Wednesday 28th October 2015
Kia ora koutou,

The Pakiki classroom has been very busy over the last few weeks of Term 3 and this will definitely continue into Term 4! We have a number of visits and visitors planned, plus preparation for our sharing evening in Week 6. Over all the Term is going to be varied and challenging.

Week 3. 27th, 28th & 29th October: We are very pleased to be welcoming Paul Campbell from Makerspace into the classroom for a full day workshop on using Arduinos. Arduinos are small computer chips that can be connected to other hardware and then programmed to perform tasks. I really recommend searching YouTube and having a look at some of the amazing things people are able to achieve with this relatively simple device. The children will learn how to connect hardware to the device and to write code to programme it. Each student will be given an Arduino kit that comes complete with the hardware they need to programme some simple circuits. After which they will be able to take them home to keep for free!
We a very thankful to Paul for this opportunity. We welcome keen parents and teachers to join us during these sessions to get their own taste of how Arduinos work.

Week 4: 3rd, 4th & 5th November: As a part of our Concept Curriculum topic on Biomimicry, Pakiki will be taking a trip to the Architecture van Brandenburg headquarters in Princes St. AvB are a group of architects that use nature to inspire the designs of their buildings. They are most notably famous for their Marisfrolg
Headquarters in Shenzhen, China. Nina Daniels will give us a guided tour of how they work and give us some good insight into how Biomimicry is used to solve real problems and give inspiration.

Week 7&8, 24th, 25th & 26th November and 1st, 2nd & 3rd December: Anna Murphy STEM programme. For these two weeks we are very excited to invite Anna Murphy to Pakiki to run a series of STEM sessions - Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths - where the children will have the opportunity to design, create and test their own two-stage rocket. Anna’s programme has a strong emphasis on problem solving through hands-on trial and error - isolating key variables to test and change.

As for our curriculum areas, Pakiki this term has the following focus:
In Personal Development we’ll be looking at comparing a ‘Growth’ mindset versus a ‘Fixed’ mindset - identifying how our attitude towards learning can affect our motivation and growth. Understanding that if we don’t understand something, we don’t understand it ‘yet’ - but this can change!

Concept Curriculum has a continuation of our Biomimicry topic and we will starting our sharing day projects in small groups. Here, students have to agree upon an approach to design something using nature as inspiration. They can either start with an interesting natural organism and identify challenges that can be solved from its traits, or begin with a challenge and find examples of solutions in nature.
There is also a strong focus on communication, delegation and organisation with their work - applying their particular skills to suit the group as a whole.

In Talent Development we are focusing on setting ourselves achievable goals in their chosen area each week, and being able to communicate this appropriately. This also includes strategies to find solutions to problems as well as inspiration and motivation. The kids need to set themselves regular deadlines and book in sharing sessions and work on feedback they receive from their peers.

Here’s to a busy term!

Thursday 17 September 2015

The term is almost at an end, and we're starting to have some great weather which I think is putting a smile on all of our faces! We have had a very busy last couple of weeks, and have been working hard on our Talent goal setting and planning. The kids have been getting into the habit of regularly setting themselves targets to achieve and then reviewing how they went each week.

We have also had a couple of visitors join us in the Pakiki classroom:

  • The exceptionally talented Scout Liu joined us to show us some of her anime artwork, and how she uses photoshop to draw, edit and process amazing pieces of artwork. Scout is also in the final stages of her studies in micro-biotechnology, and it was very interesting hearing her thoughts on switching from her 'science brain' to her 'creative brain' between her studies and her art work.
  • We also had Tosh Ringland-Stewart, Doctor of Philosophy (currently based in Suva in Fiji) come in to speak with our Thursday class on what it means to be someone who works in Philosophy - a question that raised more questions than it did answers!
  • Most recently, we have had Louise Wallace - editor of Starling Magazine - come in on Wednesday to discuss with the kids about what it means to be a career writer - most notably how submissions of work take time to be accepted. Several of our writers are hoping to be able to submit some writing to Starling in the future, in the hope they might get published. Skype interviews are set for next week on Tuesday and Thursday.

