Friday, September 14, 2012

New Discovery Time Website and Blog launched July 2012!

Thanks for visiting this page - all Discovery Time action is now all at:

Click here to go straight to our new blog

We are pleased so many people are following our Discovery Time blog!
Please join us at our new website and catch up on the latest from Discovery Time.

Click here to sign up for our Discovery Time e-newsletter

Thanks - see you there,
Brenda and Gay

Monday, February 08, 2010

New website
Huge excitement!!!!

We have just launched our new website
Our blog will now be part of our web so go and explore!

We would love you to ask questions, leave comments and pass the link on to others.

Discovery Time continues to gain enthusiastic support from around the world.

Thank you for following our progress

Brenda and Gay

Monday, February 01, 2010

Interesting listening.
Monday Feb1 on the Nine to Noon programme, Kathryn Ryan had very interesting interviews with:
Prof. Robin Alexander from the Cambrige University Education review team.
Prof Tom Nicholson from Massey University.
Ray Newport from the School Trustees Association.
-go to Radio NZ to hear their opinions.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

........our web page is nearly up and running!
Keep watching!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reading Forum vol.24 no.3 2009

The latest Forum magazine from the Manawatu branch of the NZRA would have arrived in your schools at the end of 2009.
Look out for the article re Discovery Time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teacher Aides are wonderful!

Using a small room to store equipment keeps things accesible.

Label the shelves, have a whiteboard for reserving equipment and releasing your teacher aide 10 minutes before interval to receive equipment students return and check its all OK makes for good management!

Keep a box for misplaced pieces and at the end of the term make a good effort to find the right container.

Organising for the new year.

It is a good idea to have a central resource area for all the equipment your team share.

This is a great cooking trolley with cupboards for equipment and a good working space on top for cooking.

Remember its a good idea to laminate a list of equipment that should always be on this trolley.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Emotional Intelligence.

-from recent Edutopia release:

"Emotionally intelligent individuals stand out. Their ability to empathize, persevere, control impulses, communicate clearly, make thoughtful decisions, solve problems, and work with others earns them friends and success. They tend to lead happier lives, with more satisfying relationships. At work, they are more productive, and they spur productivity in others. At school, they do better on standardized tests and help create a safe, comfortable classroom atmosphere that makes it easier to learn."

Discovery Time provides an excellent environment where students can develop positive relationships.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas.
We hope everyone has had a very good year and ready for a relaxing holiday.
We are busy getting a web site up and working so check us out next year!
In today's "Dominion" newspaper there was a report from Dr Sebastian Suggate of Otago University. His research is claiming that teaching children to read from the age of five is not likely to make them any better at reading than a child who learns from seven.
"Because later starters at reading are still learning through play, language and interactions with adults, their long term learning is not disadvantaged. Instead these activities prepare the soil well for later development of reading."
Dr Suggate's research has been placed on otago University's "distinguished list" of doctoral theses for 2009.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Value of Play
From the Washington Post (read the full article)

With increasing pressure on early-childhood education programs to promote math and literacy skills, educators are debating the value of play in preschool and early elementary grades. "Play is problem-solving," said one Virginia educator. "It's really critical life skills." While some studies show that students who attended play-based preschool programs develop better socially and emotionally later in life, time for play is increasingly being pushed aside for more instruction aimed at achieving higher test scores.

A interesting article that is worth a read.

Monday, November 16, 2009

David Elkin -"The Wisdom of Play"
I am staying with my son and family in New london, Connecticut, USA. I came across this free (in USA) booklet introduced by David Elkind.
...."Clearly, play serves a very different function for children than it does for adults. For children, it is a way to learn about self and the world through self-created experiences. That is one reason child-initiated play is so important and why it should not be replaced either by adult-organised sports or by academic activities disguised as games."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

..time to play
..time to create
..time to discover

"Features of the natural world children explore with their senses by day, they play with in their dreams at night, and turn into poetry when they wake."
-William C. Crain

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Remember your science and technology resources!

Have a look in your science resource room for equipment to bring out in Discovery Time.
Lenses, prisms, mirrors.coloured plastics!
What about electric circuits, light bulbs, switches, bells!
The possibilities are endless.

Friday, November 13, 2009

'Play Time - The Game of Learning.'
author -Trish Konzak.
Read this interesting article on the Edutopia site or google Trish Konzak.
She is passionate about the importance of play and her worry that testing and teaching for testing will take over.
Other books she recommends - ( I haven't previewed them )
  • 'The Power of Play.' David Elkind.
  • 'Play: How it Shapes the Brain, opens the imagination and Invigorates the Soul.' Dr Stuart Brown.
  • 'A Child's Work - The Importance of Fantasy Play.' Vivian Gussin Paley.
  • 'A Place for Play.' Elizabeth Goodenough.
  • 'Play, Development and Early Education.' James E Johnson, James F Christi, and Francis Wardle.
  • 'Play: The Pathway from Theory to Practice.' Sandra Heidemann,and Deborah Hewitt.

Let us know how you feel about these authors.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Creativity and the camera

I hope you have all seen the Groovy Girl dolls we love. I am in USA at the moment and couldn't resist buying 5 new dolls!
Try putting out a box of small fabric scraps, ribbons, trims etc, plus velcro and then watch the fashion designers create!

Give them the camera and see the fun!

Using play mobile characters to explore animation is fun too. Add some scenery: twigs, blocks, stones lego -anything!

Creating characters from modeling clay is also magic.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Getting Started with Discovery Time

"OK ! Lets go to Space!"

It has been a lot of fun getting Discovery Time underway at Pukerua Bay School.

