our surroundings.  Learning through doing and through nature enables the trip leader to share in the learning process and self-discovery.

Curriculum as the stage... Mary Lou Lamont

Curriculum is the backdrop and scenery on the stage wherein the drama of classroom learning plays out.  The backdrop will change as new scenes come and go.  Directions actors/learners take will change with the new scenery.  The teacher is but another character within the play; not the heroine or hero, (for the child plays that role in his/her own learning), but an important supporting actor.  The teacher may play the role of nasty nemesis or caring confidant as the script of learning unfolds.

Metaphor of an educational leader as a mother (in the best sense of the term)

A mother grows with her children.   A mother listens to her children.  A mother is aware of all of the emotional, psychological, and physical needs of her children.  She tries to be in tune with all of these needs and address them.  A mother learns with her children their differences, likes, dislikes and how to best encourage their growth.   A mother is nurturing, and kind.  A mother is strict, yells and is not always right, but a mother works hard to keep everyone happy, safe and reaching their maximum potential.   A mother is a guide and works to help her children navigate their paths in the world.

A mother is both a teacher and a learner.  Mothers are a metaphor for holistic learning in that they pay great attention to all aspects of their children, and their needs.  They are in tune with the needs of their children on every level possible, both non physical and physical. A mother is both a learner and a teacher as she gains and provides guidance from new experiences and benefits of past experiences to her children.  A mother searches and employs new approaches to greater reach her children and allow them to fully express themselves.  Mothers are dynamic and realize that learning is a process for them and their children.

The Metaphor of Dance for Holistic Approach to Curriculum... Teresa Placha

The curriculum is the series of dance steps through which students are led, initially through the dance instructor, with the instructor guiding the students, through the gentlest touch, great enthusiasm and constructive feedback.  At first, the dance steps seem foreign to the student and the danger is that the student will focus on mastering the dance step (ie. Box Step) from a purely intellectually perspective – moving the left foot here, right foot there).  However, even from the start, the instructor asks the student to feel the music, to listen with their hearts, and move accordingly, rather than rely simply on their knowledge of the steps.  Each student will wish to dance to a different type of music, and it will be up to instructor to help the student find a way to dance to their own tune.  With practice, and with many different dance partners, the student will learn to appreciate the many different ways in which the music can be interpreted.  Eventually, students will want to lead in their dances, developing a freestyle approach or movement to the music that speaks to their mind, body and heart.  It is at this point, that the will be ready to lead and be lead, intuitively making decisions, in the moment as to how to move with others to the soundtrack that life offers them.

The metaphor of an Ecosystem... Nadia Graziani

The curriculum is a rainforest.  The animals or wildlife (the students) are individuals, each with various needs.  The wildlife take what they need, in order to grow and change, from the everpresent vegetation (the teacher). Different animals require sustenance at different times and in different
forms, but the vegetation is vast and diverse, always providing for the various needs of the wildlife.  A rainforest works in unison to create and
maintain a healthy environment.  Every species in a rainforest has a unique and important role to play, and they are all dependent on one another in some way.  At the core of a rainforest is the sense of connectedness.