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Children Who Solve Adult Problems

Everyone Has , Job In This Suburb

A TEACHING • scheme which is possibly outstanding in New Zealand has been put into operation at the Mataura school, Southland. The pupils in the fifth and sixth standards, under the first assistant, Mr. E. R; Darracott, are not only learning about citizenship and its responsibilities; they' are citizens, within the limits of the class-room, working out their own business and domestic problems, and conducting their own administration.

The' system sets out to challenge the criticism that the primary school curriculum fails to provide a practical field of training for after-life. The framework is retained, and the teacher insists that a thorough groundwork must be established, but it is being operated in such a way that meaning and purpose are being brought into the minds of the pupils. It is an original method of teaching, in an essentially practical manner, the ordinary subjects of the curriculum. Before the pupils in the schoolroom is a model of a suburb, measuring 7ft by 4ft lin, the plans of which were prepared by Mrs. Bell, of Mason and Wales, architects, Dunedin. It is equipped, so far as a model will permit, with all the amenities expected of a settlement of 240 persons. The scale is l-12th of an inch to the foot.

Teacher's Work This suburb is a constant reminder of the conditions under which the residents would normally work and live, and is aptly named Childborough. The residents are the pupils; its conduct and progress are their responsibility. The syllabus is so arranged that the lessons are merged into the daily responsibilities of citizens. These lessons are not only learned, but carried into effect.

Childborough has among its dmenities a town hall, a post office, a bank, a school, a hospital, a railway station and railway, an adjoining farm, which technically supplies the primary needs of the suburb, a newspaper office, an undenominational church, commercial buildings and a residential area, on which are built houses valued, on the 1939 scale, at up to £3500. Childborough is in no way a plaything. The work undertaken by the teacher to give a practical basis to the training has been tremendous. He has drawn on every available fund of information from electrical engineers to proprietors of mantle shops. All this knowledge has been fitted into the pattern of a graduated teaching scheme, in line with the new arithmetic syllabus just' pub-

lishecl by the Education Department. The pupils have their own postmaster, insurance manager, bank manager, electrical engineer, stationmaster and other responsible officers.. They print their own cheque, income tax, insurance premium and other forms on a hand press provided by the teacher. They have been taught die basic principles of the cheque

system of payment, and operate on their own accounts. They have bought their own sections and houses, and are being taught to live within their own incomes. These are only a few of their many activities.

Childborough really started after the issue of The Childborough News, printed by courtesy of The Southland Times. The newspaper caused great interest in the class-room. It contained advertisements inviting applications for vacant positions in the suburb. These formed the basis for the teaching of" composition, correct business, letter-writing and addressing of envelopes. To give reality to the procedure, the pupils received acknowledgment of their letters through the Mataura Post Office. Each pupil was allowed to apply for three positions. This procedure followed lessons on the rise of towns and suburbs, and the reason Childborough had come into existence. <

The next step was the auction of sections, the teacher acting as the auctioneer and a pupil as the clerk. The spirited bidding reflected the interest in the project and helped to place the scheme on a solid foundation. Exercises in dimensions of sections linked ordinary arithmetical prSblems with the personal problems of buying and sale agreements.

Purchase Of Houses From here the pupils proceeded to the purchase of houses, the transactions being carried out within the various income groups. Before attempting the purchase, the pupils Were presumed to have certain sums of money standing in their accounts, the valuation of houses again being on the 1939 standards. The payment of deposits, .the arrangement for the repayment of principal and interest, and the payment of insurance were all carried out through responsible

class officers, the agreements being signed and receipts given on forms printed on the school printing press. The cheques were paid into the bank, the manager and teller adjusting the accounts and keeping the ledgers in order.

In correlating the scheme with the requirements of the school syllabus, the pupils were set problems of which the following is an example:— "If the cost of your house were £500 and it was insured against fire for three-quarters of its value at 4/ per cent, what would be your insurance premium?" In every way possible, bridges have been built between life in Childborough and education in its formal aspects. The streets have been named after famous historical characters, project work being undertaken and essays written. The sketches on the lives of these characters are a tribute to the imagination and factual grasp of the pupils.

Life Insurance Principle From insurance of property, the pupils advanced to life and endowmen insurance, ages and payment being explained. Here again the practical aspect is given full scope. Periodically, class agents collect premiums and give receipts, while the machinery of banking is kept in operation. Sums are set on the transactions carried out. a typical example being as follows:— "Using the insurance table supplied, what would be the total payment for a bov of 15 if he wishes to insure himself for £250. to be paid at t.he age of 45?" The scheme has been devised to include so many aspects of communal life that it is possible to mention only a few. Furniture and furnishings have their place in the work, the factors of cost and selection again being used. For the interest and instruction of the girls,

samples of dress material have been obtained. Selections have been made and costs estimated for the made-up garment. In this department of the work, the assistance of different firms has been appreciated.

Meals and food values come prom l inently into the teaching scheme, the pupils being required to work out the costs on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. Interest has been given to this phase of the work by the setting up of imaginary tea rooms, with waitresses serving and helping the customers to budget for their requirements. The teacher is indebted to the Home Science Department, Otago University, DunediK, for the preparation of the menus.

Rating Values Among other subjects have been rating on improved and unimproved values, the sending of telegrams and general post office practice. Worked into the pattern of the scheme have been train travelling, the buying of tickets and the estimation of costs to stations at varying distances. Round the suburb runs a miniature train which a railway official dispatches to give reality to t.he work.

The pupils are now in the process of electing their own mayor and councillors. The candidates must be prepared to address electors' meetings and outline schemes for the administi-ation and improvement of the borough.

Other phases of citizenship have yet to be introduced, the intention of the teacher being to bring the course to a close with a world cruise. . The success of the project has been assisted by the ready cooperation given and the public spirit shown by parents and friends of the school. The modelling of the miniature buildings, a tremendous task in itself, has been undertaken by a parent and the painting done by the teacher concerned.

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Bibliographic details

Children Who Solve Adult Problems, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 177, 28 July 1945

Word Count

Children Who Solve Adult Problems Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 177, 28 July 1945

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