Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Creating Maker Mindsets in Girls

Monday was a really average day for us in 8C. It was one of those "blah" days where the students weren't engaged and I wasn't really engaged; Nothing too drastic but basically the day was just a bit forgettable.  Not one of my finer teaching moments........

Never mind; Tuesday was awesome! The students were passionate about what they were doing, I was much more engaged and excited and I left school that day in a much better frame of mind.  Later that evening, I was reflecting on "Meh Monday" and why Tuesday was so much more successful. Looking at my planning diary,  I looked at the ratio of creation to consumption learning tasks- no prizes for guessing which day was heavy on the consumption tasks and which was heavily weighted in favour of creative tasks.

"Awesome Tuesday" had seen the girls heavily involved in Makerspace tasks and unsurprisingly they were highly engaged and motivated by this learning. The ability to create with plenty of choice as well as a sense of purpose is motivating and provides the perfect conditions for a great day in the classroom. Phew! Bring on more Makered!

Our Makerspace program continues to evolve and we are seeing huge benefits for our girls. We are moving towards integrating a Maker approach across our curriculum, coupled with timetabled unstructured, exploratory Makerspace sessions. We struck gold this year with our amazing elearning and Makerspace teacher, Liz Fairhall who is passionate about Makered and facilitates amazing experiential learning for our girls.

Here are four ways Selwyn House is nurturing a maker mindset in our girls.

1. Makerspace integrated throughout the curriculum

Makerspace in Unit of Inquiry
Liz meets with each team for a planning session early in the term and together with classroom teachers, a Makerspace inquiry is loosely nutted out. This is where the real Design Thinking comes in. In Year 7 and 8, our Term 1 Maker focus, fitted into our Inquiry work and evolved from a problem identified by the girls; that in today's digital society we lose many the special messages and images we receive digitally because we don't have a way to store them and keep them safe. The learners created amazing artefacts- places they could store and cherish their digital keepsakes. The variety of skills the girls got out of this was pretty phenomenal. You can read more about this amazing Makerspace experience HERE.

Makerspace in Maths
Recently, in Year 7 and 8 we've been making in Maths with a focus on animation.  The challenge was for girls to create a claymation clip which illustrated a mathematical concept, providing a teaching tool for younger learners.

Makerspace in Literacy
There are many examples of this throughout the school but I particularly love this example created by some Year 4 students who had been writing in the fantasy genre. They created this clip giving their Top Tips for Fantasy Writing.

2. Makerspace Exploratory Time

We aim to provide plenty of time for the girls to explore Makerspace materials. Girls are given plenty of opportunities to opt in to workshops or explore during free Makerspace times.  Year 3 and 4s have frequent Challenge and Creativity Days and recently a number of girls signed up for the opportunity to further their green screen skills. The teacher involved stood right back and the children took the lead, planning and executing each step in the process.

This is also the time when the girls get their first experiences of new equipment. They were so excited to get their hands on the DiamondMind 3D printer and it was great to be able to give them some exploratory time to print out some of their Tinkercad creations.

Some of the girls' first  Tinkercad creations

3. "The Unquiet Library"

This is a phrase coined by the amazing Buffy Hamilton, a secondary school librarian in the U.S. She is the queen of library makerspaces and has inspired us as Shirley Smith has led the creation of a Makerspace in our own library. This is where the real tinkering happens. There are a range of learning experiences on offer at any given time in our library. Girls are free to explore. Creations are often formed and left for another learner to come along and improve or modify the previous maker's creation. This is where the making happens for the love it.......entirely student led.

4. Robotics 

Robotics is a huge part of what we do at Selwyn House and has been for many years. Robotics skills are explicitly taught, timetabled weekly for every class from Year 1- 6, and robotics is often used to support learning in the Year 7 and 8 Team as well as our Preschool. We also have two very active Robotics Clubs for Juniors, Y1-3 and Seniors Y4-8. The use of robotics from Year 1 introduces a maker mindset, computational thinking and coding to our five year olds and really gets them excited about STEM learning early on. We feel strongly about getting girls into coding and provide a range of experiences to encourage this.
A Year 7 student works with a mentor and a Raspberry Pi

New entrants work with Beebots
When it became clear recently that a group of girls were baffled by how the NXTs functioned, Squishy Circuits were used to illustrate basic circuitry.

Fun with Squishy Circuits

Of the many, many benefits of Makered for our learners and teachers, I think one that stands out for me is the ability of the girls to surprise and delight me with their Maker creations. It is great to see Creativity where it belongs, at the heart of our curriculum.

