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

More carrot cars
In subsequent weeks the students continued experimenting - adding drivers, finding better ways of attaching wheels and then moving into designing other vehicles like this motor bike.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ideas from classrooms

Fabulous carrot cars from Brandon Intermediate - designed, constructed and tested to see which would travel the furtherest.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Great website for Discovery Time activities

If you are working on a particular topic and need some inspiration head for this site! It has a wide range of activities with a very well organised index system that allows you to find what's available very quickly. The instructions are easy to follow with good diagrams. Just print them off!
Andrew's class at Porirua East School made some neat origami butterflies from this site last week. There are several examples that are great for getting students started with simple folding techniques.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Observational Drawing
In many of the classes that I go into the children do 'observational drawings'. An object is placed on the desk in front of them and they carefully draw what they see. Younger children may need some questions to get them started -
"Which way round do you think you should have your paper - landscape or portrait?"
"Where do you think you might start?"
"What shape can you see there?"

Older students, once they have the outline become very adept at noticing light and shade and with a little guidance can begin to shade effectively. Again the questioning guides the process -
"Which direction is the light coming from?"
"Where is the shadow falling?"
"Does it help to hold your pencil a different way?"

Children become quite obsorbed in the process and frequently surprise themselves with the results.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bubbles - Hands on Challenges
Great activities from Barbara Duckworth and Jill Mitchell (Wild daisies).

What makes the best bubbles?
Experiment with detergent, shampoo, bubble bath and liquid soap.
Present your findings on a chart.

How strong are bubbles?
Blow through a straw into a glass that contains some bubble mixture.
Carefully pull out the straw.
Now put the straw back into the glass without breaking the bubbles.

What objects can you poke into the bubbles without breaking them?
Share your findings with the class.

What would happen if all the bubbles made didn't burst? (A 'hot' question - see entry 27.04.06)

Blow through a straw into a glass with a strong bubble mixture.
Can you blow bubbles so that they flow out of the glass and onto a plate?
Who can fill the plate?

Can you make a bubble picture?
Mix 1 teaspoon of food colouring and detergent with some water.
Blow through the straw to make bubbles
Place paper over the bubbles to make a print.
Experiment with other colours.
Display your print.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Welcome to a new year of Discovery Time.

Congratulations to Brandon Intermediate who has the first year 7 & 8 class doing Discovery Time! They started last week and the students loved it.

I was up there this morning and the focus for the day was 'reflection' - to be able to report back at the end on: what they had done, what they had learned and what they might do differently next time. They were also asked to challenge themsleves by trying something new.

These themes (which link closely to the Key Competencies in the draft curriculum) were made explicit to the students at the start of the session and were the basis for discussion at the end.

They had a great range of activities and the students were totally engaged throughout.
A great start.