The illustrations from Jeannie Baker's new book "Circle" about the migration of Godwits from Queensland to China and then to Alaska and back each year can be admired at the Canberra Museum and Gallery until 12th February 2017. Teachers and teacher libraians should take the opportunity to see these original illustration while they are in Canberra. Her illustrations are so much more three dimensional when you see the originals compared to the book illustrations. Maybe an excursion for your students can be arranged for the first few weeks of school.
Watch a short video where she explains her inspiration and techniques. The art activity downstairs related to the exhibition is also worth copying in your classroom.
Pick up a free poster to decorate your library or classroom.
It's that time of year again.
When after teaching about sustainability and healthy eating all year, we throw class parties using disposable plates and cups and eat over packaged junk food. When we and our students attend parties where large amounts of shiny brightly coloured plastic and foil is thrown in the garbage and we buy shiny brightly coloured plastic and foil to make Christmas decorations in class. When we buy new materials to make decorations that will be thrown into landfill in a few weeks and spend our own money to buy cheap presents that are also destined for landfill.
Despite the above rant, I am not Scrooge or the Grinch and I love Christmas. Let's think for a moment, about what Christmas in our classroom would look like, in an ideal world where we actually model year-round the qualities of sustainability and healthiness:
* Students would learn sustainable skills like cooking, singing, and recycling
* All decorations would be made from recycled materials
* Decorations would either be compostable or recyclable or of such high quality that they would be treasured for years to come.
* Food would be healthy
* Over-packaging of food would be minimised
* Food waste would be minimised
* Washable plates and cups would be used, washed and put away for the next class party.
* Instead of rubbish increasing by 30% over the Christmas period, rubbish would be utilised as a resource.
Read 1 Million Women's post on No Waste Festive Season to see the sort of impact you can have and then think about this multiplied 30 times as your students transfer these attitudes and skills home.
Some of these ideas are easier to implement than others but here are some suggestions to have a more sustainable Christmas in your classroom
1. Buy a class size set of plastic mugs and plates from local second hand shops and put them in a plastic tub with tea towels and dishwashing liquid. They don't have to match and you don't need to spend a lot of money.
2. Give experiences rather than cheap small toys this year. The Christmas songs that you teach them, the food you prepare or cook together and the skills of making decorations are going to stay with them for life.
3. Get the students to help prepare the food. Use the plates as cutting boards and use steak knives to cut the fruit and vegetables into small pieces. Ask parents/grandparents to help you cook using a simple biscuit recipe. Maybe even a traditional Christmas biscuit from another country. Measuring out the ingredients is a thinking mathematically maths lesson and cutting out the dough into shapes is great fun. Borrow labelled trays from parents to have enough. Your main problem if you have a stove in the staff room is going to be the time it takes to cook all the biscuits. Ask a parent/grandparent for help with stove management.
4. Junk mail advertisements are a great source of colourful paper for making paper chains to decorate the classroom.
5.Make snowflakes from paper which has only been used on one side.
6.Use old Christmas cards and shiny and colourful lolly wrappers to make a laminated Christmas placemat.
7. Make tinsel by collecting foil (chip packaging is very good) and other plastics, sewing 7 layers together with string in a loose running stitch, and cutting with sharp scissors into tinsel. I make metres of it at home by using all plastics in the rubbish bin during November and December.
8. Teach and sing as many Christmas songs as you can.
9. Collect material such as felt, organza and fake fur from second hand shops thoughout the year so that you can make crafts.
10. Make Christmas decorations and games from recycled materials.
11. Use real evergreen pine, ivy and holly branches in florist foam to decorate in a traditional way. Brighten up with secondhand red decorations and ribbons. These are put in the compost bin afterwards.
12. Food scraps go the compost bin or chooks.
13. Wrap up 25 Christmas themed books in either newspaper or last year's Christmas paper and read one each day.
14. Use old Christmas cards to make Christmas card balls.
15. Use cereal boxes for your cardboard creations.
16. Challenge the students as to who can make the best recycled Christmas decoration out of household rubbish. I am still looking for the ultimate decoration to make from long life milk cartons.
