In a previous post, I promised to gather and share Mantle of the Expert plans based on New Zealand historical events. Thanks to those who got in touch with suggestions. I know there are many other examples out there, so please let me know if you can recommend a published resource or if have a plan you are willing to share.

The examples listed below include some that explore broad historical issues, and a few looking at specific historical events. Where possible I have included a link to a copy of the planning, or information about where it can be found.

  • One of my favourite process dramas is Trevor Sharpe’s huia beak brooch originally published on the TKI website. This explores issues of colonial history and touches on conservation too. Suitable for primary and junior drama classrooms, the planning has Mantle of the Expert qualities that could be built on to extend it into a full term’s cross curricula exploration.
  • Jacob’s Secret is another great resource created by Peter O’Connor and a group of students at Waikato University in the 1990s. The booklet explores the colonisation of the Waikato, though it could be adapted to look into the history of other areas too.
  • Playing our Stories – a resource for classroom drama in years 1-6, produced by Learning Media in 2006, includes another very accessible process drama by Peter O’Connor entitled Taonga. Planned as a short unit exploring different attitudes to land and family history, it definitely has the potential to be extended into a full length Mantle of the Expert. I’ve attached a scanned copy of the planning here. I trust someone will let me know if that’s against copyright regulations but I figure it’s OK since this resource was sent out to every primary school in NZ – it was designed to be shared around! Primary teachers may still be able to find hard copies lurking in a resource cupboard somewhere! If so, check out the DVD which shows the lessons being taught.
  • Telling our stories – another resource produced by Learning media, this time for years 7-13, includes a terrific drama by Lyn Shillingford and Frances Reed based on the Tangiwai disaster of 1953.  I’ve taught this one quite a few times and it’s powerful stuff. As in the other examples listed, this drama includes a commission, a client and a responsible team so it would be easy to run it as a full blown ‘mantle’. I’ve only got an old photocopy so the quality may not be great but, again, it may still be possible to find copies in intermediate and high school resource rooms.
  • Carrie Swanson’s PhD thesis gives a detailed study of how history can also be used alongside other curriculum learning areas. By positioning students as expert scientists commissioned to re-investigate the Sinking of the Wahine in Wellington harbour in 1968, she and the classroom teacher successfully taught the history of the event alongside science principles, specifically floating and sinking and cyclones. The link takes you to Carrie’s thesis. Check out appendix B (pages 356-359) for an overview of the planning.
  • Susan Battye has kindly shared her planning for a project from 1989, where drama was used across a secondary school to teach local history – in this case the history of Maungakiekie (One tree hill) in Auckland. The planning is interesting as an example of ‘rolling role’, where different groups and their teachers take responsibility for different aspects of the research. It also makes great use of the ‘person in role’ strategy by pulling in a range of adults to take on roles and meet with the students. Lots of potential for updating or adapting this one.
  • And finally, this brief plan is one of mine. It’s an overview for a Mantle of the Expert experience inspired by the history of Kahikatea use in the Waikato. This link will take you to previous posts where I reflect on teaching this with a group of adult students.



We don’t see too many examples of Mantle used with adult learners – we tend to assume it’s for teaching young people – after all, doesn’t the imagination ‘fade’ as we get older and don’t adults tend to feel bashful and unwilling to buy in to the ‘pretend’ or ‘make believe’…? Well …… not always! It’s a pleasure to share this learning story from a course I facilitated recently through Tātai Angitu e3 @ Massey  for a group of five officials from the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh. The objective was to spend two weeks learning about the New Zealand Education system, with a particular focus on project management at secondary school level.

The learning story shared here covers only part of the two weeks: I have edited out pages on field trips to schools and sessions where we learned about the NZ education system: they are not directly mantle-related and I don’t have permission to share images etc.  However, I do have permission from the group to share these pages recording our time as “Hidden Treasures” – International project management consults.

It wasn’t perfect planning or teaching on my part (is it ever?) but I do believe the use of Mantle as a pedagogy allowed these visitors to draw on their rich existing knowledge of project management (far more extensive than their facilitator’s) and make real-world links through the fictional context of the Mantle. There was strong buy-in and a real willingness to work in role. Participants readily employed drama conventions and adopted multiple perspectives despite this being a new way of working for them. There were plenty of intense discussions arising from tensions in the drama and opportunities for writing and reading of complex texts – all carried out in English as a second language.  And there were some profound moments of reflection, particularly on the last day where the team represented the impacts of their fictional project on the stakeholders. Here are the words of appeal from a community member on the fictional island, as spoken by one member of the group standing in effigy: I hold out my hands like a scale – to remind you to please balance the realities of your work with the quality of your documents and planning. This is my environment, my land, my culture – my future I am handing to you…”

The Learning story was written as we went along as an ongoing record of our learning and a place to double check and consolidate understanding of the ‘worlds’ we were operating in. It’s shared as a google slide show via the link below. Please don’t distribute or share more widely without permission – thanks!

My thanks to Sayed, Majibur, Minhaj, Nazmul and Rizwanul for permission to use their images and words and for providing such clear evidence of adults’ willingness and ability to learn through dramatic inquiry.