What does a Great Community look like?

By Karen De Villiers

I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher. From a very young age I can remember telling people that I would be a teacher one day as teaching is the most rewarding career. To have the privilege to guide and support developing minds is an honour. At the end of every year it always amazes me how far my children have come and how much they have grown and changed. 

My goal as a teacher is to instill a passion for learning and ignite minds that wander and ask questions, solving problems in creative and innovative ways.

Cannons Creek has allowed me the freedom to explore and develop my unique teaching styles in an environment of encouragement, guided and supported by our principal and inspired by a team of passionate teachers. I am so grateful for the introduction of Inquiry-Based Learning at Cannons Creek. I love creating learning journeys for my children, making school an exciting and engaging place to be.  It has not only made learning fun for the children but the teachers as well. I love watching how engaged and involved the children are when working through their IBL activities.

The vision

The vision

IBL (Inquiry-Based Learning) is an incredibly exciting way of learning and teaching. Collaborating across subjects (Natural Science, Geography, History, and Life Orientation) allows for deeper thinking and/or understanding. Students learn all kinds of wonderful skills such as critical thinking, peer-teaching, and research techniques; and, importantly, their learning focuses on real-world application. This way of teaching promotes a growth mindset and is child-centered, meaning that students learn from their mistakes and can proceed at their own pace.

With this Inquiry-Based Learning unit, I wanted my students to discover and research different communities, habitats, and settlements, specifically to answer the question...


“What does a great community look like?”

This driving question was broad enough to allow me to cover most of the content of the syllabus. I used the task to cover content and facilitate an inquiry process that focused on one aspect of the content.

Curriculum standards

The vision

Geography: Map work, settlements, uses of land, buildings and their uses, resources, services, facilities, landmarks, needs vs wants

Science: Living and nonliving, habitats, structures

History: Sources of Information, families, local community, history of the school, and history of Pinelands. School in the past.

LO: The brain and how we learn, community-solving conflicts, differences, and similarities, rights and responsibilities


Curriculum standards

This learning also facilitated the development of the following skills identified in the  IEB curriculum:

  • identify and solve problems and make decisions using critical and creative thinking;
  • work effectively as individuals and with others as members of a team;
  • organise and manage themselves and their activities responsibly and effectively;
  • collect, analyse, organise and critically evaluate information;
  • communicate effectively using visual, symbolic and/or language skills in various modes;
  • use science and technology effectively and critically showing responsibility towards the environment and the health of others; and
  • demonstrate an understanding of the world as a set of related systems by recognising that problem-solving contexts do not exist in isolation.

Learning journey

The vision

Teacher planning

The vision

The Launch 

Students were introduced to the driving question: 


What does a great community look like?


They then spent the term learning all about different communities, habitats, and settlements. Students also learned about leadership, matter, and materials. They then needed to consolidate all of this knowledge and the skills that they have been taught to answer the driving question. 


Making use of a rubric that was designed as a Google Site: What does a great community look like? Students had to work collaboratively, with each team having to start a new settlement, and creating a great community for people to live in. Students presented their ideas for this settlement to the Committee for Community Creation (the teachers). 


Several tasks need to be completed in order to creatively convince the committee that your community truly is a great one.  

Finally, the teacher evaluated individual group work skills according to the guidelines outlined on the resource site: What does Great Community Look Like

Student activities

The vision


Students create a Slideshow to share information about leaders in their settlement and explain how these qualities will help them lead their community.



Students displayed their understanding of the habitat's food chains and assessed the settlement's ecological footprint. Students had to decide if their settlement had a positive or negative impact on the environment. Each group presented their findings in a poster with a clear structure with an explanation of a variety of ideas that make their settlement eco-friendly.


Students to create a pamphlet of the services and facilities their settlement would offer. Asking questions and completing research was a great way for them to demonstrate their understanding.


Students carefully designed the layout of their settlements ensuring that land was allocated for transport, residential, commercial, health, safety, recreation etc. This is linked to the Geography syllabus.


Students had to show their understanding of timelines. The students had to neatly set up a timeline demonstrating their community establishment process. The timeline included dates, arrows, lines, and information of events with at least six different relevant events marked on the timeline. This included details such as the first presentation of their idea to the Committee for Community Creation, the first house to be built in the community, the date the foundation stone was put up, the first school, etc.


The students were given a section of a larger map of a neighbouring town. Each group created a 3D model of this map on an A4 piece of paper, including all buildings and facilities. Students had to ensure they used the grid on the map to correctly place everything when creating their 3D model. They were able to use a variety of materials and building techniques to create their models.


The last task required each group to evaluate how well they worked as a team and how well they completed each task.  Each group completed the evaluation form including analyzing their strengths and areas of improvement.

Teacher reflections

The vision

Addressing a real-world problem helped students identify with the task. Working on the task purely during class time reduced the stress of doing this task in an “examination ” term. It also allowed for successful group work and collaboration. Out-of-the-box thinking by students was evident and seeing students develop the life skill of presenting to an authentic audience was awesome!

Technology used

The vision


Google Doc 

Google Drawings 

Google Sites

Technology used

What's next?

The vision

I am excited as next term the Grade 4s become Water SuperHeroes answering the BIG QUESTION:

How can I become a water Superhero?

Closing thoughts

The vision

IBL has inspired the teachers and engaged the children in exciting and independent learning experiences. In order to keep lifelong learning alive, we change our BIG questions occasionally. 

Want to learn more about PBL? Want to learn more about IBL? 

Hop over to LaunchPad and complete our SACE-accredited Power of Project-based Learning and Becoming a Learning Architect courses. 

Or bring us to your school or join us online for our Extreme Project Makeover or Breaking Down the Silos workshops.