Their first key competency focus was -'working together',but we found not enough activities required co-operation. We are all learning!

The second week was -'challenge yourself' and wow, they sure did.

Black paper and shish kebab sticks soon became shadow puppets. With the sun streaming in through the shade curtains the children quickly created their own theatre stage - how's that for creative thinking?

The class camera was used to record their own space rescue drama. The teacher was impressed with the child that self appointed herself as narrator.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A bit of creativity for Halloween.

Just love this spiderweb that Jack made.

He says it's really easy!

You need wool, a bowl of PVA glue and a sheet of plastic.

Cut the wool to the right length so that it will fit from corner to corner on the plastic.

Dip the wool in the PVA glue and construct the radial lines (forming a star shape) on the sheet of plastic.

Then use longer pieces of wool (also dipped in PVA) to make the circular pattern.

When the PVA dries you can lift the stiffened cobweb off the plastic.

I wonder how big you could make it?

check out LooLeDo website for a spooky spider

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Creativity with boat design

A lovely couple of sessions at Randwick School where one of the activities was boat building. We provided the dried flower stems from harakeke (flax), kebab sticks, knives and chopping boards plus a couple of articles that would provide ideas and suggestions. The actual design was left to the students (so as you can see we are part way toward a student directed session).

We started with some safety issues around using knives (direct instruction still has a part to play in Discovery Time!). Then we basically left them to it.

The students experimented, struggled, redisigned but all persisted!

As teachers we kept an eye on safety, helped out with any particularly difficult cutting and asked questions.
"Do you think it will float? How can we find out?"
"How will your boat move?"
"What else do you need?"
"What do you think might happen to sellotape in water?"

As teachers we discovered:
  • That the students really didn't know a lot about boats and we probably could have done some preparatory work on this or linked it to a picture book or reading text.
  • That our students were very creative and tenacious. No one gave up!
  • That some students were able to forward plan and get the water tray ready for the second session.

The students discovered:
  • That at times it helped to work with a friend, epecially when things went wrong and you need some support and new ideas.
  • That sails need to be vertical rather than horizontal and that light material works better than polar fleece!
  • That for a fair race the boats have to start at the same time.
Student Directed Learning

Jackie West (Resource Teacher Learning & Behaviour Maori) and I ran a workshop on Thursday for teachers from two local kura. As part of the session we delved more deeply into the issue of teacher directed versus student directed sessions: what each would look like in a discovery time session and how to make the shift toward giving students more control.

As teachers we are generally very good at directing the action and feel very comfortable doing so, but it can be quite a scary prospect to pass control over to the students.

One of the discussions centered on what the shift might look like.

Teacher directed session
"This is the card we are going to make for father's day. You can cut out these flowers and stick them on and write a message to dad inside."

Teacher /student shared session:
"I thought some of you might like to make cards for father's day so I've put some paper and card out for you." (teacher)
"Has anyone got any ideas for how they might do this?"

Student directed session:
"Can we make cards for father's day?" (student)
"What ideas have you got for doing that?" (teacher)
"What might you need?"

Change happens slowly, and the move to a student directed session may take time. Teachers need time to learn to stand back, while students need time to realise that they really can direct the action.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Quality work and Discovery Time

In the last two weeks, in two different classes, we have had a focus on quality work. What a difference this has made! Students stayed at activities for longer and really took their work to a noticably higher level than in previous sessions.

Our digi kids for the day took photos of what they considered to be quality work.

At the end of the session students reflected on what made their work 'quality' - which aspects they were happy with and what they could have done differently.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Discovery Time Learning in England.
Gay will be in the Uk early September for 2 weeks.
Are any schools there interested in her bringing the Discovery Time book?
She will be in the Oxford area and would love to know of any schools there doing Discovery Time programmes.
email to:
Christchurch workshop
We had a great time in Christchurch and wonderful to see all the exciting enthusiasm for Discovery Time.
We found Groovy Girl Dolls in the:
CHILDREN'S BOOKSHOP in Victoria Street.
They also have a shop in Auckland -Jervois Rd Ponsonby.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Imaginative play with Groovy Girls... & Boys

If you've been to our workshops you'll have met our Groovy Girl Dolls.

The kids just love them and have a wonderful time making clothes, building houses, cars, beds etc and then using them in all sorts of imaginary games.

They are available in lots of places but we get ours from a shop in Petone ($25-$30)

Playdays Toyshop
238 Jackson St
Lower Hutt
New Zealand

tel 04 586 8056

The dolls don't show on the website but phone or send an email and Trish and Debbie will let you know what is in stock.

Friday, July 17, 2009


"Ship ahoy!"

A few sheets and a climbing frame, with some pegs and tape to hold it all together and they're off. Sailing the shark infested waters in their pirate ship!
The kids imagination runs wild and pirate hats, flags, eyepatches and telescopes materialised from the construction table.

"But how do we get to shore when there are sharks in the water?"
Great problem solving opportunities!

A fantastic Discovery Time at Randwick School.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

TED Talks - Tinkering School

Check out this video about a 'hands-on' school for kids in the States. Students are only there for a week but look at what they achieve in that time. Gever Tulley teaches life lessons through tinkering

Thursday, July 09, 2009

'Hands-on' learning
Discovery Time is alive and well in Dunedin!

We were hosted by the RTLB team at Wakari School and visited six of their schools. What a wonderful range of exciting 'hands-on' learning opportunities we were treated to.

Here are just a few that might provide some inspiration...

Disecting sheeps hearts!

The week before it was sheeps eyes!
The kids loved it.