WARNING: SUSTAINABLE CHRISTMAS CAN BECOME ADDICTIVE. You may find yourself hovering around your host at parties waiting to pounce on a particularly beautiful foil wrapping and saving the gold foil wrapping from Magnums (or worse buying a Magnum ice-cream for the foil wrapping).
All of us learn by moving from the known to the unknown. Children learn first from their parents, then the home, the neighbourhood and then school. We learn through interactions with the environment and other people. Somewhere along the line learning often becomes something that occurs in the classroom divorced from home, neighbourhood and place.
Place Based Learning seeks to correct that. Place Based Learning uses the local community as a primary resource for learning. The environment, culture, economy, literature, geography, history and art of the students' own place is used to make curriculum content meaningful. Each of us must understand how our community works in order to become an informed citizen.
“If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”
Anchoring curriculum in real-life locations makes content meaningful and mentally and physically engaging. Students learn better when they experience those concepts in their real world contexts. Even the most engaging multimedia experience only uses our sight, hearing and possibly kinaesthetic senses. Participation in real life experiences activates many of our 20 senses, which in turn creates physical changes in the brain and greater connections when studying the material. What is more with local locations then students, teachers and families can revisit and revise frequently.
Once they understand concepts in one location they can generalise them to other locations by looking at similarities and differences. From acting locally we can move to thinking globally.
Teaching the Hudson Valley is an example of Place Based Learning in action. It helps educators discover, appreciate, and share the region’s natural, historic, and cultural treasures with children and youth. THV fosters collaboration among schools, museums, parks, historic sites, art galleries, libraries, and other groups. This is where I would like to see Classroom Canberra head. It is made easier by the huge amount of resources already prepared by education officers in the many organisations in the ACT area, however with collaboration it should be possible to do this with any area.
Place Based Learning is supported by the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008)
Partnerships between students, parents, carers and families, the broader community, business, schools and other education and training providers bring mutual benefits and maximise student engagement and achievement.
The Framework of Professional Teaching Standards Element 7
TEACHERS ARE ACTIVELY ENGAGED MEMBERS OF THEIR PROFESSION AND THE WIDER COMMUNITY
7.3.4 Provide opportunities for the development of quality relationships between students, colleagues and the community.
NSW Quality Teaching Framework
Significance refers to the pedagogy that helps make learning meaningful and important to students. Such pedagogy draws clear connections with students’ prior knowledge and identities, with contexts out of the classroom, and with multiple ways of knowing or cultural perspectives
Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative ( 2010). The Benefits of Place-based Education: A Report from the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative (Second Edition). Retrieved March 1st, 2014 from http://www.litzsinger.org/PEEC2010_web.pdf
Kovalik S., Olsen K., (2010) Kids Eye View of Science: A Conceptual integrated Approach to Teaching Science K-6 . Moorabbin Victoria , Hawker Brownlow Education
Louv R. (2008) Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder , New York, Workman Publishing Company
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
The Green Shed may not be one of the first places that springs to mind when thinking about education resources of Canberra but I am assuming that you are one of the many teachers forking out your own money to get the resources that you need for your classroom and students.
The Green Shed is particularly good for furniture. On my last visit there was shelving and book display units. A small lounge for a book reading corner could be useful or get some pouffes or cushions and recover them (if necessary) to provide some alternative seating.
There are always toys, books, jigsaws and board games available. Yes, they might well need a bit of a clean up and the soft toys will need a wash, but since some things have a finite life in the classroom, for example jigsaws and board games, why pay full price for them.
Think Green Shed first when looking for craft materials. There is fabric, canvases, frames, wood, piping, tiles, and other items that just need upcycling.
You are not going to find exactly what you are looking for if you treat it like going to a regular store but with regular visits (open Mon-Sun 7.30am -5.00pm) and grabbing bargains when you see them, you can save a lot of money and provide those extras you need for your classroom and students.
I love the Australian Summer School Holidays!
Without the constant demands of programming and organising the next days lessons teachers can unwind and relax, but also revitalise and discover new learning experiences.