Our topic of Biomimicry is well underway, and we have been looking carefully at different 'weird' animals in nature and how they have adapted to their environment. We have also been looking at different inventions which have used nature as a heavy influence to their creation.

Finally, we have taken the opportunity at the end of the term as 'John Appreciation Week'. John Calder has been diligently coming in to coach the kids in chess for a long time now. His passion for the game certainly encourages the kids to work on their strategy and game sense skills, and I have found myself being beaten by the kids on several occasions. We celebrated with a 'High Tea' party, where we drank hot chocolate, and ate some snacks and talked in posh accents with our backs straight, elbows off the table and pinkies not touching the cups. Fun times!

Monday 3 August 2015

Term 3
Greetings to all! Brendan Christie here, stepping in for Scott as the new lead teacher for Pakiki. Hopefully by now you will have received a copy of this term's newsletter... In it you will find my notes on the directions of our learning for Term 3 plus a short introduction about myself. I would like to thank Susan and Tor, and John as NEVN school principal as well as Scott for the great support and guidance I have received transitioning into the Pakiki classroom. Last week we had Max Major, a nueroscientist from Otago University come in and run some experiments with the kids on how the brain perceives ownership of the body. Some of the kids went through an experiment to fool their brain into thinking their arm was actually a fake one - attached are photos and some videos of their thoughts afterwards.

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This week we have Scout Liu coming in to work with the art enthusiasts during our talent time - she is a talented sketch artist who specialises in anime drawings, but is very diverse with her artistic styles. Scout will help develop what the students already know about vanishing points and perspective and together they will work on a collaborative project that experiments with using different mediums such as paint, charcoal and a variety of pencil types.

More to come later, thanks to all the parents who have come in and said hi before or after school. It is really a pleasure to be greeted with such enthusiasm.

Kind regards,

Hey all,
we had our annual buddy day today. This is where a friend from home school comes and shares in a pakiki day. This helps the kids have clearer connections between Pakiki Kids and home school. Today we focused on critical and creative thinking tasks. We started with a technology challenge, planning and constructing a catapult. Beau and Sam achieved the week's best distance of almost 6 metres -well done. Hendrix did a fine job of judging, recording and counting the final scores between teams. Across the week the kids created a wide range of designs. In the middle session we listened to music that had been involved in copyright court cases. We analysed the music and decided for ourselves whether we thought it was guilty of copying too much. The general consensus was that Vanilla Ice owes Queen, but George Harrison was hard done by being told he was guilty of subconciously copying "he's so fine". In the afternoon we split into tow groups and tried to achieve as wide a range of categories in aa creative thinking task. Steen topped the lot with 15 categories, Dominic achieved 14 and had a some clearly original ideas. Today was my last day as I move onto DNI to work in year 8. I Have thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Pakiki Kids and I would like to say thanks to all the parents, Tor and Susan who have supported me at Pakiki. I wish all the students the best for the rest of the year and beyond.



April 30th
Our first day at juggling our own learning-time a little today. This is part of the big picture aims I have for the Pakiki kids. We started with a Mr. K session on our second part of Dabrowski - the theory of positive self-disintegration. This encourages reflecting on the actions and habits we employ, deconstructing these and choosing positive approaches to our learning. This reflective practice is linked to Dabrowski's nadpodbudliwosc's (intensities) which we examined last week. The idea is to look at the intensities you notice in yourself and choose approaches which utilise these to your advantage. We can make similar similar choices about our engagement with our external environments. To engage with these ideas I had the students work together to unpack a key Dabrowski quote. Tigue was fantastic at this, showing the benefit of 2-3 years of practicing self-reflection at Pakiki. Many of the students used dictionaries, online and their colleagues to help unpack it and after a while I held another tutorial groups for kids who wanted to look through it again. By now most everyone was getting at least some essential parts of it and were able to choose their next task out of a range - talent, music research, unfinished projects. I worked with an even smaller tutorial group for one last unpacking together. Now the challenge is to keep reminding the students when examples of positive learning choices arise and to encourage them, as they choose some of their own timetabling, to take on board some self-reflective thinking about their learning personalities.