Then there was decontruction!
"How does this printer work?"
"Which screwdriver do I need to get this bit off?"

"So that's where the ink comes from!"

Then we went down town and found this fabulous reconstruction at the Gallery De Novo.
Made us wonder about all those bits from the printer could be turned into...

Recycled metal spider
Artist: Chris Meder

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Great Story From the RTLBs in Dunedin

"A group of three little girls bathed and dressed their babies (dolls), got their handbags and went out for coffee (a table in the family corner). One was heard to order a latte. While having coffee they decided to go to the movies. They went to the shop (table set up with boxes and shopkeeper) and bought movie tickets and popcorn. They sat on the couch to watch the movie.

If I hadn't been close enough to hear and follow the conversation it would have appeared to be three girls with their bags and babies sitting quietly on the couch.

I asked what movie they were watching and they told me and asked if I wanted to join them. I said I would rather see Hotel for Dogs. They said it was on next week and they would phone me to make a time and day. But then decided they needed a phone.

They asked the teacher for her cellphone and she suggested that they could look at it and then make their own. Which they did from the construction table. The outcome being they phoned me on the cardboard cellphone to arrange to go to the movies next week."

This reminds me of what Brian Sutton-Smith says about play:

"The typical image of play is a single child sitting in front of a television set or videogame. This is not play - play is an open ended experience initiated by children that involves pretence and spontaneous creative activity. It is a time of wonder and sensory exploration."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Great Ideas from Randwick School

Randwick School in Lower Hutt run two Discovery Time sessions a week in their junior school. As well as the key competency and curriculum focus they also have a letter of the week theme. Last week the letter of the week was L l
This led to making lemonade and setting up 'The Lemonade Cafe' - a great success.

The teachers also brought in a Lava Lamp. The challenge was for the kids to create the darkest possible cave (blankets, sheets and desks) so that they could see the lava lamp light up. They sat mesmerized!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Benefits of Discovery Time -
Just a few of the wonderful responses to the questionnaire we sent out.

"Children are starting to think more logically, trying new things, starting to problem solve, working together and higher motivation in follow up language activities. For some of the children being able to make a choice of activity has been a big step. They love coming to school on Discovery Day" (Adrienne McElroy, Sommerset Cres School, Palmerston North).

"Helps with the transition to school for our preschoolers, encouraging more sharing and cooperation (this has been a focus for us), children taking responsibility for making their own decisions and following the routines e.g. packing up." (Sherryl Allen, Mangaroa School)

"Fantastic to watch a 2nd year teacher put out a few bowls, paper circles and plastic shapes following a discussion about restaurants, and see the children transform this simple equipment into a cafe. The paper circles were plates, pizzas and tortillas! the maths shapes became a variety of food. following this the next Discovery Time the whole class transformed with the children collecting old phones, keyboards (booking and checkout) making their own menus, table numbers, they set up a waiting room, made a sign and all of this with the children working together. This is now into it's 4th week and still very popular! So great to see the teacher embracing this and seeing the links to literacy and maths!" (Karen Titcombe, Milson School, Palmerston North).

Will post some more soon, we've had a fabulous response.

Monday, May 04, 2009

"Boys aren't getting a fair deal at school and need more play time."

Micheal Irwin (Massey University, Auckland NZ) was interviewed on National Radio by Kathryn Ryan last Thursday (30.04.09)
His PhD research showed boys prefer hands-on, relevant experiences.
Boys need activity - activity stimulates the brain.
He supports the concept that play provides opportunities to:

  • stimulate imagination
  • develop creativity
  • encourage scientific investigation
  • socialise
  • support risk taking.

Check out Michael's recent publication. "Educating Boys - Helping Kiwi Boys To Succeed At School."

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The new NZ curriculum has a vision of-
"confident life long learners, able to seek, use and create their own knowledge and in the process, develop the key competencies required for continual learning."

Currently it seems we are leading the world. (see B. Hammonds blog)

A Cambridge Review of Education has just been published after three years research. It presents a damming view of the current UK primary curriculum.
It says there has been an over emphasis on the skills of reading, writing and maths at the expense of other subjects. This, the review says, limits children's enjoyment of school and risks severely compromising their natural curiosity, imagination and love of learning.

The Cambridge review is suggesting something very similar to what NZ has commenced with the new curriculum.
Let's hope standardised testing doesn't kill our childrens' passion for learning.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Junior Exploration Time
Have a look at the Hutt Central School web site for pictures of their Exploration
Time. Lots of good activity ideas.

If other schools have photos on their website that would provide inspiration drop an email to and I'll add a link to the blog.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ken Robinson - guru on creativity!
Have just listened to Kathryn Ryan's interview with Sir Ken Robinson (Radio New Zealand podcast 20th March 2009). This is really worth listening to.

He is saying that current education systems (designed to meet the needs of the industrial age) are stifling the creative ability of our young people. Yet finding new ways of doing things is fundamental to our society today.
Listen to his recommendations.

Also explore Bruce Hammond's blog entry (21st March 2009) -Creative Education

Monday, March 16, 2009

A sound theoretical base
For those of you who have been to our workshops or are going to the Manawatu Reading Association meeting on Thursday, these are the references for the Discovery Time 'Key Ideas': - Play, student directed learnng, 'hands-on' activity based, creativity and whole child.

Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whariki: He Whariki Matauranga mo nga Mokopuna o Aotearoa (Early Childhood Curriculum). Wellington: Learning Media.

