Guest post: Steve Saville of Alfriston College, Auckland, on comics in the classroom

Today, we’re joined by Steve Saville, deputy principal at Alfriston College in South Auckland. For four years, Steve has championed the use of comics in the classroom through a series of innovative workshops which have allowed students to develop and publish their own high quality comic books. In the first of a two-part guest post, Steve tells the story of Alfriston’s unique comic book education project.

See more on comics in the classroom via the “comicsedu” tag on this site.

Like most teachers, I can think of numerous times that I have attempted to encourage or develop creativity with students, both in and out of the classroom. Like most teachers, my in-class efforts have fallen firmly in the realm of teacher-directed, and therefore dictated, creativity.

Comic book learning in action at Alfriston College
Comic book learning in action at Auckland’s Alfriston College

More recently, I’ve spent a few years encouraging learners to genuinely take control of the creative process, exploring creativity through the medium of comics. The aim has been to produce original comics that are of a publishable and professional standard. I have done this within a single school environment, Alfriston College. A potted history of our programme follows.

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The zombies of Tullamore: A library youth programme with a difference

As my regular readers will know, Friday 9th November saw a very special event in Tullamore, New South Wales. Australasian libraries have run a lot of innovative youth activities in recent years – but I think this was the first time that they had gone so far as to summon the living dead in the name of literacy…

A zombie lurks at the windows of Tullamore Library, New South Wales

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April update: Science tattoos, teen bloggers, copywriting, and comics

It’s been a little quiet on the blog lately as I ploughed through a swathe of writing assignments and tried (only partly successfully) to stay clear of the Internet.

I have a couple of articles out later this year for the Australian science magazines ScienceWise and Australasian Science, profiling scientists who featured in Carl Zimmer’s book Science Ink. Carl uncovered the weird and wonderful world of researchers who have their work tattooed on their bodies after he spotted a DNA helix inked on the arm of a respected neurobiologist at a pool party in the States. This led to a great book collecting photos of striking, beautiful and downright bizarre science tattoos from around the world.

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A drought stricken billabong…or an oasis of cool? News from Australian High School Libraries

This week we have a guest post from Tracy Dawson, teacher librarian at Parkes High School in New South Wales, Australia.

I first visited Tracy’s library last year while working with the literacy scheme Paint the Town REaD. I was impressed by the vibrant, witty and hip vibe of this rural high school library – a real oasis of unconventional thought and inspiration for local teens.

Tracy did heroic work in 2011: she encouraged a group of teen writers to participate in NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program. In that program, young people commit to writing a long piece of fiction in the month of November. Parkes lacks a tradition of writing and writer’s groups, so Tracy’s success in shepherding four of her students through to completing the challenge is exceptional – especially as November is exam season for Aussie teens! See media coverage of Tracy’s young NaNoWriMo participants here.

Now over to Tracy:

Parkes High School LibraryI’ve taught English here at the same Australian state high school for seventeen years and was so passionate about my subject; I never imagined I would change focus.

But a period of time in which I became disillusioned with the education system and society’s attitude to education in general made me rethink my career, and retrain as a Teacher Librarian. I’ve ended up in the same school – the same school I attended as a teenager! – which some people would say is like being stuck in a drought stricken billabong. But a move up the stairs and out of the classroom has invigorated me, my relationship with colleagues and students, my love of literature and my belief that teachers make a difference.

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New at Role/Reboot: Matt on Heroism, Masculinity and Elementary School

Matt teaching elementary school in Peru

You think you know fear?

I was only knee-deep in icy seawater, but that was enough. Beside me, a half-dozen anxious Moms formed a loose human chain. We were trying to cordon off a horde of 6-year-olds, cheerfully running amok at the water’s edge. My eyes flicked around the shoreline, trying to keep track of each and every child. I’d been teaching for less than a year and the safety of these happy, heedless kids was my responsibility.

You think you know fear? Try taking a class of 1st graders to the beach.

This week on Role/Reboot, you can see my piece The Man Without Fear: Heroism and Elementary School.