I don't think teachers are ever really off duty. Everywhere you go, and everything you see, hear, or learn is constantly evaluated to its value in providing learning experiences for the students in your care.
Now without an avalanche of details demanding your attention is the time to expand your vision and look at the big picture. Inspire yourself with some Education TED Talks. Start to grow your Professional Learning Network with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or sector based networks like Maang or Yammer.
If you have school aged children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews yourself you also have some handy guinea pigs. Take the children and visit your local tourist attractions, museums, parks, national parks, rivers and beaches. How can some of these fit into your units for this year?
Do some cooking with the your kids. Can any of these recipes be adapted to work with a class? Do some science experiments with the kids from CSIRO's Do-it-yourself Science. How can some of these fit in your unit?
Try out some of these free web tools yourself and even better get the kids to try them out so you find out any difficulties and the possibilities.
What wildlife is endemic to your area? Use books, websites such as Earthwatch, and apps to find out. Use the ABC's Scribbly Gum to find out what is happening in nature this month.
Take photographs that might be useful educationally and share them on Flickr. Investigate Flickr Creative Commons for copyright free images to use in your teaching resources. Start a set or group on Flickr on a particular theme and you may be on the way to creating a worldwide resource like this one on Australian Rainforest Plants.
Research the local Aboriginal history so that you will be able to fit it into all your subjects at school. Check the library, internet, local museum and local Aboriginal organisations for resources.
Go to the local bookshop and/or library and read some children's books. The kids can borrow or buy at the same time.
At the end of the holiday you will be bursting with ideas and the kids will think they have had a great time too.
Australia has a problem with science education. Our community scientific literacy is alarmingly low, our PISA results in science are flat-lining, and our students are abandoning science in the higher years.
The Australian Academy of Science commissioned a report, Science Literacy in Australia Report, into the level of scientific literacy in the community. Only 59% of Australians knew that the Earth takes one year to travel around the sun and knowledge levels had dropped in the three years since the survey was last done.
While Australia performed significantly above the OECD average in PISA in 2009, it was outperformed by six countries. The results had not changed significantly from 2006. There are major differences in scientific literacy between rural and metropolitan schools, high and low socioeconomic areas and indigenous and non-indigenous students.
Another Australian Academy of Science study shows the drop in students studying science. Twenty years ago 94 per cent of year 11 and 12 students were enrolled in science subjects but last year the figure had dropped to 51 per cent.
So why does this matter? A good general community scientific literacy enables people to participate knowledgeably in society. It affects people’s ability to take ownership of their health, manage technology efficiently, and take part in solving global problems such as climate change. A lack of students in the science disciplines is leading to shortages in the skilled scientific and engineering workforces and reduces our ability to be internationally competitive.
There is general agreement that we need to improve our science education from K-12.
ACER’s report Reimagining Science Education suggests teaching science as it is practised in the real world, designing units that teach science outcomes through solving real problems in the community, and having collaboration between schools, industry and community.
Australia’s chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb has called on schools to “teach science in an inspirational way”. "You've got to ensure science is taught like it is practised, so you have people who are turned on by the awesomeness of science and can explain why it is important and relevant in everyday lives,''
In this Australian article Alison Samuel says we need to learn to see the science in everyday life.
One of the problems is that most primary teachers don’t have a science background so lack the background knowledge to do this confidently.
Victoria has headed down the road of Specialist Primary Science and Maths teachers and New South Wales has some fantastic Environmental Education Centres. I see this as a short term measure though because it continues to down skill the generalist primary teachers and reinforces the silo approach of making science a subject you do at a specific time each week or on a school excursion rather than something that is all around you and infuses everything.
So I am going to suggest that we involve our schools, students and school communities in citizen science. Citizen science involves ordinary people contributing information to real science projects. Not only do our students learn that science is for everyone but also through them so does the parents and school community. Citizen Science has a much bigger profile in countries like the UK where this Guide to Citizen Science by the UK Environmental Observation Framework comes from.
However there are a number of initiatives in Australia. There are the long running Streamwatch and Waterwatch programs, where community groups and schools can monitor local creeks and river systems. Some are geographically located like the Great Koala Count, Birds in Schools and Wingtags. Wingtags and Climatewatch both have apps that allow people to report in sightings on their mobile phones.