Sutton-Smith, Brian. Cited in Hammond. Leading and Learning for the 21st C
sadly “the typical image of play is a single child sitting in front of a television set or video game.’ This is not play – play is an open ended experience initiated by children that involves pretence and spontaneous creative activity. It’s a time of wonder and sensory exploration.”

Dominion Post 19.04.08
The Importance of being Playful
“You can have your ballet lessons, extra tuition, sport and music lessons, but children must have creative personal play as well.”

“Kids learn socializing skills, creative skills and judgement skills and about right and wrong when they’re allowed to play.”

'Hands on' activity based learning
Marcon, R.A. (2002). Moving up the grades: Relationship between preschool model and later school success. Early Childhood Research & Practice, Vol 4(1),
Those who had hands on experiences in early schooling did better later on

Michael Shayer – Children are less able than they used to be

11 and 12 year old students in year 7 are “now on average between 2 & 3 years behind where they were 15 years ago” in terms of cognitive and conceptual development.
They know less about the world and how things work

Reason – speculation
“Lack of experiential play in primary schools, and the growth or a video game, tv culture. Both take away the kinds of hands-on play that allows kids to experience how the world works in practice and to make informed judgements about abstract concepts”

Importance of student directed learning
Dockett, Sue. Cited in NSW Dept. of Education and Training. Hurry! Hurried! Hurrumph! Reprinted in Education Horizons. Vol 8. No 5, 2005 pp. 30-31.

“Parents see adult supervised activities as a way of doing something valuable. Play isn’t seen as valuable any more in its own right”

“The most creative people in the world play with ideas.”

“Hurried children don’t get a chance to test ideas, explore and experiment because they are always meeting adult time frames and expectations”

The importance of creativity
Yong Zhao (2006) “Are We Fixing the Wrong Things?” Educational Leadership. vol 63 no 8, pp. 28-31

“Creativity cannot be taught but it can be killed”
The current focus on centralized curriculum, standardized testing, accountability,required course of study – could kill creativity, the United States real competitive edge.

Educating the 'whole child' - social / emotional, physical and cognitive.
“Modern life leads to more depression among children”

“Children need what developing human beings have always needed, real food (as opposed to processed “junk”), real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in and regular interaction with the real-life significant adults in their lives...

They also need time. In a fast-moving hyper-competitive culture, today’s children are expected to cope with an ever-earlier start to formal schoolwork and an overly academic test-driven primary curriculum. They are pushed by market forces to act and dress like mini adults and exposed via the electronic media to material which would have been considered unsuitable for children even in the very recent past. Our society rightly takes great pains to protect our children from physical harm, but seems to have lost sight of their emotional and social needs.”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A good Discovery Time quote

Tony Horsfall came across this quote the other day:

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery” - Mark Van Doren

Thanks Tony

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Great Start to the Year

I called in at Randwick School on Thursday to see how they were going with Discovery Time. The junior school of three classes started DT at the beginning of the year and this was just their third session - and wow what a session! It absolutely blew me away!

As I walked across the playground at 9.00 (the whole school was in the hall doing Jump Jam) I could see they were well prepared and making the most of the fine weather. Outside under the trees were two water trays, the woodwork bench and painting easels all set up and ready to go.

As I wandered through the classrooms I could see that they were well prepared for students to manage their own learning. All the things that students could possibly want to use were readily available and well organised. The rooms were set up to foster independence and creativity.

As the teachers and students came in, they gathered in one class for the introduction to the session - focus on routines and boundaries. They quickly covered the essentials of:
  • managing the painting (a new system for hanging up pictures).
  • keeping things in their designated areas (talked about the soggy dough that had ended up in the water tray last time).
  • deciding how many students could successfully work at the water troughs.
  • introducing the activities available

The most awsome session followed with eveyone engaged in purposeful learning. The teachers and two helpers were sooooo skilled at standing back and following the childrens lead. They watched and listened to what the kids were trying to do and asked questions to explore and extend their thinking.

"Tell me what's happening here?"

"What are you trying to do?"

"How might you do that?"

"Why do you think that happened?"

"Can I do anything to help?"

"Is there anything else you need?"

The woodwork bench with various shaped pieces of wood and nails with good big flat heads was popular and involved intense concentration. Loved the way that helper Mark held the nail with pliers whilst the kid bashed it in!

The two water trays with a bit of pvc guttering was between them was an absolute winner. The oral language, turn taking and negotiation that went on whilst trying to get the water to flow uphill... were a joy to watch.

But the most wonderful aspect was that when these teachers had their first session the previous week they were disappointed with the results. It was their reflection, problem solving skills and determination to make it work that produced an absolutely amazing session.

Next time I'll stay for the wrap up at the end and report back on that...

If other people are coming away from sessions just buzzing with excitement please add a comment and let us all know what you are doing.

Oops forgot to mention the Digi Kid! At each session a senior student comes in to take photos and show the little ones how to use the camera - great stuff!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bruce Hammond

We've just had our teacher only day with Bruce Hammond. Fantastic! Provided a vision of where we can head with the new curriculum... and yes Discovery Time fits right in!

  • Allowing students to direct their own learning.
  • Providing opportunities for 'hands on' experiential learning.
  • Educating the 'whole child' - social / emotional, physical and cognitive - finding the 'spark' in each student.
  • Understanding the importance of play and exploration in making learning connections.
  • Encouraging creativity.

All part of the new vision for education - but is it new? Suddenly one starts to feel somewhat old! Haven't we been here before? References to Sylvia Ashton Warner, Elwyn S Richardson and of course Dewey and Vygotsky. Comforting somehow that what was for a time lost, has been found again. Roll on the new year!

