RSS Explorers

RSS Explorers has been set up while the future direction of One Day School, as a provision in the Manawatu, is being decided. A group of year 2-4 students meet once a week to explore a concept in depth, building on their regular classroom and school-wide focus for the term.

During term 4 (2014) we unpacked the concept of 'Exploration' to see if there were any characteristics that we could link between Explorers and ourselves as learners. Over the term we discovered some powerful insights and made some interesting connections. For example, successful explorers use maps to know where they are going, and show where they have been. Successful learners also use a type of 'map' (a plan) so that they know what their goals are and how they are going to get there, and then they can talk about their learning journey with others. Here is a Venn diagram showing some of the connections we made:

Our concept for term 1(2015) is 'Communication' as we are developing self agency across the school. Agency is defined as:

“a self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners. It is integral to self-assessment.  Students who manage themselves are enterprising, resourceful, reliable, and resilient. They establish personal goals, make plans, manage projects, and set high standards. They have strategies for meeting challenges. They know when to lead, when to follow, and when and how to act independently (and collaboratively)."

We believe that supporting students to develop agency establishes strong foundational learning habits that will sustain them as life-long learners. Gifted students have unique learning, social, and emotional needs which will be supported by coming together as 'Explorers'  to explore various themes that draw out our communication concept.

It is always a challenge to channel a gifted student’s creative enthusiasm to take time to add to their existing knowledge base first. As a result, blockers such as perfectionism, and lack of organisation skills often result in processes and products that are not a true reflection of a student’s thinking. This term we will be focusing on 5 essential learning skills designed to prepare each student for the creating process: 
-study and research
-organisational skills
                                                  (from "They're Not Bringing My Brain Out." Rosemary Cathcart). 

An example of these learning skills in action is demonstrated between two year 3 girls below who are redesigning our learning space to be more welcoming. After drafting some ideas went to other classrooms to get some good ideas and interviewed students and staff to see what makes them feel welcome. They then held a planning meeting to share back their research and observations before deciding what they would like our space to look like. Using the word 'because' is introduced to them to develop their communication skills as they devise a plan for our learning space...

Week 4 Fun with Words

Today we also had an interesting discussion as part of our 'Fun with Words Day. We tried to understand the following proverb:

Here are some of our ideas so far...

-it's a different kind of hurt it hurts your feelings not your body 
-hurting your feelings is not exactly hurting you
-it doesn't have to hurt you - you can ignore them
-it would still make you sad
-being sad and hurting is different
-that is saying my feelings don’t matter
-if your feelings don't matter then there is no point having them. 
-the saying should say ' stick and stones may break my bones but I will feel better. But words will  hurt my feelings because they go around and around in my head.

Week 5 Body Language

Today we focused on using our observation skills to gain clues communicated to use by humans and animals. Dean McKerras came and took a session on how dance communicates ideas. We had lots of fun trying to guess each other's story ideas. Here are a couple of examples - can you work out what idea they are communicating?

Week 6-7 The Arts
We have spent the last two weeks creating dramatic, musical, and artistic pieces of our own to demonstrate what we have learnt about the techniques artists use to convey a message. These pieces are still works-in-progress, but we hope to have some of our creations up soon. During this time we have also been exploring what art is. There have been some robust and insightful discussions! Here is snapshot of our thinking processes so far:

What is art?
-everything that has been created.
-there must be more than one way to create it for it to considered art
-if you make it it is art eg. drawn, carved etc. - you have to create the materials to make it
-art always need 'ingredients' so the first time it isn’t art, but then when you make the ingredients the    next time it is art
-aren't most things art then?
-nowadays everything is art but back before things were created not everything was art.
-the first thing is art but then the copies aren’t anymore
-art is transferred - changed in some way. It goes through processes
-is cyclone Pam art? What about animals? Are words art?
-but everything must be art because nothing is exactly the same
-is maths art? it has been created
-war has been created - is it art?
if there is a word for art - does that mean some things aren’t art? Yes - but what ISN'T art?

What do you think? Post a comment so we can add to our thinking from a different perspective...

