‘Frame’ is a term used by Dorothy Heathcote, who created the Mantle system. She preferred it to talking about children taking on a ‘role’, which suggests they are ‘acting’ in some way. ‘Frame’ simply suggests: taking on a particular point-of-view. In other words, the class agree to see things as if ‘through the eyes’ of people doing a particular job – to talk as if they are people running an airline, or a shop, etc.
Dorothy argued that you can’t simply call people ‘experts.’ So you can’t say to a class: ‘We are going to be expert shoemakers’ (or whatever). You have to build a sense of what the job entails, so that by the end of the project, the class will be able to talk with authority about the different things a shoemaker does (or whatever the enterprise is). We call this ‘Building the Frame.’
Working through tasks
Tasks to build 'expertise'
Dorothy said that 'frame' is built through tasks. Let us take an example: the enterprise for a Y7 class in a UK school is ‘fossil detectives’ (or geologists). As a task to build the frame, the class examined fossils which were in pieces, and had to be reassembled. Then they had to draw and label them, and complete record cards. They also had to speculate, and do some research, to establish: what creature is this? What geological era does it come from?
For Sky Jet 7, the class planned a route for a passenger who had mobility issues; and undertook staff training in dealing with passengers who are nervous of flying.
The tasks in this phase of the Mantle project do not simply build the frame but also prepare the class for the ‘big job’ they will have to do, developing some of the skills and knowledge and ‘expertise’ they will need, when the important ‘commission’ arrives later.
Don't expose their lack of expertise
If the pupils are 'shoemakers', they will never actually make shoes, which would only expose their lack of real expertise and professionalism. They don’t have to actually make leather goods, to feel as if they are shoemakers. They will do lots of other things that a shoemaker does – such as design products, create blueprints, handle phone calls, order materials, plan advertising campaigns, and so on. This is a general rule: don’t make them do things that will expose their lack of expertise.