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25 November 2016

posted 24 Nov 2016, 16:01 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 24 Nov 2016, 21:19 ]
Approaching the end of the year; looking forward to our beach based programme and other experiences outside of the classroom, I find myself reflecting on the dynamic year we have had up to this point. What has been inspiring? Where have we seen students flourishing? 

Our Worser Bay School Curriculum document emphasises the wellbeing and development of the whole child. In Māori terms, Taha Tinana, Taha Wairua, Taha Whanau and Taha Hinengaro (physical, spiritual, social/family and, mental and emotional wellbeing.)  Alongside the progress our students have made and are continuing to make in academic learning is the progress they are making socially, emotionally and spiritually. These are harder to measure (what mark could you give a smile?) but are just as important in the development of the whole child. During recent Progress and Achievement Meetings, I have been heartened by the parental perspective which suggests that their kids are happy to be at school; they feel connected and cared about. On top of this, many are also talking about the learning experiences which their children have been involved in outside of or beyond the classroom and the impact these are having on their children’s growth. Ubiquitous learning.

It is exciting to see the developments in educational thinking (Core Education Ubiquitous Learning), suggesting that learning in the 21st century will be happening more and more, anywhere, anytime! We are already making bold moves in this direction and it is having a powerful impact on the development of the whole child and their wellbeing. I like to think of this as ‘The School Without Walls’. There is no need to limit ourselves to the traditional processes of learning in which all kids are working on the same thing at the same time, in rows in the same classroom. Removing the metaphorical walls? Drumming with Andreas and the Music Festival, School Camp, rock-pooling, gardening, planting trees and PFP, cooking creatively and the recent Marketplace. All powerful learning experiences, and the list goes on.

Of course, digital learning provides us with exciting opportunities to connect and learn with others anywhere in the world. Even if the body is still attached to the floor, the mind is allowed the freedom to soar and explore. We can connect with artists and design experts, scientists, business people, whoever, and children in other schools who are also thinking and learning about the world. 

Ubiquity in learning applies to the upcoming beach based programme beginning next week for Māhutonga/Matariki students. Who is not inspired by the great outdoors? In a recent study, Dr. Sue Waite from Plymouth University discovered that taking education outside the classroom led to students being more engaged. This resulted in ideas being shared more freely and deeper questions being asked. The study proved that “characteristics of effective learning such as engagement, motivation and thinking critically are all well supported by outdoor context which stimulate children to learn by playing and exploring, actively learning and self regulating their learning.’ (Dr. Waite, 2014) 

We have noted that students really seem to step up and grow in confidence as they overcome some of these physical outdoor challenges.

Encouraging students to look outside of themselves to the communities which surround us, to become involved with others and to give service in some way is another aspect. Positive Education identifies ‘Positive Purpose’ as the domain in which people find meaning and purpose in life, develop social awareness and are involved in community service. Giving and helping others, Taha Whanau, is an important part of well-being. It is important to feel as if we are making a positive difference in other people’s lives. Our kids need to have experiences which let them ‘feel’ this. To do this we need to reach outside of our classroom walls.

What are the simple things which make your spirit sing, what are the experiences which are good for your soul? The answer to this will probably be different for all of us but in recent weeks I have been working with a group of Student Councillors, the Gardening Group, to develop our Lizard Garden and plant vegetables. I have been in the ‘flow’ spreading compost and digging holes with the group. It is satisfying and soulful work and the kids love it. Connecting to nature, connecting to each other: learning anywhere, anytime!

Ngā mihi
John McDougall
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