At Selwyn House, we are deeply passionate about girls playing a big part in the Maker Movement. And I think it is safe to say that our girls are too!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Out of the Rubble- The Rebuilding of a Community

I'm going to put it out there..........Christchurch teachers are EXHAUSTED.  Really, really exhausted.

Ok, so there's a few Christchurch educators reading this saying,
"Speak for yourself, Bridget! I'm completely and utterly chipper! Teaching is Christchurch is just awesome. I'm full of beans."
But on the whole, most of us are getting by on high doses of iron tablets combined with large and frequent doses of strong coffee.....or something stronger!

It has been an incredible four years in Christchurch. That 4.35am, 7.1 magnitude wake-up call in
 September 2010 and the resulting hideous few years have changed us all irrevocably. The quakes have left such deep and jagged scars on the people of Christchurch that it is sometimes hard to convey that impact in words so I'm not really going to try. You'll have to just take my word for it.....and I know that you wonderful kiwis do. I know that you have supported Christchurch in a way that makes me so proud to be a New Zealander. I still think back to an incredible week we had in Auckland when we escaped Christchurch after the February quake on an Air New Zealand 747 so my husband could work in his firm's Auckland office. We were the lucky ones, able to escape the ongoing aftershocks, the lack of electricity and running water and the overwhelming sorrow that was so thick in our city you could taste it. I know how lucky we were and I'm immensely grateful. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about how my traumatised children were swept up by complete strangers who knew exactly what to say and do to distract them- the kindness of strangers was such a beautiful and moving thing. It helped us to be brave enough to pull ourselves together to return home with the resolve to stay here and help rebuild our precious city from the ground up.

But things were tough, especially in schools. Our students had been through things that no child should have to experience; they were frightened. Just leaving their parents on that first day back at school was something I will never forget. It was TOUGH. Teachers had to be strong, no matter what. We had to ensure that we provided the safest environment we could but it was hard to be positive when we'd lost homes and friends and for many Christchurch teachers, family members. It was hard to keep smiling when you were sharing portaloos in the playground with your students. (By the way, I recommend not being in a portaloo during an aftershock if you can avoid it!)

The girls wanted to hang messages of love on the school fence on our first day at school after the quake. 

We were living in broken homes with wonky floors and cracked windows. Many of my colleagues had their homes demolished or red-zoned and had to find new homes in a saturated and over-priced rental market. We were fighting with EQC and insurers and finding out our land was damaged and labelled TC3 which is earthquake speak for, "You've just lost 50% of the value of your home because who's going to want to buy it now?"

Then came the killer blow for schools- the announcement that the Government was looking to close or merge up to 31 schools in Christchurch. I still remember the overwhelming horror I felt when news of these possible closures broke. Schools had been the backbones of their communities since the quakes. Teachers had provided safe havens in the midst of tragedy and devastation.  Deep down, the Christchurch education community knew that change would have to come at some stage, but after so much tumultuous change in Christchurch in such a short space of time, this was a step too far, too soon for many broken communities.

But as you probably know if you're reading this, we teachers are a dedicated and resilient bunch, aren't we? We box on for the sake of our students; we want the best for them........ and so, Christchurch teachers put their heads down and continued to do their very best in the most trying of circumstances.

But the thing about resilience is its tiring! Exhausting even. And trying to be resilient all on your own is even more exhausting!

Enter the wonder of the PLN- or Personal Learning Network. Some time in that most hideous of years, 2011, I did something that has changed my life as an educator more than I could have imagined; I joined Twitter. My PLN don't know this but at times when teaching has been really hard work, they've inspired me and I know many other Christchurch teachers who feel this way. The power of belonging to a network of educators who support one another is something I can't rave about enough.

Last night was the Christchurch Eduignite; a fantastic night. It was attended by a small but incredibly passionate bunch of educators who are aware of the need for Christchurch teachers to come together to inspire each other and affirm the amazing work that is happening in our schools. Later, over a cheeky shiraz, a new hashtag was born; #chched. We hope that Canterbury teachers will join the conversation, connecting and supporting and affirming and perhaps most importantly, having a much-needed laugh. A huge thank you to Pauline Henderson and Aimee Sibson for being the impetus behind this rebuilding of Christchurch's teacher community.

There is so much incredible stuff going on in the Christchurch education community. To any Christchurch teachers reading this, I think you're awesome! And I hope to get to know you better on #chched. See you there!

Right! Off to take my iron pill.........