I visited an unconventional after school programme in Hackney called “Hackney Pirates” which happens to be down the road from me. It’s mentioned in John Potter’s book as an example of a social enterprise espousing many of the educational principles he proposes at the end of the book (these are also published here on the manifesto for media education).
The Hackney Pirates are committed to the value of one-to-one interaction and learner-centred pedagogy. Adult volunteers commit at least one 3 hour period per month to spending time with local primary (Yrs 5 & 6) and secondary children (Yrs 7 & 8) – doing homework, reading, chatting and then participating in collaborative group projects involving arts, craft, digital media and other expressive modes. See the Youtube channel. As many activities are coordinated by professional creative practitioners – often for free – the resultant artifacts, products or performances have quality real-life associations for the children. More thoughts and observations below..
The children tend to be the quieter ones, with no particular behavioural issues but whose voices need and warrant nurturing and valuing. There’s a flatness to the organisational structure that dilutes any sense of top down authority and adds to a general calm focus and equanimity. Everyone is a pirate, even those temporarily visiting, and everyone joins in the activities from meditations in the Ideas Room – with chalkboards for walls – to whole group discussions. This is a well designed former office space with pirate paraphernalia and drapery, cosy niches and carved out dens.
There’a a real collective identity going on as seen in the below Hackney Pirates Guide to Life. More of this on the Inspire Me! section of the site:
More traditional and new media technologies are integrated into project work as the activities demand; digital kit is not necessarily privileged, they’re just the tools. Experiential learning is key to the Pirates ethos and a major part of its success and popularity with the kids. To this I add my ‘clap of zen’ (part of the pirate nomenclature … volunteer and find out more).