DT - The art of survival

Exploring the way things work in our world can bring out the best in pupils, says Ian Williams

Ian Williams

Could you survive on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe? Would you be able to build a shelter? And would you know what to use? These are some of the questions that secondary pupils at de Ferrers Specialist Technology College in Staffordshire faced in a design and technology lesson.

It was an idea based on Lost, the television series, but it was not just a game. Thinking creatively and intervening to improve the quality of life is at the heart of design and technology lessons for pupils of all ages.

The pupils at de Ferrers explored and experimented with ideas, materials and techniques as they designed and made things that people would need to survive on an island after their plane came down.

They came up with solutions, interpretations and innovative ways of using the resources and surrounding environment of a desert island for survival.

The work was an example of what's good, changing or developing in design and technology - exactly the sort of thing being celebrated at the DT with ICT Show that began yesterday at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

Four primary schools in Shropshire, for example, who formed a QCA co-development group have introduced a series of design and technology projects that integrate work and improve standards in other subjects too.

In a key stage 2 food technology unit on bread, links are made to science (reversible and irreversible changes, mould investigations); mathematics (measuring, weighing, costing); English (recount, instructions, diary, research, recipes) and geographyRE (different breads around the world, those used in religious celebrations) as pupils grapple with ideas for a bread product that will improve the quality of life for a group they identified.

One primary pupil said: "We explore the way things work in the world we live in. Design and technology inspires us to make our own projects at home."

Daniella Manna, who teaches at Newtown C of E Primary School in Shropshire, said: "Children develop positive attitudes as learners, practising qualities such as persistence and resilience that can have a knock-on effect on the standards they achieve in English and mathematics."

These are teachers working to help pupils develop the ability to conceive and create a range of functional products or systems that will make a difference for people now and throughout their lives.

Ian Williams is curriculum adviser, curriculum division at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

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