There’s a ‘sea-change’ coming:Blog 7 – Crossing Boundaries


As I am writing this it’s only 24 hours since Team New Zealand lifted the America’s Cup. They highlighted the ability to cross boundaries with their thinking. Pete Montgomery made the observation that ‘all the teams had the same rules given to them’, but it was ‘team New Zealand who were best able to think beyond the limitations’ of the way things had always been done. To paraphrase Daniel Pink, Team NZ prepared for their future, not the America’s Cup past.

And that’s what we need to do with our students. Teach them to think in cross-disciplinary ways. Just imagine the startled faces when somebody at a planning meeting piped up with, “Let’s dress in lycra and put bikes on the boat, it’ll help pump the hydraulic fluid faster!” The silo-dweller mindset would have baulked at the idea. (People who erect silos and refuse to look beyond their own walls in any sphere are called silo-dwellers…I think I first heard the term at a conference but I forget the key-note speaker who used it…sorry) Combining cycling technology with sailing? That sort of inter-disciplinary thinking just isn’t on! The No.8 fencing wire mentality is the perfect starting point for getting our students proud of the perceived New Zealand ability to think outside the square. In my head I think the equation goes something like this:

Problem + (No.8 Fencing Wire/Kiwi Ingenuity) = Innovation

And the America’s Cup success is just the tip of that interdisciplinary iceberg that we can draw on for student inspiration.

So why haven’t interdisciplinary studies caught on more quickly? The readings say that one possible answer is that it’s a reflection of the politics of the time. That certain political ideologies see the mingling of academic disciplines as ‘alternative’ and somehow detrimental. If that’s the case then the political climate worldwide must be cause for concern educationally. As the United States of America retreats into a more isolationist political position and as the United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union, surely those are troubling indicators of a ‘silo-dweller’ mindset. How can an interdisciplinary philosophy flourish when the prevailing climate overtly says, “stay in your own building, hunker down, don’t mingle with others.”

It looks like it is once again up to the education system to lead the way on this. We cannot allow ourselves to be trapped in old ways of thinking. A colleague of mine said recently that a ‘sea-change’ is coming, and I love that expression. Firstly, it ties nicely to my America’s Cup theme :); secondly, it comes from The Tempest and you can’t go past Shakespeare for a decent quote; thirdly, it sums up, for me, the magical nature of the change that is draping itself over education like a cloak. I mean, it’s a ‘sea’ change! What even is that? I’m on land….will it affect me? Of course it will. It’s interdisciplinary, the change rolling in off the sea like a fog is going to affect the land-lubbers as well as those already out in their boats. We have to be ready….or even better, we have to grab the rudder, steer the course, and be leading the charge.




Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.
Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997
Crowther, John, (Ed.). (2005). No Fear The Tempest. Retrieved June 17, 2017, from


  1. Greg I love your theme. So time relevant and such a great analogy to use. We all can relate. There were definitely no ‘silo dwellers’ in the Team NZ team of innovators / collaborators. I especially enjoyed reading yesterday that Peter Burling always made sure he spent his meattimes with various factions/designers/engineers/partners… of the NZ team, not just the sailors and that he knew every member, their partners and kids by name. Real leadership. OOps! I digress (still very excited) I so agree with you. How is it going to be done? Step by step, individual/group/school/… Like the great Ian Jukes said Meaningful change begins with a small group of people truly committed to make meaningful change. That why we’re committed sardines.’ (Keeping with the nautical theme)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Once again Greg, a inciteful pieceof writing and a fitting and briliant analogy. We should be educating kids to think across many disciplines, to see the merits and the cross pollination of ideas from each. It is not going to happen unless we, as teachers, demonstrate this lateral and dynamic thinking. The breaking down of this silo mentality is so difficult in our secondary schools because each subject guards their program and information as though the whole world is going to steal it. The frustration level when you are operating a library that is meant to span and embrace all the departments is immense. I carry a sledge hammer to school each day to help me break down some bricks in the faint hope that the departments will talk to each other, let alone work together!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A wonderful blog that is both current and timeless. Having drawn me in with your fabulous photo, you managed to traverse many disciplines in the sciences and the arts to be the change you want to see. Working as I do as an evaluator at the Police College, I am only one of two people in this role in New Zealand, and as it is only a year old as a role, everything is fresh and timeless and very cross disciplinary.

    Thank you for your wonderful efforts in informing and inspiring your readership Greg. I shall go back through your posts to read what you have said previously.


  4. Thanks for the song at the end Greg, no doubt sung around school. Just finished talking about the blurred edges in yachting/kite flying and cycling with my 7 year olds yesterday.
    Frustratingly though in another class -MLE learning and physical space, a meeting was held to talk in response to parental questions. This meeting became a surprise attack for our school with parents calling for traditional settings to be reinstated. Innovation thrown in our faces. Single hull thinking


  5. Thanks Greg, your blog and the replies above have all been an interesting read!! “The sea-change” is rolling in and “the barnacles on the hull” need to move with the tide. With quite a bit of media coverage of late including the “What Next? ” TV series asking what NZ will look like in 20 years time, parents are beginning to get an insight to where education is heading. Schools need to catch this small swell, hang ten (Definition: ride a surfboard with all ten toes curled over the front of the board) and communicate the new course education is taking, as soon and as often as possible!


  6. Hi Greg- yay I am thrilled to see sea-change used in a real context. I feel it too – it is a ‘perfect storm’ time for us – we are a perfect time and place to launch off from the known and attempt something new and exciting. Listening to the video about interdisciplinary programmes in schools and the example of the ‘holocaust’ as the context was inspiring and exciting as an educator – we have no way of knowing how different schools might look in the very near future. Hold on tight – it is going to be a fun ride.


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