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!

Thanks to all,
Brendan/ Mr C.

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,

Buddy Day

Hi all,
A fun day of creative and critical thinking activities with Tuesday Pakiki and their buddies. We completed a catapult tech challenge, created our own civilisation, and wrote about ourselves to our new teacher, Brendan Christie, who starts next term. On that note, I would like to say thanks to all the parents, Tor and Susan who have supported me at Pakiki and wish all Tuesday's students the best for the rest of the year and beyond.

Here's some buddy day clips. IMAG0532.jpeg IMAG0533.jpeg IMAG0529.jpeg IMAG0528.jpeg IMAG0526.jpeg IMAG0530.jpeg

April 28,
welcome from term 2. A very busy term ahead with a music and change unit, visitors and class trips planned, as well as ongoing talent and personal development work. Additionally, this term I will be out visiting all of the student's regular schools, chatting with home-room teachers and generally reinforcing connections and finding out as much about each student as I can. As a consequence the blog aim is fortnightly this term.

Today the art group had the thrill of enhancing their animal drawing skills with a visit to the museum's animal attic. There they worked with one of the art educators Paul McLachlan. Paul had a full lesson planned for them that involved working their skills on several different animals. The students came back with some awesome drawings including crocodiles, turtles and armadillos. They seemed to have had a great learning opportunity.

While they were away the scratch crew reviewed their programming and then set a series of criteria they felt each of them could achieve in their game-coding. These included having a points system, instructions, smooth animation, challenge and levels, more than one background screen and so on. Many of these criteria they can already check off. The writers were busy publishing their work - Ben R now has two stories almost complete and he is thinking about creating a selection of short stories. Amy created another installment in the supa-girls saga and is considering the idea of a digital read aloud story. I think it would be great because she is fantastic at reading it aloud. William is waiting for publishing time with me and used this time by exploring some of what the scratch team were up to - he is demonstrating some excellent skills in this already - I wonder if he can combine these with his story-telling?

In the morning we did a creativity task responding to the consequences and effects of a what-if statement - what if thoughts appeared above our heads. The students showed a lot of fluency in their responses - I think the record was 13 different consequences - well done Sophie, Oliver, Michael, Ben K and the others that came up with so many possibilities. We followed this with an exploration of Dabrowski's nadpodbudliwosc (excitabilities/intensities). We are looking at this to increase the student's self understanding of their own learning strengths and styles with the ultimate goal that they can use this knowledge to guide the way they approach projects and even plan their own learning day. Today we unpacked the five categories Dabrowski suggests - physical, senses, intellect, imagination and emotions. Each of us thought about whether we felt we had intensities (prolonged and strong responses) in any of these areas and what kind of things were triggers. We also wondered about ways that these responses could be negative, positive or both. Next week we will look at areas we feel we have stamina in and different learning strategies that we think are important to us. This will be connected to Dabrowskis theory of positive self-disintegration - a grandiose way of talking about self-reflecting and using this exercise to undo or limit habits that we identify are not helpful in our learning endeavours and emphasising those we think are strong habits for success.

In chess we learnt about forks and pins and then tried to secure one in practice and then after lunch we focussed on our music unit by planning our research - choosing a topic and writing questions for our research. Already we have found out about the origins of the harp, Indian tabla drums, the mysterious origins of the drum generally, and where and when country music emerged. Katherine wrote some wonderful lyrics that she is helping AIsha and AMy put to music - I lok forward to putting my 2 cents in there, and Gracie and Sophie played a quick rendition of a song Gracie composed at home, on guitar and ukulele. It is great to have so many musically passionate people in here!