In the middle section the art talent group headed off with Tor to the museum to work with artist Paul McLachlan in animal attic. This was an opportunity to strengthen the animal drawing lessons they have been working on in term one. There are some good results which I shall put together as a display for parents and others to see. At chess today John explored elements of the end game and using knights and bishops to finish off opposition pawns. There was some excellent focus during the chess games - very well done Thursday!

In the afternoon we worked as a group to begin research on the questions we had composed the previous week. These were on music and culture and the first was to examine some of the variety of instruments different cultures used. We looked at the search terms we thought were useful and found a comprehensive list. We became interested in an Armenian instrument - the Duduk, quickly wrote a couple of questions we wanted to answer (adding them to our plan) and then had a look and a listen to it. Turns out it is a lot like a recorder but with a duck-billed reed. The studnets then headed off to do their own research - well done to the Elizabeth/Ella and Ren/Emma combinations - their research approach was focussed and is beginning to demonstrate depth. Also a mention to Lori and THomas who showed good persistence when I encouraged them to look further then they initially thought they needed to go.

A cold day today folks so stay warm and we'll see you next week.

April 2
Kia ora all,
fun last day of term for Thursday Pakiki with Amadeo, the museum educator, arriving to share his passion for science and have our students thinking hard about change - both physical and chemical. There was a lot of combining materials to make clouds and explosions and plenty of thinking about the difference between physical and chemical change. Thanks a lot Amadeo!! After the event I had the students write a general statement about change - this is always a useful activity to encourage the students to engage in abstracting form specific examples to general ideas. After morning tea we set about getting busy with finishing off and publishing products that we have been working on this term. Stuents were tidying up any last minute changes to poems, writing self-assessments, constructing the last bits of their brain collages and writing goals for their next learning at Pakiki. These will come to whanau in a document I send out early next week which includes comments from me and encourages comments from whanau to come back to us. Chess rounded out the pre-lunch session and John was very impressed with the way the group engaged with the lesson he was presenting - awesome team!

In the afternoon we tallied up the Pakiki money people had earned. This is rewarded for community minded behaviour - e.g. helping clean up; helping others with little problems like printing or saving to USBs; helping me with smooth transitions between activities. It is not rewarded for learning or learning effort. While I often think about this and the reality of income for output that is the nature of 'work', I pretty see learning and a learning attitude as its own reward - hence the income for civic duties :) Today we did a stocktake and this included an honest and forthright peer assessment of students which we did as a group. The community spirit was very evident - this is a wonderful bunch of kids! People were strong in themselves and clearly felt safe to be peer assessed in front of a group (anyone who did not want to could choose to opt out with drawing, reading, writing etc, in an adjoining room available. No-one opted out and everyone talked honestly about themselves and generously about each other. I would say they showed wonderful grace, so well done again team Thursday! The point of all this reflection was that the Pakiki shop was opening for the last 15 minutes of term so everyone had an opportunity to spend their well earned income. THe shop idea gives us a chance to introduce some financial literacy. Today's ideas were profit and wholesaling. We still had time for talent projects for a half hour after reflection and before shopping commenced.

An excellent term where you have come together nicely, Thursday. Have a good break - see you next term!