With Explore the Seafloor you can help report on crown of thorns and kelp distributions around Australia from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Climatewatch can be done anywhere in Australia by identifying reporting on the appearance of key indicator species in your area.
CSIRO supports Mathematicians in Schools where teachers can form professional partnerships with maths professionals, supporting maths education and Scientists in Schools, which creates and supports long-term partnerships between scientists and schools for fun, inspiration and learning. With the internet and collaborative tools such as Skype, Adobe Connect and Google groups schools don’t even need to be in a capital city to participate. Pulse@Parkes provides high school students the opportunity to control the famous Parkes radio telescope via the internet. Students observe pulsars under the guidance of professional astronomers.
Internationally, Australian students can use the internet to help teach a computer algorithm how to identify birds at the All About Birds Cornell Lab of Ornithology or classify galaxies at Galaxy Zoo.
The best thing about using citizen science is that the Citizen Science programs provide the information and training needed to participate. All the teacher needs is enthusiasm and the impetus to connect their students to real science in the real world.
Encouraging Australian Children to Enjoy Nature
In Richard Louv’s influential book Last Child in the Woods he argues that children today have a deficiency in exposure to nature leading to obesity, attention deficit disorder and depression. This has struck a chord, leading to many media articles and a Victorian Government report Good Play Space Guide and contributed to the formation and growth of forest kindergartens, Children and Nature Network, and the Audubon Society.
Many of the resources are British or North American rather than Australian so I thought I would look at some resources to encourage Australian children to enjoy nature.
There are some amazingly beautiful books for children on Australian wildlife on the market. From early childhood picture books like “The Bushwalk” by Sandra Kendall to the beautifully photographed Steve Parish books. These books are a valuable addition to the home or school library. However the most likely Australian animals and plants that will be seen by children are insects, roadside and park plants, garden birds and small lizards. Of course it is possible to see echidnas and platypus in the bush but these are rare and special occasions. So I would make the case for investing in books like Peter Macinnis’ Australian Backyard Naturalist and Densey Clyne’s books because they focus on the sorts of animals found in backyards and schoolyards.
Another consideration is to invest in Field Guides for your local area. By learning the names of fauna and flora in your local area you actually increase your chances of seeing them because your brain doesn’t just dismiss it as “brown bird” or “tree” you instead notice the “Red Wattlebird” or “Yellow Box”. “My Little World” by Julia Cooke ticks all these boxes for me because it shows the child perspective plants and animals of the Black Mountain Reserve, ACT near where I live.
Beautiful posters in the child’s bedroom, on the toilet door or in the kitchen inspire and encourage everyone to learn the names of what they see around them. High quality Australian posters are available from Gould League, National Parks and Wildlife and Australian Geographic.
Free Nature Apps
Sydney Wildlife A field guide to the wildlife that can be found in and around Sydney, Australia. The guide includes most birds, many fish, many mammals, a number of reptiles, and a number of invertebrates.
Aust. Bird Guide is a general field guide to Australian Birds.
For the Victorians there is Biodiversity of the Western Volcanic Plains Flora and Fauna with the flora and fauna of the Western Volcanic Plains, and the Museum of Victoria’s Field Guide to Victorian Fauna.
The MyEnvironment app is from the Australian Government, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Find the Australian environmental places and species that make up your neighbourhood or area of interest. MyEnvironment uses the GPS in your phone or iPad to show assets around you. See the heritage places, wetlands, protected species, protected areas, weeds and invasive species near you.
The Climatewatch app helps you identify local flora and fauna but you can also record the seasonal behaviour you see in plants and animals, and help scientists understand how Australia’s environment is responding to climate change.
If you like frogs the Australian Museum Frog Field Guide and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority both have great field guides to Australian frogs including photos, maps and calls.
Australian Government Department of Environment
NSW Environmental Education Centres
Birds in Backyards
Australian Museum fact sheets
But finally just get out there. Find your local reserve, national park, or creek and enjoy yourself discovering things with your child.