Term 2  Weeks 1-2 Identity
I have noticed within our class a general resistance toward higher order thinking as the safety of remembering, understanding and applying means they typically aim at the lower levels. This has often been seen in important details and connections being missed or glossed over in the rush to create. So this term we are concentrating on developing analytical skills to reinforce the benefit of this type of thinking.  

We are constantly reflecting on being 'in the learning pit’ each day; how we feel when things get tricky, what strategies we are learning about themselves and from others, and how success feels from this process. We are also working on our creations for more than one week this term. This is to provide time for this depth of thinking and processing, as well as allow time to skill teach and support them to do so. Sharing time with families at the end of the day means we get more powerful feedback and challenge them to talk about their journey in the learning pit, what they have learnt so far, and what their next steps might be.

Some students created a piece of name art to represent who they are. Here are a couple of examples: 

Weeks 3-4 The Brain
We also talked about intelligence and whether this is something we are born with or something we develop. Here are our thoughts so far...

- no one knows everything
- we are all good at different things
- we are not born smart (eg we can't talk, read etc.) but we get smart by learning; but it must be the right sort of 
- intelligence takes time
- you need the right equipment to get smarter

We learnt that our attitude that helps us grow smarter or not. Some people think that they are born with as much 'smarts' as they are ever going to have. But some people think of their brain like a plant. If they look after it and water and feed it it will grow. This is called having a 'growth mindset.'

image sourced from

We have been discovering lots of interesting things about how our brain works, and how what we are learning about ourselves can makes us better learners. We have made a connection between how being in the learning pit really IS where the best learning happens because every time we learn something new our synapses are making new neuropathways meaning that it is just that much easier to get out of the pit the next time.  

Week 5-6 Eat and Excrete
after much anticipation, and even more discussion everyone has finally worked out what the word 'excrete' means and it started with a thoroughly hands-on experiment...we made poo! We modelled the digestive process by taking baked beans on toast through chewing, stomach acid, intestines and excretion. Some of us got more hands-on than others! Check out our photos...

First the teeth tear and chew the food
into smaller pieces, and mix with
salvia to swallow

Then food moves down into the stomach where
stomach juices, strong enough to dissolve tinfoil,
break the food down even further

After that the food moves through the small
large intestines with nutrients leaking out
into the bloodstream

Finally, any excess food, that cannot be used by
 our body is excreted

Katelyn and Emily wondered if our digestive system could be improved. They were particularly interested in the small and large intestines - 10 metres! How does that all fit into one human abdomen? Surely it could be shorter? Mmm...then there would be less distance for all those all good nutrients to leak into the blood stream. As they played with ideas they came up with another solution. Maybe if the intestines were coiled into a spiral there would be less kinks and bends for food to get trapped in. The nutrients could still leak out of the front and back...

Week 7-8 DNA
Did you know that if you lay all the DNA in your body out in one long line it would be able to go to the sun and back 70 times!?! We found that fact particularly hard to get our heads around this week. Then we extracted DNA from broccoli, kiwifruit and banana's and when we saw the threads of DNA that appeared, but were too small to even see under a microscope we started to understand how small DNA really is.

Thanks to Nikolai who sacrificed his delicious-looking strawberries from morning tea to extract even more DNA...we had lots of fun!

We also had fun 'giving birth' to our own little people. From a set of 46 chromosomes, we matched all 23 pairs. Any facing up were the dominant genes and using the code key we were able draw our new person - there was lots of comparisons and discussion going on!

   Nikolai and Sam have been debating whether cloning is a good idea. As scientific experts their task was to convince the PNCC whether a Jurassic World would be a good idea for Palmerston North. They researched about cloning and considered alternative points of view as they strove to analyse all the information. (our WALT). They presented their expert opinion to the council (the rest of the class). Here is their speech:

Do you think we should get a real Jurassic Park in Palmerston North? Instead of just putting dinosaurs we could put extinct animals like the King Penguin, or the moa and some dinosaurs. In fact we could have lots of extinct animals at our Jurassic Park. Today we are going to talk to you about cloning. Cloning is creating something that is exactly identical to the object that is already created. We think that cloning is not a totally bad idea. 

Firstly, cloning is a good idea because people can learn about history. For example, dodo’s are extinct. We have never seen a real one. But we could if we cloned them. You get DNA out of a dead dodo and you can create a new identical dodo. 