March 12
Kia ora koutou,

Today we started on talent which always sets the students off on a good mood. It is great to see the motivation to learn that naturally occurs when students do activities they are genuinely interested in and get to choose themselves. The scratch team made great progress interacting sprites and beginning to play with timers and points. Emily got her timer going though hasn't figured out how to make it stop when it gets to zero. Hendrix figured out how to get his bat to return to the start of his maze when a mistake is made; Rohan created a rocket/bomb scenario lost his bomb coding somehow took time outside to clear his head of the frustration and re-made it even better than the first (great learning strategy Rohan); Thomas has a fish dodging clam game which I am encouraging him to develop with increasingly difficult levels; Felix is creating a world tour of football and further developed his ability to animate his sprite (a referee) - next week we are going to find a way to create an airport background; Isaac has a cat v butterfly game and found his own way to make this code work different to what i had taught - fantastic; and Annabelle is ready to learn how to broadcast to new backgrounds. The artists meanwhile started with me and worked on eyes. We had a youtube tutorial that got us to focus on the flares of light around a pupil and the use of dark to light contrast from the outside to the inside of the eye. The tutor demonstrated several different animals eyes and the students tried to copy these then chose an animal to do a close-up with their new found eye-skills on show. Well done artists for another highly productive session and I look forward to going over your art carefully in the weekend. The writers took themselves to a quiet place to write - Ren was constructing a plot plan to ensure the pace of the story was good for the reader; Emma and I had worked quite a while together the previous week so I am keen to see how she progressed from our shared thinking; Tigue was developing his use of dialogue to inform the reader about the setting and characters in a subtle and more natural way. Hamish and Beau were hard at work on balancing increasingly difficult algebraic equations today. It was awesome to see them grappling over new approaches and encouraging them to use the knoweldge they had form their previous work to solve. THey took some notes on the importance of thinkgin about opposite operations as a means to balancing the equation and solving for x. They ended by attempting a more challenging equation which I am looking forward to going over, seeing what thinking they employed and using this as a diagnostic for their next step.

Apart from talent the students were finishing I am from poems (well done Beau for his awesome thesaurus work); completing brain lobe constructions and playing chess (great game Hendrix and Annabelle).

In the afternoon we took notes about the amygdala and the way it can engage at the wrong times. We explored ways to relax the amygdala reaction and the students then set about finding an aproach to turn their research notes into research they can share. Some of the students chose animation and Thomas and Hendrix were making good progress on this; Elizabeth wrote her notes into a mini-essay which I am looking forward to scaffolding how she might reorganisefor greater clarity; Beau and Hamish were working on an encyclopedia type entry with pictures and text; Felix and Tigue want to do an interview but I had Felix help me write a rhyme/poem/lyrics that we are hoping Lori can put some music too-- there were many other cool ideas going on as well which I shall get to soon BUT now I have to dash to my son's teacher interview.
Take care all,
have a great weekend
see you all in a fortnight. ( I am in Brisbane at a gifted conference next week - I told the students today - and we have a fantastic and talented reliever - Brendan Christie, whom some of the kids know, filling in next week)
Cheers, Scott.

Feb 26,

Kia ora all,
Today we welcomed one of our students who had been overseas for the first few weeks of term. We started with a quick game of connections which is a three tired word association game. We start with normal word association, then we play random disassociation (consecutive words are not to be connected) finally we play random connection - here we get two students to say a word each that is unconnected, then the rest of the students try to find a way that these things are connected. Emma came up with a grand example when someone said table and someone else chose an animal ( I can't remember what) and Emma said they both have legs. This is a good game to start our thinking and to help us develop generalisation skills. We followed this fun with a more serious mini-research project as part of our efforts to develop research skills. Today the research question was what does the taking responsible risks mean. The students knew to paraphrase their answers and there was an equal scramble for computers and dictionaries as resources to gather information from. Generally speaking the students were successful and we had several share their findings. We then unpacked responsible and risk a little more as a group to help those students who needed more information. The theme of taking responsible risks is a very important one for us, and this work segued into another part of the day where we discussed and recorded experiences in our learning when we had felt anxious, fearful or nervous. For the most part these included being in new places, learning new things, working with people we didn't know, or presenting in front of groups. We then unpacked methods we used to help us overcome the anxiousness. Finally, we drew around a student (Lori) and each of us wrote physiological changes we notice that tell us we are feeling fear. The idea is the quicker we can recognise what is happening the quicker we can work out of it. Next week we will look at the neurological changes that occur in a fear situation, their rationale in terms of adaptation and how we can reason with ourselves to turn off or ignore what are often "cave-people" responses. Today we watched and practised taking notes to a short clip on the way different parts of the brain operate different functions and how this is now considered to be a far more complex process than once was thought.