Check out Bruce's website

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Children's Book Shop - Kilbirnie

If you are stocking up your library book shelves then this is a wonderful place to visit.
Our book, "Discovery Time. Developing key competencies through activity-based, child- directed learning" is available at the Children's Bookshop.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A new school year.

At long last Brenda has taught me how to contribute to the Blog site - I hope I can remember!
Holidays are nearly over so lots of plans and exciting things happening for 2009.
Brenda and I are looking forward to being part of Teacher Only days next week. We will be helping schools to get started with Discovery Time. Sounds like fun!
We do like the feed back we get from around NZ. We would love to hear from the Arlington, Virginia people that have been visiting our blog site. Are you into some exciting Discovery Time things in your school? Let us know what you're up to.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How to Create a Crayon Batik

Another great art idea from teacher tube

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Teacher Tube

This is a great site for ideas to motivate your students. I have just found this lovely origami cat & broomstick. Sorry, it's a bit late for Halloween!

Not only can your students make their own cats but it may also provide the inspiration to explore the camera/video and something like movie maker to create their own 'how to' movies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marble Track
More great ideas from Lucknow - showing how one activity can be used in many different ways to extend student thinking.

In one class the students had been constructing a marble track using meter rules (with the 1cm groove down the middle), cardboard tubes and anything else they could lay their hands on! There had been lots of activity getting the pieces lined up and finding ways to get the marble to go round corners. Then they'd used the stopwatch to see how long the marble would take to travel from start to finish. The week we were visiting students were still experimenting with different set ups in the classroom but the concept had also moved out doors.

In the sandpit students were digging tracks in the sand for golf balls - adjusting the levels when the gradient was insufficient to get them to roll.

In another area students were using pieces of pvc pipe and long cardboard tubes to make a super sized marble track.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ulearn 08 Conference

As always, Gay & I came away with renewed enthusiasm after the conference. It's great to gather new ideas and to hear of peoples success with Discovery Time. We get very excited when teachers tell us that "Yes, this is what our kids need."

We have had many enquiries about our book so here are a few more details.
This is the blurb on the back cover:

Discovery Time provides an exciting environment in which to strengthen the key competencies and bring fun into children's learning.
Discovery Time is an activity-based programme, held once a week. It's a fantastic opportunity for kids to explore and create.
Students say:
It's the best part of the whole week.
You learn to challenge yourself.
You get to do stuff that yo've never done before and you think you can't do it but you can.
Teachers say:
It puts balance back into the curriculum.
It puts kids in charge of their own learning.
It's a chance to stand back and really observe your students.
The possibilities are endless...

Read the book and you'll know:
  • Why Discovery Time is important for todays kids
  • How to plan, structure and organise the session
  • How to use Discovery Time to strengthen key competencies
  • How to use the reflection time at the end to maximise learning

There are also lots of ideas for activities, plus examples of completed planning sheets to get you started.

Don't forget to check out the CD Rom that goes with the book. This contains all the colour pictures that we couldn't put into the book, recipes and quotes from the research (A4 posters for displays).

email and we can put a copy in the post and send an invoice $48 NZ (including postage & GST).

Lucknow School

What a treat to visit Havelock North and see what the junior and middle syndicates at Lucknow school are doing.

Here are a couple of their great ideas for activities (will post more later).

My favourite was this water wheel - a slice of potato with pieces of plastic slotted in around the edges. The kebab stick through the middle allows the whole thing to turn.

When one wheel failed the 'tap test' the teacher said she caught herself just in time. "It's very easy to leap in and provide a solution, rather than ask a question that gets students thinking and problem solving for themselves." Standing back and asking the right question is one of the greatest challenges for teachers during Discovery Time.

Also loved the group who were finding ways to siphon water from one container to another. Great teamwork and cooperation going on plus lots of excitement!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The class had been studying fractions in maths, so we decided to include some activities that would strengthen their understanding and challenge the more capable.

First there was toast! The kids discovered there were lots of different ways to cut a slice in half and in quarters. Some tried eighths but it was a bit fiddly eating them!

We also had play dough! Working out how to cut something into quarters, eighths, sixteenths bought out lots of oral language and problem solving.

Some clever souls accepted the challenge and managed to work out how to cut a pizza into 64 equal pieces. Well, nearly equal!!!!!!

Then the group constucting things with Klikko noticed that you needed six triangles to make a circle and worked out that two sixths was the same as one third.

The class teacher and I sat back, watched, listened and asked questions.
How did you do that?
What did you find out?
What would happen if....?
What other fractions could you make?
Are all the pieces equal?
How can you make them equal?

We had lots of other activities going on at the same time but nearly everyone thought that making toast was the best. Bother! Why didn't I think to ask what fraction of the class...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This a fabulous little film, done over the holidays by Noah. I thought it might inspire other budding film makers.

Hi everyone
Here is a movie I have made today. Hope you enjoy it.


Thanks very much for letting me use this Noah. Would you like to send us a comment telling everyone how you did it and what software you used.

Just hit the comment button below.

Thanks again


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Basic Equipment for Discovery Time
I have just had a request from Angi for some ideas for equipment - especially for role play, so here goes.

We always look for things that are open ended, that children can use over and over again in different ways.

We try and buy quality, things that will last! This may cost more initially but is worth it in the long run. Along side this is the need to teach children how to look after equipment; to keep track of the little pieces and not leave things where they can be trodden on (especially lids of boxes etc).

We also purchase plastic boxes to keep things in - especially large flat ones that the children can work from rather than tip the contents out. The 'underbed' storage boxes work especially well for LEGO.