Cheers all,

March 31
Hi all,
last day of term was filled with the usual finishing off of products that had been going on over the term. Students checked their I am from poems (to be fair 90% of them had already done this) and then completed some self-assessment on this task. They also completed their "brain-love to learn" collage. This involved identifying and labelling the main lobes of the brain, gathering images which reflected activities or areas they like to learn about and creating a collage from these using a photo of themselves. Their were some fun results and everyone got finished - well done team. I will be posting these on the walls over the holiday and giving us some fresh images to look at around the classroom. Other activities worked on today were students writing goals for the next term or so. This is part of a small communication document I send out to parents at the end of term one (they will go out early next week). It is not always easy for students to reflect on their own strengths and set themselves targets, especially at this young stage in their Pakiki careers - well done for the persistence in this task. Students who had completed these tasks were choosing to continue with the amygdala research or their talent project. Gracie and Sophie are busy turning Sophie's story into a kind of comic strip. This is going nicely. The girls went through the published story draft and using different highlighters indicated what would be in speech bubbles, in thought bubbles and what needed to go in the small rectangular box in the corner of the page. They then began creating illustrations to match the story and add the dialogue etc. Fantastic thinking going on in this process and a great way to see them implement their own choices in the way their work is presented. William had a starring day - showing me and adding to his amygdala presentation which manages to use powerpoint to create animations teaching us about the amygdala. Very nicely done. WIlliam had a wee hiccup when he lost his USB on the playground but he was awesome in managing his impulsivity over this, found a lesson about pockets and USBs and without hesitation set about re-creating his presentation. Then came the good news - Mrs. Lindsay from the office rang to say it had been handed in! (WIlliam took her a note to say he had lost it earlier) Hurrah and well done William for the way you handled yourself in the face of a minor adversity. Lola found some wonderful art on youtube that makes your work look very three dimensional - I am trying to convince her to try it - I am sure she is very capable of achieving it as she has really blossomed since joining the art group and this is definitely a talent area for her. Amy made some more progress on talent writing a background piece to her super hero story. This is useful for the reader to make sense of what is going on. In the afternoon Amy joined forces with illustrators, Aisha and Katherine, and they are working together to come up with how the story is going to be presented - this kind of collaborative team-work is great to see and gives more purpose to the work. Well done, have a great Easter and I will see you all next term!

Cheers, Scott.

March 10

Kia ora all, short blog today between taking kids to futsal and making my own masters football! Today we started with talent. The scratch crew started with some practice moving left and right then after a short tutorial with me, looking at my octopus game. We analysed the code that made sprites interact and that accumulated points. Aubrey made a blob vs witch game and did some good problem solving to get his points working; Lola worked on getting a unicorn to move; Ty is flying with lots of home practice going on and is already broadcasting to new levels ( hey - that was next weeks lesson Ty! :) MIchael is doing good solid coding and taught us all a better way to print our code for analysis. Some of the writers got to work with Susan - Ben R wrote a great story which he finished. I read it while on duty and it was very nicely done with a great finishing line. WIlliam also worked with Susan and I will read his tomorrow morning before school. Amy wrote a great dialogue piece and we are working on developing her plot and setting which she is very motivated to improve. Gracie and Sophie worked on their stories in a quiet space. SOphie made great progress which I will read over the next night or two; Gracie wrote a great setting. The artists continued a focus on thigh and hip connection. Ella made an awesome camel and showed incredible persistence getting it finished and accurate, as did Aisha with a giraffe - she got the neck angle perfect. Max created steam punk animals (a compromise that allows him to pursue his love of drawing machines and my aim to work on animals). His creations were creative AND had fantastic leg structure. Oliver drew an animal that is related to a giraffe but looks like a cross between a zebra and a short giraffe (okapi) - they were a brand new animal for me - thanks Oliver. As we have become accustomed to his drawings were top class.

In the mid mornign we worked on finishing and/or illustrating our poetry, continued with the brain lobes we had been researching and played chess.

In the afternoon we explored the amygdala and how we can control it when it might hinder our learning. Next week the students will review their notes on this and begin to produce a way to share their knowledge.

A really fun learning day Tuesday - well done.
Cheers, Scott.

March 3
Today started with random connections to warm our brains. This is a 3 tiered game that starts with word association, moves to word disassociation and ends with trying to find connections between two seemingly disconnected words. The point of the last stage is to encourage students to find generalisations. After our game we set at finishing our poems. The students had for the most part created a first draft which I had looked over. Today we looked at the plan we had created for me and then wrote several lines together, trying to use language so that the meaning was not stated too obviously. The challenge was to make the reader think. The students came up with some great lines for me and there was some good focus during this shared writing session. I gave the students a checklist to help guide their writing and away they went. I was very impressed with how students were willing to continue to shape their writing, take encouragement and advice to edit their first efforts. Sophie, Aisha, Sam, Ben R, Gracie and Oliver were notable in their determination to improve their work. Students were helping each other come up with more interesting ways to say what they were trying to say. Awesome team thinking!