We also spent some time working on the poetry we had started earlier. Today I gave the students a checklist with a series of poetic techniques. We talked through them then we analysed a poem together and spotted the various techniques being put to use in the poem. Finally,we took the brainstorming of ideas we had done earlier and set about constructing the first draft of our poem. Annabelle, Ella, Thomas, Lori, Steen and Beau made very good progress on this and I look forward to looking over the others on the weekend. Chess today focussed on forcing the king into a corner or onto a side when we are in the end-game with a queen and a rook. The students then began the second round of a swiss-style tournament that John is having them do. The main purpose of the tournament is to get students to play a wider range of other students.

In the afternoon we turned to talent. The scratch students learnt how to animate a sprite so that it actually looks like it is changing its legs/wing position. They also learnt how to control it in a way that is useful for game design, and so that it is always facing the correct way when it changes position. Thomas, Steen, Isaac and Hendrix made good progress on this and Emily had a good first go (given it was her first day). Annabelle was trying to control a bucking horse sprite she had chosen and I will look over her code to help her figure out the code issue that was causing her sprite to glitch. The writers were in full flow mode for most of the session. Emma had a moments writer's block so I talked to her about rediverting her thinking and letting her subconscious do some work. During this time she was able to make notes about the setting - something that required less creative work, especially as she was setting her story in Balitmore, U.S.A, a place she is quite familiar with. The artists watched a short clip on youtube which examined the similarity and differences between 3 types of different land mammals. They then were required to drew the skeletal structures represented in the video and choose some animals whose legs matched these structures to practice sketching. Lori, Ella, and Elizabeth all sketched some very good wolves and Elizabeth also worked on some close-ups of a wolf's face. Again, over the weekend I will look over the drawings and next week I will start with the artists and help guide their improvement in the tricky issue of limbs. The mathematicians dived into some beginning algebra this week. Beau and Hamish both took on the challenge of balancing simple equations to solve for x and it was great to see them having success and clearly having that great feeling of being able to do something new that you thought you wouldn't be able to.

A big day's learning team,
I look forward to more of it next week,

Feb 19
Kia ora,
we started our day with a quick look at the meeting book which I encourage students to use for suggestions or complaints. It was also a chance to be introduced to Felix who was away last week - Hi Felix (who I quickly found out has outstanding football knowledge!). We then read a very short Isasc Asimov story about futuristic schools. I was interested in what the children thought the author's message was and they were the first class who noticed that more than telling us about the future he was trying to get us to think about the present. I was impressed because it allowed for a great segue into discussing one of our key reflection tools - the habits of mind which is what we did next. The students were given a mini research project to find out about a habit of mind. The research question was what does the habit you have chosen mean? The task was to use research skills to answer the question, paraphrase your findings, write a secondary question (if you had time) and present your findings to the class. We unpacked the research skills we knew about already and created a document where we could record our knowledge and add more over time. The students were generally successful in their research and it gave me an opportunity to find out what they did and didn't know about the research process, all while learning about some habits of mind at the same time. Annabelle and Hamish showed some fantastic persistence; Hendrix and Felix used interdependent thinking well to put their ideas together and Elizabeth and Ella were fantastic at paraphrasing their findings and efficient enough to both ask and find the answers to their secondary question. Well done.

