Monday, 11 November 2013

Help Save the orangutans!

Did you know that over 4 football fields worth of rainforest are destroyed every hour? There are less than 6600 Sumatran orangutans left in the world - at this rate there will be none left by 2015! Liam, a year 4 student at RSS is passionate about raising awareness of the orangutan's depleting habitat. He has made a stop-motion animation to get his message out there. His goal is to reach 1000 views on his YouTube video "Save the Orangutans." He has also set a goal of at least three RSS staff to read a chapter of a book about orangutan's written by world-renown primatologist Craig Stanford, whom he met a recent lecture in Palmerston North. Liam also spent the weekend at Auckland Zoo on an orangutan experience, where he got to touch a real orangutan.

This week is Oragnutan Awareness Week and Liam and his friends have organised lots of happenings around the school to get students and staff to think about the plight of orangutans and make a difference.

Our hub has a display about Palm oil and today, students 'lost' part of their playground, just as orangutan's are losing their habitat. On Thursday, students will be allowed to dress up in orange and/or their favourite animal.  In return they will get a banana or orange. All proceeds from this dress up day will go the the Auckland Zoo's Conservation Fund Programme.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Planning a Community Garden

A group of Rosie's year 6 potential leaders are working on designing a Community Garden in conjunction with Willard Home Residents to take to the BOT for implementing next year. They are enthusiastic about a space where relationships and wisdom is shared between the RSS community and the Willard Home community, as well as a way to provide produce and an enjoyable space for both communities to share with our wider Palmerston North community. As year 6 students, this will be a lasting legacy they can leave the school, and they are already discussing in great detail the qualities of the students they hope will take over their vision. Their vision is strong, and enthusiastically reinforced by everyone they engage with for advice and support. There has been an enormous amount of research that has gone into preparing for designing such an exciting initiative.
Willard Home staff are also very enthusiastic about such a venture and some of us met with staff to discuss a shared vision, needs of both communities, and the process they are going through as part of our learning. For some students, a meeting like this was a new experience, and I was impressed with their level of preparation, confidence and risk-taking to contribute to such a productive meeting. Below is what we hope will be an historic photo of the start of our new venture.

This week we met with Dave, a landscaper designer, who explained the process he goes through to design outdoor spaces for clients. Everyone got a lot of insight into the level of detail and preparation that goes into the process of preparing a design, and that the pitch they take to Willard Home and the BOT needs to be communicated clearly and in detail to get everyone on board. We have a lot of work to do! Here is a photo of an app Dave is sharing with us to work out the amount of sunlight we can expect throughout the different season in a our preferred location:

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Reading Extension

A group of year 3 learners in Joys room are 'reading to learn' rather than 'learning to read.' So this term they have the opportunity to carry out their own inquiries; using a variety of texts and online sources to gather, organise, and create from new information. One of our key goals is to develop self management skills including time and productivity. Each week we have a skills workshop and progress checks. The first step was learning how and why we take notes - this was pretty tricky initially because everyone just was hungry to read, read, read! But once we got a bit more strategic in reading for new facts we have amassed lots of exciting facts that we have enthusiastically shared with each other. We have used a SOLO Thinking tool Hexagon's to organise and make connections with the new knowledge we have gained. Each fact, on a new hexagon, has been thoughtfully placed next to another hexagon(s) on a large sheet of paper to show a connection between the two facts. Tabitha explained that this has helped her "to think about the facts, rather than just collect a whole lot"and Katy agreed that it is making her think in different ways about the new knowledge she is gaining. Tane and I noticed that organising facts in this way showed us gaps in facts that he still needs to find out and Devin said it helped her to work out the order of things. Below is a short clip of Devin and Tane discussing their connections, as very quickly they worked out their inquiries overlapped - and they needed to share with one another!. The sound quality is not great but you can get a great idea of how this went from their their body language.

Everyone has presented their learning with the class and they discovered that there was something that particularly captured their attention. This is how Scientists learn and work. One question leads to another, which leads to another and so on. The Super's have refined their new question and are now busy exploring how to answer it. The focus this time is on using our new knowledge and skills to make connections and think about things from a different perspective. After sharing his new learning and discovering connections above. Tane and Devin shared these with the class:

Devin is now investigating what we can learn from fossils and how the past might tell us about the present. Tane is concerned about how quickly the population of the world is growing and is making connections about the effects this might have on our Earth as he grows up.We look forward to seeing what they all discover!

Great Thinkers

Working with a group of great thinkers in year 3 we asked ourselves 'What is a great thinker?' The ideas flowed freely as you can see from our brainstorm below, and we noticed that the more we thought about it, the more thoughtful and perceptive our ideas became - we wondered if this was another indication of  a great thinker?