Specific items:
Tea sets - especially ones that go beyond cups saucers and teapots! children get much more inventive when they have pots and pans, plates, cutlery and food items. Watch out for ones that include food from other countries.

Cash register


Train sets - with lots of track

Construction sets - LEGO, Knex, Gears Gears Gears

Dress up clothes - I've found a teacher this year who has made her own and they are brilliant. Very simple designs but in a range of fabrics that seem to give kids lots of ideas for drama. I will take some photos when I get back to school to give more ideas as they really work well.

I've also been thinking recently that a collection of old sheets would work well for building huts etc.

Farm sets
Zoo sets

Building blocks - large & small

Dolls - see the groovy girls in an earlier blog

Hope this helps to get people started. If anyone has ideas to share please add a comment or send some photos.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Teacher Reflections
Every now and then I record what teachers have to say about Discovery Time
This one is from Andrew - now on his OE (if you are reading this in the UK Andrew add a comment. We'd be very happy to do a work shop over there!!!!)

Discovery Time is really good for my enjoyment of teaching. I get to see the kids in a more relaxed environment and can just have fun instead of having to really get on top of them to do their work. In Discovery Time they just go for it.

It’s also a time for the children to knowingly reflect on their learning, to talk about what they did and link it back to the original key competency focus. The kids are now saying, I know I cooperated and shared because I did .....during discovery. They can give real examples of how they used the skill.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Giant bubbles

Aren't these fantastic!

Just imagine the fun your class could have and the questions that would be generated.

Can we make a stronger mixture?
Does it still work on a windy day?
Can you make other bubbles inside the big one?
Why does humidity make a difference?

The friend who sent the photos said..

"It was only 70% humidity, higher humidity gives better bubbles - we had trouble closing off the bubbles that day, without them popping."

Here is a link to the bubble book, and 'bubble thing', that we have - it's an ad for it on Amazon, and you can look at some of the inside pages. Might be useful. . . .
If anyone else has ideas or photos of things they have tried please send us an email and I'll put them up (just make sure you have permission for children's photos). We're always looking for new material so would love to hear from you.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Groovy Girls (and boys!!!!)

Lots of people asked about these dolls at the Mana workshop in the holidays. They used to be available from Toyworld and you might still pick them up there but I have been in touch with Children's Bookshop in Auckland who has them. It is useful to go on to Amazon and look at the different types of dolls so that you can choose a range. They have boys and girls, plus various ethnicities. The kids love them. See photos on blog entry for October 30th 2006.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Zoo animals

Don't you love these wonderful zebras.

The glue gun got plenty of use and worked brilliantly.

Lots of good learning about how hot the glue can get!!!!!

Just two more legs and we're done!

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Discovery Time book has been written for teachers who want to implement the programme in their classes.

It has:
A strong focus on key competencies
Details of how to get started and how to continue to develop Discovery Time in your class
Examples of completed planning sheets
A CD Rom with:
– A power point of activity ideas
- Recipes for use in the classroom
- Relevant quotations (A4 posters for display purposes)
- A planning sheet with write able fields

We are very excited about the programme and the number of schools that are now using Discovery Time in their classrooms.

This year we will be presenting Discovery Time at educational conferences and at workshops run through Mana Education Centre. We are also available for presentations at schools and early childhood centres.
While the programme is designed to run in primary schools the concepts and focus on the key competencies is hugely relevant to early Childhood.

To order our book & CD please email

Cost $48 NZ (incl GST and postage within New Zealand)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The first 50 copies of the book arrived today!

Great excitement!
We think it looks fabulous!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Workshops on Discovery Time

Just to let those in the Greater Wellington region know that Gay & I have two Discovery Time workshops with Mana Ed over the holidays.

23rd April 9.00-12.00 Masterton
24th April 9.00-12.00 Porirua

Tel 04 237 7318

This is a fun high energy session that will introduce you to Discovery Time.
It will cover:
  • The philosophy and research
  • How to get started
  • Focussing on the key competencies
  • Practical ideas and activities

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book News

Copies should be here by the end of April! Yeah!

So watch this space for news of the release.

It seems to have been a very long process but we are really pleased with the result.

We have had a fabulous team working alongside us:
Joy Allcock our mentor
Margaret Cahill our editor
Stephanie Drew our graphic designer

We wouldn't have got there without them.

We have learned so much along the way. We now know what an 'ozalid' and a 'white dummy' look like and can navigate our way through import and shipping forms!

We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Interesting article from the UK

Primary schools 'have got worse'

Latest findings from the Cambridge-based Primary review (Dominic Wyse, Elaine McCreery and Harry Torrance) indicate that:

"A narrowing of the curriculum has led to a decrease in the quality of English primary schooling, 'High stakes' testing of pupils has led to a system 'focused on literacy and numeracy at the expense of the broader curriculum'".

"While test scores have risen since the mid 1990s, this has been achieved at the expense of children's entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum."

"Creativity is at risk of being squeezed out of our classrooms" says the Liberal Democrats spokesperson for education.

Food for thought!!!!
Are we in danger of heading down the same path in New Zealand?
Will the new curriculum help to redress this problem?
Is this an issue for education in other countries?
What happens if we stifle creativity?

Let us know what you think?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Foster creativity!

The Arts Festival is in full swing in Wellington - always a great source of inspiration.

Went to the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt yesterday. They have an exhibition - 'A Costura Do Invisivel' showcasing Brazilian fashion designer Jum Nakao's wonderful creations made from paper.

Alongside the exhibition was an activity table where students could create their own paper garments for cut out dolls. These were some of the creations.

