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.