We discussed how great thinkers think - does it just happen, or do they have some secret that helps them think? Builders use a plan, tools, and help from others to build faster and better - we wondered if thinkers do something similar?  We then remembered the 6 Thinker's Key's that we use in class - they are like a tool. They help us think in different ways. As Fletcher said "they tell us what to do, remind you how you should deal with that." Sam added that they help "build your brain better.' So we are creating our own thinker's toolbox. Each week we will explore another thinking tool that will help us to think faster and better so that we can think in different ways.

Monday, 29 July 2013


Week 1 Why do we keep animals in zoos?

Today we read the story "Elwyn's Dream: saving the Takahe" by Ali Foster. It is the story of the man who started Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre.We decided he was a very responsible, caring and brave man. He had a great idea to save the takahe and took a long time planning his idea so that it would be successful. He wanted to save the takahe from becoming extinct so he created a safe place for the takahe to live and breed. We thought that maybe that's why zoos and other types of animal parks keep animals too. We wondered if these animals must be safer than in their natural habitat where predators could hunt them while they are asleep. For example the kiwi is nocturnal so we think that while it is sleeping during the day predators could sneak up behind it and hurt or kill it. We also think that zoos and other types of animal parks keep animals safe from escaping and hurting us. We know that we can go and see lots of animals in one place that we wouldn't normally get to see like elephants and giraffes. If an animal becomes extinct we will never get to see it ever again so it is important to save animals.

We have started to do some research about zoos and other wildlife animal parks to find any other reasons they might keep animals.  If you have any questions or comments that might help us with our thinking please post a comment below for us to explore next week...

Week 2  connecting ideas about captivity
Today we warmed up our brains first ready for learning. We had to try and capture an escaped animal using a raincoat, a balloon and some bubble gum. Those pesky animals didn't stand a chance with our imaginations! Bubble gum was used to blow a 'humungous' bubble around the animals, or even to blow sticky bubbles at them to trap them. Balloons were used to tie to the animal to fly it back to captivity or put an animal such as a frog in water to take back safely.  Raincoats were worn to protect us from splashing water and scratches from scared animals. How would you have used these three items to capture an escaped animal?
We then wrote ideas about captivity in different hexagon shapes. We glued the hexagon sides wherever we could connect the ideas. Our brains were so warmed up we could even glue hexagons connecting two and three sides together, connecting multiple ideas. Everyone decided their brains hurt by the end of our session today because we had done so much thinking!
It was great to read and discuss the comments (see below). Everyone agreed that we certainly liked being able to see animals in zoos and thought it was a lot safer than going to their natural habitat.  We too were sad though that the animals don't have their natural environment. We are very excited that Palmerston North is going to get a special place to nurse sick and injured birds. We will be very lucky to have a place nearby to visit and help. Keep those comments coming to help us think in different ways.

Week 3 Weighing up the pros and cons of captivity
Just like our bodies, our brains are responding to warm ups and we are getting more creative, more imaginative with each problem scenario. They are helping us to generate more ideas and think in alternate ways about our captivity concept.  Today we tried to work out possible explanations for animals outside the cages and people inside cages at a zoo! We had some great ideas to this imaginary scenario and we are learning to build on one another's ideas.
To wrap up our captivity concept we each completed a PMI about whether animals should be kept in captivity. We listed all the plus (P) reasons, all the  minus (M), and any interesting (I) reasons. By considering all viewpoints we were able to make our own judgments about whether animals should be kept in captivity. Although we had different, well thought-out opinions consideration of animal's needs and protection were common amongst everyone. It has been great to work together and learn from each other!

The Science of Art

Week 1 What is art?

Wow, there was some animated discussion today as we tried to define 'art.'  Over the next few weeks we are learning to use different thinking tools to help us think in new, and complex ways. Today we used the 'alphabet key' to brainstorm examples of art for each letter of the alphabet. We used this thinking process to establish what everyone's perception of art was as a starting point. We noticed a pattern in out thinking:  we each had a set of 'criteria' in our heads that we used to judge if something was art or not. We quickly found out that we all have a different set of criteria that we use to judge things so we are all starting from a different point. When people have different viewpoints it makes us think about things in a different way which is good. Do we need to agree what art is (and is not) before we move on?

Some of the examples we decided were probably art were:
martial arts
miming and acting

We also found out that we could not come up with even one  criteria that we could always use to judge whether something was art as there was always something that challenged the criteria For example:

"If you make it(or turn it into something)'s art"eg knitting, sculpture. But some things are not made they just 'are' (like nature). Are they art too?

"Can it be art by itself...not just used for art" (eg the earth can be used to inspire a painting, but is it art on its own?)We decided anything can be turned into art but not everything is art on its own.

"Art is beautiful" (but then we decided not all art is beautiful - it depends who is looking at it!)

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with our examples? Can you think of others that will get us thinking? Is there a criteria we can use to establish what is and what isn't art? Please post a comment below to help us with our thinking!