I can see some of our budding designers being interested in this - perhaps show them the Nakao website (above) for inspiration.

Also look at the peg dolls / worry dolls on an earlier blog (July 16 2006 - click on 'blog archive' on the right of this page, then click on the arrow next to 2006, Then on arrow by July)

Have fun creating.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What is Discovery Time?

Thought it might be time to go back to the beginning and look at what Discovery Time is all about.

Discovery Time is a ninety minute, hands-on, activity-based programme where students can be in control of their own learning. Activities come from any area of the curriculum (art, drama, PE, music, technology, literacy, numeracy) - whatever will inspire and catch the students interest. In addition there is a strong focus on strengthening key competencies (thinking, using language, symbols and text, managing self, relating to others, participating and contributing).

Some of you may be familiar with the Developmental or Choosing Time programmes that were popular in the 70s and 80s. Yes, this is similar, but with more focus and planning.

The teacher begins by introducing the focus for the day, which targets a specific aspect of one of the key competencies. There might be discussion about why it was chosen, what it would look like and sound like, and how one would know if it were happening. Examples might be: asking to join in, sharing, taking turns, persisting when things get difficult, solving problems that occur, trying out new ideas...

The various activities for the day would be explained with many of these linking to current curriculum work.

The children then select and participate in the activities. During the session the teacher takes the role of facilitator: observing, providing feedback, asking questions and encouraging students.
At the end of the session the class would come together to share and reflect on what they had done and what they had learned.

The programme is based on three key principles:

Students need opportunities not only for cognitive development, but also
for social-emotional and physical development.

Students’ learning is enhanced when there are opportunities for 'hands on'
experiential learning.

Student motivation is increased when they are in control of their own learning.

The programme was initially designed to meet the needs of students who found the structured, academic focus of classrooms a challenge. It soon became apparent that there were benefits for all students and for teachers as well. Students get a chance to take control of their own learning, they are motivated, fully engaged and there are few behaviour difficulties.

Best of all, it is fun!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Start of a new school year and back into action. Sorry for our lack of communication since November.

Many people have been asking about our book.... Yes it is coming, just one or two hitches!!! We have been working very hard over the holidays and it is just about there. Very exciting to see it come to life with the skill of the designer.

If you want to get in touch email us at
More soon, hope your year is off to a good start and that lots of you are thinking about including Discovery Time in your timetables.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Garden Design

At Porirua East School each class is involved in designing and creating a class garden. There has been a lot of activity, much of it during Discovery Time, with students raising seeds, digging hard clay soil, adding mulch and fertilizer, planting and watering.

Today some moved on to more decorative features. The woodwork bench was out and several bird tables were being created. Year three students showed amazing skill.

"We've had the woodwork bench quite a few times this term, so they're getting pretty good," said their teacher.

The finished product!

There's a hook under the arm to hang the food from.
Great design, well done Sohaib :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Anyone for sushi?

The class were finding out about rice - How it grows, where it grows etc. We thought we should include some 'rice' activities in Discovery Time.

We started with fried rice, using the electric frypan in the classroom - a great success, so then thought we could move on to sushi... A bit ambitious as none of us had made sushi before!
(purchased a sushi kit at the supermarket - with full instructions).

But hey! great success! A wonderful activity with great opportunities for oral language.

  • Describing the smell of the nori
  • Cutting 'thin' rather than 'thick' pieces of cucumber
  • Dividing the sushi rolls in 'half' then 'half' again
  • Finding words to describe the wasabi - those that were game enough to taste it!
We also had fun practising with chopsticks!

Best of all, by working in small groups of four, everyone who wanted to make sushi could and there was enough for everyone to have a taste.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Using ICT in Discovery Time

At Russell school year 4, 5 & 6 students had been making juggling balls and learning how to juggle. Katarina, became something of an expert at making the balls, so decided to go one step further. She took a sequence of photos to show how to make them. We then worked together to put them into 'movie maker' and presented it to the class. It took two sessions to complete but the result was great - a real example of persistence.

'Movie maker' is part of the Microsoft package, so is on most school computers. It's easy for students to drag photos in and add transitions to link each picture.

Our key learning point ....
Only take photos in landscape not portrait if you are putting them into movie maker!!!!!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Starters & Strategies - term 3 2007

It has taken me a little while to catch up with this one but as always it is worth a read. Best ideas for Discovery Time:

  • Using our gardens for play - suggests (among other things) building a bean teepee, making a bird feeder, a worm bin or just leaving a space of bare ground as a digging and general engineering area. Check out the Yates website.

  • Funky Eye Friday - let imaginations run wild creating, crazy, groovy and innovative eyewear. This was in conjunction with Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind - the actual date has past but hey it's a great idea.

  • BP Challenge - some information about the 2008 zoo challenge - creating an enrichment toy.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's the Hurry?
Reclaiming childhood in an overscheduled world
A guide for parents, teachers and the community.
by Kathy Walker

Has anyone read this book?
In an intro to the book she writes

"Childhood is a time that is precious and wonderful for young children. However, increasingly, the valuing of childhood as a unique period within the lifespan, a time for exploration, investigation, playing and becoming used to life, is something at risk of becoming lost."

Chapter one is available on line and is worth a read.
It has some interesting snippets:

"We don't have time to let them play, or to have much free time, we have such a crowded pushed down curriculum. It's a lot more stressful on kids and us these days."

"Many teachers frequently comment that some children have no 'down time' any more. These children are so busy doing; they have less and less time for being a child."

"Children are no longer actually initiating their own creative play. The language of children is increasingly... "Show me how to do this, what do I have to do next?"

