The Peacock Feather experiment

The endless possibilities that lie in a blank page…

Learners focusing on their drawings

Learners focusing on their drawings

With the help of a very complexly constructed peacock feather, we got sucked up into a tornado of learning and unlearning and learning and success.Our kids started by analysing the feather…We discussed its composition, its role in a peacock’s life, and its role in an imaginary world where peacocks and birds don’t exist.

“It’s fluffy”, “It’s colourful”, “It’s ticklish”, “The feathers make the peacock look pretty”, “The peacock will look like it has many eyes so other animals will be scared of it.”etc.

The feather was transformed into a tree, a flower, a broom, a quill-like pen, and many more re-inventions of the beautiful gift from nature.

They started drawing archetypes of the feather. Some of the feathers were really short, they had thick ‘stems’ and ‘leaves’, the ‘leaves’ were straight, the ‘eye’ was perfectly round and one was even drawn like a star. The kids then engaged in a feedback session whereby they had to analyse the drawing in comparison with the actual feather. They suggested Drawing Feathershow their peers can improve their pictures to make the drawing look more like the feather. “Make the tip sharper” “The stem  needs to become thinner” “The feathers must ‘jive’ at the bottom”

Then the kids return to the drawing board and start from scratch. This process is repeated over and over again until the day the consensus of the group is that the student’s feather is representative of the feather. The next step is the adding of colour. They tested out the colours on a scrap piece of paper, adding more colours on top of each other, blending them together to find the perfect shades.

The process was a lengthy one.

Complaints were inevitable, but never did I imagine the strike that they shocked us with.  Our kids expressed frustration on one of the days and took very long to settle down and start drawing, even then they were extremely rambunctious. This lead to the decision to retract the biscuit they get at the end of the day as a reward. And that lead to as full on strike where they demanded “their biscuits”. We stood our ground as we had given them many opportunities to redeem themselves throughout the day with full disclosure as to what the consequences of their actions would be. The next day, the same kids who lead the strike were the ones who got started on their feathers as they walked into the classroom, they kept the other kids inline, they gave the most feedback, they unlearned and learned.

They learned that with effort and constant reassessment, they will beat themselves every time. They expressed much excitement and pride in themselves as they observed how much they improved over the journey. Slowly, but surely, they started to believe in themselves. They started to imagine translating it into the other spheres of their lives, be it maths, literacy, public speaking, or sports, they envisioned a journey towards perfection.  And the last image of their peacock feathers were the perfect representation of the best version of themselves that they can strive to offer at all times.

One of the questions I ask the kids regularly worked perfectly for this project… “What does TRIUMPH start with?” “TRY!!!” “And it ends with?” “OOOOOMPH!!!

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Dionne Mankazana, Streetlight Schools Tutor


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