In the mid session we returned to poetry we had started the week before. Last week we categorised important elements in a person's life. This week we began brainstorming what we would put under those categories for our own lives. Isaac and Hendrix persisted well during this session, while Lori, Ella, Emma, Ren, Elizabeth and Annabelle all finished their brainstorm quickly (anyone notice anything about this group of efficient thinkers?) I had a quick individual conference with each of them as they finished which went over the poetic techniques they knew and introduced one new one to each student and then they were at it writing their poetry - fantastic focus. John rounded out the morning with a discussion of check mate and then we began the Swiss chess tournament which we will be playing across the term.

In the afternoon we started our talent activities. There were a team exploring scratch; artists who a clearly already very talented who were showing me how well they could draw to scale and think about relative proportions; and Hamish who tackled a year 8-9 maths pretest. The writers spent a little time with me today learning about the protagonist and the antagonist and then set about developing characters for the stories they seemed to already have in their heads. For the most part, today's talent was really about me seeing where people are at. Next week I will begin tutorials with the scratch team who will be learning to animate a single sprite (probably a bat or a cat :). This is the first step toward creating a game or an animated story. The artists will be given a short art lesson on the bone structure of land mammals' limbs and I will introduce Hamish (and Beau if he is better) to some problem solving challenges. The writers' lesson will get finalised over the weekend when I have had a chance to sit down with what they have written today.

It was a great day's learning team and I am impressed with how well you are gelling as a unit already. Well done, I am looking forward to next week already!

Cheers, Scott.

Kia ora from Pakiki Thursday,

Our first day together started with a very fast get to know each other session and waiata lesson. Having proven we were up for singing Tutira Mai we were off to the staffroom for a short mihi whakatau with the North East Valley senior school. Tigue did a wonderful mihi to represent our group - his pronunciation and memory was superb. Following our introductions to each other we came back to class and started a technology challenge. This involved forming small groups and creating codes for our group. We then split our group in half and each half were given a different message to code using the code they had 'invented'. The opposite team decoded the message and then tried to crack a code they hadn't co-constructed. Every group managed to decode their own codes but there was no luck with cracking a different group's. Nevermind.

After morning tea I introduced the talent options for the first part of the year, these are maths, scientific illustrations, scratch animation and creative writing. The students rank their choices from favourite to least and I will work on constructing the groups over the next week including looking at the profiling we have on student's talents that have come from home and school. I try my best to ensure students are able to do the talent they chose and for the most part this works out, though students can be moved if it turns out their talents lie elsewhere. We then looked at analysing some poetry. I have a selection of "I am from" poems that explore various important aspects of the poet's life. Today we discussed what it is to analyse and what categories are first. We then had a quick game of categories to help cement the idea that they were looking to find general ideas in the text, rather than the specifics. Finally, we set about analysing and recording the categories we found. Next week we will start filling in details about ourselves under the categories we found. At noon our chess tutor John Calder came down to run a session, teaching the students about the role of the pawn and how to play a pawn game. Hendrix had the key idea already - keeping your pawns prepared and defended as you move forward.

After lunch we concentrated on questioning, looking at the importance of questions that provide deeper information. We looked at an iceberg metaphor as a way to think about this. We then watched a video about some recent discoveries in neuroscience and the students wrote questions, practising looking for more depth. I will look these over and plan what kind of questioning practice we need to work on. Additionally, the students constructed their own metaphors to represent different forms of questioning. There were some excellent ideas brought forth which I intend to use a visual tool for the class. The thinking and approach to learning was noticably sharp in the afternoon - not the usual routine at all. One highlight for me was Hamish, who was struggling for ideas. I asked him if some spaces work better than others for him to think (he was sitting at a group desk). He decided he would find a quiet space and I suggested he migrate to the kitchen to work. Within minutes he had a great image ready and persisted to do a sharp copy that could go on the wall. One of the key goals at Pakiki is to get the students to understand their own learning styles so well done Hamish for taking a step toward that - next step to turn the understandings you develop about your own learning into a habit. I firmly believe this is far more important than any content learning we as teachers might present. All in all a good day with a great afternoon. Well done Pakiki Thursday, see you all next week.