She finishes the chapter with six key messages about childhood - have a read... very closely aligned to our Discovery Time philosophy

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Flax weaving at Russell School

We have just started Discovery Time in a year 5 & 6 class at Russell School with a
key competency focus on co-operation.

Today some students experimented with harekeke weaving helping each other interpret the instructions and create these great fish.

Easy to follow instructions in the School Journal, Part 3 no. 2 1988
Mahi Harakeke by Jossie Kaa

Monday, August 20, 2007

'Junk' - A real favourite

Sometimes it's the simple things that are the best.

The amount of talking, co-operating and problem solving that goes into making these junk creations is amazing.

The kids are always ready to explain what all the different bits and pieces are and how they work.

Ask a few more questions and they'll tell you what they were thinking about as they designed their creations, the problems they had and how they solved them, and what they are planning to do next.

Here are some of the results from last Friday's Discovery Time session in Room 10 Porirua East School.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Workshop in Palmerston North

A big thank you to the Principals, teachers, RTLBs and GSE staff from the Hokowhitu cluster of schools for making us so welcome.

The enthusiasm that people show for the concept of Discovery Time always gives us a real buzz.

Look forward to hearing back on how things are going.

The daffodils and irises we received (now brightening my living room) will be great for observational drawing in tomorrow's Discovery Time!

Friday, July 27, 2007

"You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself." ~~ Galileo (1564 - 1642)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Developing persistent learners

I received an email from Karen Boyes a few weeks ago that fitted perfectly with developing the Key Competencies. The Key Competencies have become a major focus of the Discovery Time programme so I thought you might be interested in some of the things she has to say.

"Persistence is the ability to stick to a task especially when the going gets tough. it is being able to hang in there and keep going when a task becomes challenging, never giving up and keeping going."

"Give your students a repertoire of problem solving strategies. Invite students to make a plan before solving a problem and if plan A does not work use plan B, C, D or E."

"As a teacher you may hear yourself saying, "who has another way to solve this?" or "What's another way?" Develop a bank of different strategies and ways to approach a task."

"A great activity to introduce persistence is to teach yor students to juggle."
(see blog entry 29.05.07)

Art Costa says "teaching persistence is a matter of teaching strategy. persistence does not just mean working to get it right. Persistence means knowing that getting stuck is a cue to 'try something else.'"

Persistence is one aspect of the 'managing self' key competency, but also overlaps with 'thinking' when students are encouraged to problem solve a difficulty and try another strategy.

Talk about persistence at the start of a Discovery Time session and then having students reflect on how they persisted with a task, at the end of the session. This works brilliantly.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Learning Enrichment Centre (LEC)
At Windley school, the wonderful Jacki and her two cohorts run a Discovery session three mornings a week from 9.00 - 12.30 (Monday year 5-6, Tuesday year 7-8 and Wednesday year 3-4). She also writes a weekly newsletter to keep the classroom teachers in touch with what is happening.

Last week the Key Competencies selected were:

Thinking - making connections
Managing Self - being organised, making own plans and choices
Relating to others - including others

The theme - The Moon

Ambitious aren't they!!!!!

The following is an excerpt from last weeks newsletter (names of students have been changed)

"Continuing on the celestial theme we focussed on the moon. There are a huge amount of resources and endless possibilities - hmmmm, maybe not a field trip this time... It was surely a recipe for success with astronauts, spacecraft and space. Well, that is what we thought - but unfortunately we had a pretty disastrous session on the Monday with the year 5-6 group. There was a point where Michelle and I looked at each other in despair across the whirlwind that the LEC had become. Yes we had no control, but the children were all engaged. Technically that should have been OK, after all that is sort of the general idea, but there was a rising sense of tension in both of us and the children were picking up on it! Back to the drawing board for session 2 and we tightened up the programme a lot... "

Oh yes, we all have those moments!

"...One of our successes was Thomas, who really embraced the theme and created a fantastic moonscape complete with rocket that actually blasted off (with the aid of a pulley). It was great to see him with his old spark.

Another joy is Malo, who is very focussed and enthusiastic about everything! He is so keen to be independent of a teacher instead carefully watching the other children to figure out how to do things. He is a great risk taker and in this environment he is in his element.

Tama is a mix of a challenge and a delight. He turns up each morning at 8am and will work on something and actually get good results, however when the bell rings and the rest of the group arrive, he loses the plot. He does make great connections in his learning though (while pretending that he isn't really listening!) We were discussing the fact that the moon is an orb and he yells out (not the shy and retiring type), "like the orb web, cos that's round as well" YES! That was connecting learning he had from week 2 this term. And that's what keeps us here - 'cos sometimes across the mess, amidst the paint and the glue, and through the noise, there are glimmers of brilliance. which makes you realise what a lot of dirt you have to sift through to find the gold. BUT - We are sure that it is there somewhere."

Next week - VOLCANOES (We are in the mood for some explosive action).

Many thanks Jacki

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Marble tracks and juggling balls

We started by exploring some of the commercial marble tracks that were available. Soon the students moved on to creating their own tracks out of cardboard. They attached them to the wall with pins and spent ages testing and modifying to get the best results.

Along the way one of the girls started juggling with a couple of marbles and that led to making juggling balls the following week.
Filled with rice, each ball needs three balloons to make them colourful and strong. Some of the challenges ...
How to get the rice into the first balloon
How to get the balls the same size
How to avoid spreading rice from one end of the class to the other!!!!
The biggest challenge though is learning to juggle!
For New Zealand readers the instructions for these are in the School Journal part 3, no. 2, 1997