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Matt joins Advisory Board of Behind the Book

Dr Matt Finch with Behind the Book's Comic Workshop in Brooklyn, NYC
Dr Matt Finch with Behind the Book's Comic Workshop in Brooklyn, NYC

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been appointed to the Advisory Board of Behind the Book, the non-profit organisation which gives students in NYC public schools the chance to learn from published authors and illustrators.

Further to my work designing K-12 curriculum for Behind the Book in 2011, I’ll be supporting them as they build sustained creative partnerships between authors, students and educators across New York City.

You can find out more about Behind the Book here:

Coming soon on this site – guest blogging from the high school library that’s a hipster oasis in rural Australia, and a new piece bringing together superheroes, elementary school and gender studies.

Nikky Smedley – Storytelling for Young Children in 2012

Nikky Smedley, the performer, storyteller and choreographer best known for her role as the Teletubby Laa Laa, first appeared on my site back in 2010, when she took her children’s dance show The Tell Woman on tour in the UK.

Nikky Smedley as The Tell Woman

On the eve of my interview with New York’s official storyteller Diane Wolkstein, Nikky joins us again for a guest post about storytelling and education in 2012.

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New York Harbor School: Interview with Founding Principal Nate Dudley

Back in October, I got in touch with the folks at New York Harbor School on the eve of their First Annual Regatta, a nautical event to celebrate the school’s work bringing a unique brand of maritime education to the city’s students.

Harbor School students at work in the waters of NYC

I discovered the Harbor School while auditing a course for Special Education leaders at New York’s Bank Street College back in February. I was impressed to encounter a US institution which brought together public education with a strong community commitment and a fearsome range of practical training including marine technology, commercial diving and aquaculture!

In my teens I was keener to skive off kayaking lessons and sneak out to Birmingham for shopping and pizza than get on the water. Now, at 31, I can only dream of the kind of maritime opportunities the Harbor School offers its students.

Nate Dudley, the founding principal, got in touch with me by e-mail to discuss the educational adventure currently taking place on Governor’s Island in New York.

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New York Harbor School: First Annual Regatta after 8 Years Leading Maritime Public Education

New York Harbor School's 1st Annual Regatta, October 6th 2011
Teaching environmental stewardship and maritime skills in the heart of the city

Thursday 6th October sees a unique school in the heart of New York launch a special celebration after eight years delivering teaching and learning from the city’s harbour.

New York Harbor School’s First Annual Regatta will take place at Governors Island, attended by guests from the city’s business and media.

Funds raised will support New York City’s only public maritime high school, which delivers an innovative curriculum blending environmental awareness, practical sea skills and hands-on learning.

We’ll be looking deeper into the work of New York Harbor School in a forthcoming feature on Books and Adventures. In the meantime, you can find out more from the school’s own site,

Comics in New Zealand Education – Interview with Steve Saville of Alfriston College

Alfriston College is a Decile 3 school in South Auckland, serving a mixed population of Maori, Pacific Islanders, pakeha and other immigrants.

Working with Jeremy Bishop of DMC Comics – interviewed here on Books and Adventures – Alfriston has produced some striking comic book work thanks to a pioneering project that empowers students and gives them a platform for their creative expression.

Today we’re joined by Deputy Head Steve Saville to discuss Alfriston’s work as part of our ongoing feature on comics in New Zealand education.

Set out in the South Auckland suburbs, Alfriston College is determinedly non-traditional – it’s referred to, by critics and fans alike, as “that place where they play music instead of ringing a bell Comics from Alfriston Colllegebetween lessons”. The school’s philosophy is to use the latest research to deliver education for the 21st century. Innovations include a timetable of three 100-minute lessons a day, and termly ‘Three Day Episodes’, when students are given time to work on a self-selected project.

As Deputy Head Steve Saville puts it, ‘We’re trying to cultivate things a little bit outside the box. Authenticity and imagination are our watchwords. Traditional schooling was failing disadvantaged communities, and particularly the Maori, so why use it in a brand-new school?’

A British-born teacher with experience in both schools and universities, Steve arrived at Alfriston four years ago as Deputy Principal with responsibility for curriculum, bringing with him a lifelong comic-book obsession.

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