Week 2 Colour
Today we aimed to investigate colour in more detail by looking at prisms, rainbows and chromotography (separating colours) but Tane posed a question early on that really got us thinking and questioning together.   Our discussion centred around whether rainbows were real or were they a trick of the sun and rain?  As Scientists we needed evidence to (dis)prove our hypothesis and form conclusions. Everyone was able to bring in 'evidence' to the discussion that pushed our thinking off on other tangents. 

Here are some of the evidence markers we came up with so far:
If we take a photo it must be real
 If I can see it its real
You can’t see music but that’s real
If you move the rainbow moves with you so it can’t be real

We then wondered if it’s not real how can so many people see it?  Someone the came to the conclusion that rainbows are always there just sometimes you can’t see it (it needs the sun and rain to make it appear).

We certainly have more ideas to discuss and evidence to help us understand about rainbows. Can you help us with questions or comments to get us thinking differently?

Week 3 Perception
We explored how how 'artists' use illusions to play tricks on our eyes with magic and optical illusions today. We were amazed and intrigued by how lines that appear bent are actually straight, static images appear to move and we can perceive something to be there that isn't really! Here are some of the images we looked at. They are from

Some research suggests that girls are typically able to interpret optical illusions differently to boys. This got our scientific brains even more curious and we had to find out if it was true! We are in the process of surveying both males and females, adults and children and next week we are going to analyse the data...I wonder what we will find?

                                          Are the horizontal lines parallel, or do they slope?

Answer: Believe it or not, they are parallel! 

‘You might see the word ‘lift’ or some black splotches. For some reason, girls usually see the word more easily than boys.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Term 1: 'The Great Book Hook'

Last term we were working on individual projects to encourage other students to read different sorts of books in our Library. We identified an area of need such as certain year groups, a particular genre etc. and  brainstormed creative ways to 'hook' in students. We established success criteria that linked back to our group WALT and our chosen project. The Book Talsies made posters, movie trailers and power-points about different genres in the Library we wanted to promote.

In our groups, the Bookapedia students focused on planning; their ideas, their time, and their resources to get their project finished. For some this was  full of challenges as they managed their time and other commitments, all the time staying focused on our WALT and their success criteria. Check out their blog posts to see how they got on...

Our Korowai with year 2-3 students

Annaliese, Fletcher, Sam, Qwade, and Lachlan from Rm 13 have been interested in a korowai (feathered cloak) that Eb showed them. They had lots of questions and ideas so we spent some time together exploring their ideas further. They were particularly interested in how the cloak was a gift that obviously took a lot of time and effort to make. It must take a lot of thought and courage to give a special gift, especially one that takes so much of your time. We wondered if we give a gift to someone do we need to think about what is special to that person?  We decided if we don’t then we aren't thinking about who that person really is. We decided giving a gift requires courage and responsibility to get to know the person you are giving the gift to. Giving a special gift to someone shows how much you care for them and tells a story about the reason you are giving that gift. It connects the gift-giver and the person giving the gift.  Just like Shaun's Nan's cloak to Shaun told a story about him studying and who he was as a have think when you give a gift to someone.

So we found out more about cloaks and the stories behind them.  Even though the cloaks were so special they were also practical and some people would have slept with them. The story protects you and keeps you safe and cosy. We could see patterns in the cloaks and thought about the patterns around us - there is even a pattern in safeness (like snoring).  Cloaks are not always made of feathers, but also other precious materials like dog's fur! Sometimes the person who made them hid something in the cloak, like a signature. The specialness of a cloak matches the specialness of the occasion. Shaun's cloak took a long time to make like Shaun’s study took a long time. Shaun's Nan must have made it from her heart. Sam and Fletcher wondered if she 'lost her mind' from making the cloak with over-excitement? We wondered how happy she must have been giving something so special to someone she loves. That takes courage.

Everyone also thought teaching and learning takes a lot of courage. So the group decided to make a korowai to the staff at RSS to show how much courage it takes. Our story shows what we have learnt about korowai's and gift giving.  It was important to us to use recycled materials for our cloak so that we are being responsible at looking after our earth.  We had some older students from Kapahaka come in and help us.
 The green represents the harakeke and maoritanga of our school.  The harakeke is a peaceful space in our school.  We wanted the black and white ‘steps to success’ to be the centre of our story becuase they represent excellence and accuracy.  This is what we do to aim high.  It is also in the shape of a whare which is Russell Street School; our house of learning.  Inside our whare is whanaungatanga: our buddy classes and the older children helping the younger ones to learn.  This is outlined in sequins to look like paua, which is precious.
The light, medium and dark brown are like rafters (ribs) in the whare nui.  They represent the teachers and staff who much have courage to teach us.  The top of our cloak has a pattern of red and blue like an hour glass.  This represents the time it takes to learn.  The feathers have been designed by all the children in the school and each feather has a special message on the back about how RSS helps us to be the best learners we can be.