The Cottage School Photography Workshop

In January 2017, the students at The Cottage School engaged in a week-long photography workshop. Under the guidance of Biko Wesa and the teachers at The Cottage School, a curriculum was created that crossed over into Math, Literacy History and Science that covered the topic of Photography for the week. The students learned about the history of the camera, how the camera evolved over time and notable photographers throughout Africa and around the world. After the morning theory and research, the students learned the art of taking photos in various locations.

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Bringing Back Joy in Learning


“…They asked for the exam early and broke out in singing when I mentioned doing a review.”

It was about two weeks ago. Students were preparing for their exams. Excitedly they came into the classroom.  I began to go through the topics that we had learned in class one-by-one; reviewing areas where they needed to brush up and reminding them of the various learning projects that they had completed with the particular unit. I asked them to recall grammar, use of punctuation, spelling words and the like.


As the review continued something interesting began to happen. Throughout the review, someone would break out in song and everyone would begin singing along. It would go something like this; “Ok everyone what do you remember about homophones?” The students would reply with, “Weather, whether, weather, whether, weather you’re happy or not. Weather, whether, weather, whether, weather you’re cold or you’re hot…” while performing the actions to show the difference between the two words (Thank you Veggie Tales).

Afterwards, they would give examples of the particular unit of review and how it could be used in writing. We did this for metaphor, simile, making inferences and so on. “Ms. BB, (as they call me) that question was easy.” “We know this from the songs. Can we have our exams early?”



If what you’ve just read above doesn’t sound like a classroom that you’re familiar with you are not alone. We’ve been conditioned to believe that learning is stressful and hard for so long that when learning is actually enjoyable we tend to question whether any learning has taken place at all.

Songs and movement can be used at every grade level to enhance learning. Students who struggle with memorizing the dates in a Social Studies exam can sing all of the lyrics of the latest pop songs. Could the music industry have a clue into the interest of children and tweens that school policy-makers and curriculum writers may be missing?


As the time for class came to an end I realized, not only were the students enjoying their review, they also had confidence in their knowledge of the topic. Perhaps it’s time to trade in the sterile, quiet classroom structure for ones where students freely break out in singing a song when exam time is on the horizon.

Perhaps it’s time to bring joy back into the learning process.

Joanne Ball-Burgess B.A., M.Ed

Head Teacher of The Cottage School

Judge Jo1: Wholistic Education For Wholistic Growth And Development

The Cottage School is more than just about kids having fun and dancing. The Cottage School is a reinvention of education a way that kids can learn naturally and enjoy learning so that they actually learn more. We align ourselves with British and American standards with a focus on this continent and the history is based in Kenya. What we find is that by having the arts and the core subjects going hand in hand they enhance each other and help the student develop mentally, physically as well as self perceptionally. All in all we educate the whole child. #EducatingAllOfMe


Education in Kenya has come under a lot of questioning, most saying that the result does not help much in real life. The outside world is wild and requires so much of a student most of which is not covered in our system. Instead of the 8-4-4 system our country has adopted, most parents are now seeking alternative systems which may help their children lead better lives and be better and useful people in the society.

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