Saturday, September 27, 2014

Disasters, Dilemmas and Decisions

I recently visited Christchurch. It was my first time back since the second and largest of the quakes in February 2011 and it was a very emotional experience. I had visited briefly after the first big quake in 2010 but my main memories of Christchurch come from the time I spent there as an e-fellow in 2006 and at several Ulearn conferences before and after that. So much has changed. 

There are still many buildings left that are obviously due to be demolished, many, many open spaces where buildings used to be, and many in the process of either being rebuilt or demolished. Many of my favourite places no longer exist or are scheduled for demolition.

Many new artworks have appeared in the city, providing a strange contrast between beauty and destruction. This building was one of the strangest and, to me, most meaningful, of those artworks. Look carefully to spot which parts are real and which are paintings. A view of this building from the back is included at the end.

The saddest part of my visit was seeing the Christchurch Cathedral. This building was badly damaged in both earthquakes. Parts of it look almost unscathed, if you don't look too closely, providing a glimpse of its former glory.

Sadly, the front and tower including the beautiful rose window, have completely disappeared, leaving a gaping hole. No-one was killed or injured when the tower collapsed. Having climbed to the top of the tower myself in 2006 I can appreciate how lucky that was.
The church owners have decided to demolish the church and build a new one. This decision has been surrounded by much controversy with attempts being made to restore the building

In the interim a transitional "cardboard" cathedral has been built. Very beautiful in its own right, but naturally very different from the original. When designing the front window, designs from the original rose window were incorporated into the design to provide a link between old and new. 

So what has all this to do with education? Change is inevitable. Sometimes it is gradual, happening over a long period of time. Often we are barely aware of these changes happening, or of making conscious decisions about them. 

We can also consciously decide to change something and spend time exploring possibilities and making decisions about how best to implement those changes so as to cause as little disruption as possible. Sometimes we will implement temporary changes to ease that transition or to provide some improvements while we work towards a bigger picture.
Sometimes we will have change thrust upon us. This can leave us reeling and feeling helpless. It can however give us a chance to rethink what it is we value, what we want to keep and what we need to leave behind. 

Schools looking to implement an inquiry-based approach need to think about what they value and need to retain and what they can remove from their curriculum. Attempting an inquiry approach without doing this can only end in tears. More on this thought to come.

More Photos

Cathedral 2014
Cathedral 2014

Photograph G. O'Beirne 2006
What is real? 2014

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