Secondly, if we make a Jurassic Park school groups of kids could come in and have a look and learn about animals that were extinct. Things like dinosaurs and moa’s. It is important to learn about extinct things because no one lives to tell the tale.

Thirdly, people will stop believing in things like dinosaurs if they never get tot see them just like people stop believing in God because they can’t see him. Jurassic World would be evidence that they really were real.

Also if you cloned animals and put them in Jurassic Park you could safely look after them in a good safe environment so that people can learn to look after animals properly and not let them become extinct.

We don’t think that Palmerston North is the best place for a Jurassic Park. It is not an Island and we think an Island would be a better option just like in the movie. We have been looking and we think that Chamberlain Island we be a great spot. It is by Waiheke Island off Auckland so it is easy for us to fly over there and have a look around. This would be a tourist attraction so it would make people want to come to New Zealand.  Having Jurassic Park on an Island is safe and if animals escaped they couldn’t harm anyone.

So, to finish off we think it would be a good idea to clone animals in a safe, stranded place.

What do YOU think?

Week 9 -11 Forensics
Forensic Scientists rely on sight, smell, hearing
and touch to analyse mysterious substances. 
Not knowing what the substances were we quickly 
concluded why taste is not a preferred sense! We also
observed how they reacted to iodine, vinegar and water.
 Again, our careful observation skills helped us to 
classify and describe what we were seeing.
As part of our Forensic training we have been learning about lifting fingerprints, analysing and classifying mysterious white powders, comparing teeth impressions and predicting blood splatter patterns - it has been a busy day! We have been putting into practice what we have been learning about analysing: breaking things down into component parts to make connections.Here is a snapshot of our learning so far...
After dropping (fake!) blood from various heights,
predicting and measuring splatter patterns,  we 
wondered how blood might reaction different surfaces. 
We tried concrete, glass, and wood. We came back
 with some great describing words by having a careful
 and patient look!  

Here are some examples of blood splatter patterns from different
heights.  We analysed the results and decided that height creates speed and
makes the droplets separate out upon impact; like raindrops

We finished off the term with trip to the SOCO, the forensics section of the Police Department. We had an amazing visit and were able to see lots of what we had learnt in real life. Unfortunately we came back to school to find our shared lunch missing! Quickly our Forensic experts got to work, fingerprinting, interviewing, observing, analysing and was a hive of activity. We managed to solve the crime and find our lunch - what a great team! Thanks to our wonderful parents and siblings who helped us out with clues, transport and supervision.  Here are some photos of our day:

TERM 3 2015
Weeks 1-6 
'Creativity takes Courage'
                                                                                                              Henri Matisse

Through our collective love of of animals we are going to learn more about them while developing skills and behaviours that courageous learners use. But first of all we have had to investigate into some courageous learners to find out what they do that helps them to be courageous!

Each week we have put someone in our school community in the 'hot seat.' Listening carefully for clues and asking thoughtful questions, we have developed note-taking skills to compare these courageous learners to some famous people throughout history such as Henri Matisse, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein... There have been some interesting patterns! 

First of all we have noticed that ALL of the people we investigated did not set out on the path of creativity that made them eventually famous or successful. Additionally, EVERYONE was encouraged by their Mothers. In fact encouragement made a huge difference as to whether a person took a creative risk in the first place! We have been experimenting with the power of encouragement in our daily learning, as like family we hypothesis that friends can be powerful encouragers too. Another interesting clue that has captured our attention is inspiration. One of our 'hot seat' guests Liam, a year 6 student at RSS, encouraged us to be open to inspiration. It is all around us. We just have to open our eyes to new possibilities. He also said that it is ok that it gets hard sometimes, which is what we have been learning by striving to go into 'the learning pit' with ALL of our learning, because we know that is where the best learning happens. Guess what? We agree! We are very proud of our learning each week. It does get hard, but we are encouraging each other and learning to give specific feedforward and each week we are getting just that little bit more courageous.  Here is a snapshot of one of our learning challenges...

To better understand survival we imitated predators hunting out MnM insects in their natural habitat. It was a lot harder than it looked, but we quickly learnt that co-operation meant we would all be fed! 

No comments:

Post a Comment