INTAD – The Hidden Curriculum
At first glance, when one passes by the Industrial Technology and Design (INTAD) classrooms at Nambour Christian College, you may just see a bunch of boys (and a few girls) hammering nails, drilling holes , or sawing planks of wood. It’s usually noisy, so much so that one wonders how any teacher could talk above all the commotion. But if you watch for just a few moments longer, you might observe something completely different than first appearances suggest – a well-oiled machine functioning at an organizational capacity much higher than expected. Students involved in the NCC INTAD program not only construct functional, practical projects they can take home and use, but perhaps unbeknownst to many, they are the beneficiaries of a brilliant “hidden curriculum” preparing them for life.
After 32 years as an Industrial Technology and Design teacher and 26 years as a Head of Department Jeff Spencer, sums it up in just a few words.
“We are not just training students to become cabinet makers, welders, or builders; it’s all about learning life skills – what I call the ‘hidden curriculum’.”
While most classrooms find students sitting at their desks attentively listening to a lecture, or working diligently at their laptop, INTAD classrooms are an interactive, hands-on society. People moving across the room from table to table, weaving passed each other occasionally bumping, merging into and out of ongoing conversations with instructors, patiently waiting for the right time to interject an “Excuse me, Mr. Spencer…”. This is where “Please”, “Excuse me,” and “Thank you,” are necessary to acquire what you need to get the job done. It is very much a culture of respect between students, teachers, and teacher aides.
To achieve success in INTAD, it’s not about acing an English or Maths test. Here a student is learning to work in a cooperative manner with 24 other students sharing the same tools and resources. They learn to collectively problem solve and assist each other at their 4-station benches. They are observant of workplace health and safety rules, and are respectful towards each other to prevent injury or mishaps. They acutely develop hand-eye coordination, and learn to apply what they have heard and seen to create a tangible product they made.
From year 7 to 12, students have the opportunity to create a variety of interesting projects involving wood, metal, even 3-D printing. Each project can be modified to accommodate the skills of an individual student, catering to all levels, not only those who are academically gifted. Learning is multi-faceted, using auditory, visual, and kinaesthetic modalities. They watch, they listen, and then they get to do! Beginning with a plastic lollie dish and toy car in year 7, progressing to the more complex vintage truck and wooden pen in year 8, by the time a student advances to senior school, they are designing hand-crafted ukuleles, welding portable camping BBQs, and constructing French provincial mantle clocks, and a roll-top desk. They can even make their own brass tools, such as a square and sliding bevel, using the milling machine and metal lathe.
There are numerous opportunities for INTAD students to exhibit their new found skills on campus, in the community, and after high school. The Backstage Crew for the bi-annual school musical is an integral component of putting on a spectacular production. Many of the Industrial Technology students build, paint, and assist with set-design, and use their team organisational skills to manoeuvre large sets on and off the stage. And each year, multiple awards are won by NCC students entering the Cooroy Wood Show, earning prizes across three categories with a variety of different work, with the Ukelele being the big winner!
With a sense of pride not only for his own son, who was the first to complete an INTAD school-based apprenticeship at NCC, Mr. Spencer says in almost every class there are 2 – 5 students involved in traineeships in the trades. And at least 50% or more of the class chooses to eventually enter a trade after school. Job opportunities range from being a building contractor or shop fitter, to making jewellery and prosthetic devices. But he likes to stress to students still exploring and wondering if taking an INTAD course is for them, that
“It’s not about heading into the trades. Just try it! You don’t really know until you give it a go! And you’ve lost nothing by taking the class. Yet you’ve gained so many hands-on skills that you can actually use later in life – the things human beings need and use for everyday living.”
At NCC, there’s more than meets the eye when peering into an INTAD classroom. For each and every child, male or female, academically inclined or not, hidden beneath the surface of the wood and metal, is a journey into their life ahead and the world around them. Sitting in the Director’s Chair that they made, they have genuinely gained a greater appreciation for how things work together and how the world is constructed.