Next we took another look at the brain. We watched a short clip on phantom limbs and the phenomena of the way the brain can change to the changes in the body. This idea of the changing brain is important for us as we look at how we can change our own learning. The students then started constructing a brain "hat" I had found on line. Their challenge is to identify the various lobes and indicate them on their brain-hat. We will finish these next week. Today in chess John adapted the lesson from last week and focussed on how to trap a king using two rooks, instead of a queen and a rook. There were some interesting and hard fought games, especially a stalemate between Ben R and Aisha.

In the afternoon we moved into talent. I started with the writers and we shared Sophie's planning technique. We also unpacked the various parts of character development they had been working on previously and highlighted areas they needed to think about more. We also expanded our thinking about setting. The writers then worked on various embellishment of their settings making sure they were thinking about time as well as place and thinking what the environment actually would be like - is it summer or winter, how many people live there etc. Well done Ben, Sophie, Gracie and William for having a good go at this. While the writers worked on that the artists and myself took another look at legs. They had been free drawing while I was with the writers and Max had drawn a great boat, Oliver an incredible Robin? (small bird), Sam drew a colourful parrot, Aisha a whale and Katherine was working more on rabbits from the previous week. Once we re-examined leg structures the students chose an ocelot to work on. We found a great photo of one moving through the jungle that highlighted leg shapes and they set about working on it. The scratch team had been fine-tuning their left/right/up/down/ controlled movement. Ty had been learning more scratch at home and was flying, already ready to give broadcasting a go. Aubrey was problem solving a couple of glitches and trying to figure out how to change points to '0'. I helped Lola who was struggling a with the coding from the week before but she worked it out and has a great idea for a zebra vs fly game that she has created her own sprites for. Tonight I will look over Michael and Ben's coding and the scratch team will start with me next week.

Cheers team, see you next week.

February 24th
Hi all,
we started the day with the exciting news that Peanut, a giant Flemish rabbit, was coming to visit in the afternoon. Sophie did some research on the computer and compiled a collage of images so we could all see what these rabbits look like. We then quickly unpacked Sophie's research technique and then used these to help with another Habits of Mind mini-research project. Today we looked at 'taking responsible risks'. The students did a fine job of reaching for computers and dictionaries and showed they remembered how to paraphrase, summarising their information nicely once they had gathered it. Several students then shared their findings. This lead us into extending an earlier discussion on fear and the way this can become a barrier to our learning. We shared some learning experiences where we had felt fear and ways we had overcome them. Then we traced around Ella onto a large piece of paper and started recording physiological changes inside the outline that we feel when we are nervous or scared. The focus of this is for us to learn to identify when we are feeling fearful in our learning so that we can then be conscious of thinking of ways to overcome it. We finished the first session by going into groups and creating a frozen-image showing a learning scenario where we have been fearful or have overcome fear.

In the next session we started designing Pakiki dollars (our reward system). I was surprised just how into this the students were. There were some creative designs which we should be able to finish next week. I would have let the students finish in the afternoon, such was their motivation, except we had our visit from Peanut. Here is Peanut:
IMAG0361.jpg IMAG0360.jpg
Peanut's visit was to help the illustrators look at the bone structure of animals. Ella and Katherine worked really hard improving their illustrations with very good results - well done girls. It wasn't just the illustrators who were inspired by Peanut though. Gracie, Sophie and Amy all created some writing about a rabbit protagonist and some of these stories are sounding like they may be worth pursuing. A big thanks to Ben K and mum Karen for sharing Peanut with us. Meanwhile the scratch team were busy learning how to animate so that their sprites moved smoothly across the screen using two costumes. I had invested some time in the weekend reminding myself how to do this and had some codes for the students to analyse. Ty did a great job of decoding what I had done. MIchael, Ty, Aubrey and Ben K all had some success in choosing a sprite and beginning to make it move around. Well done team, scratch is definitely a program for the problem solvers.

Take care all, see you next week.

February 17
Kia ora,
we started today with a quick look at our class meeting book where students are encouraged to write issues or suggestions they may have. Often the act of writing these out eliminates the problem or sparks new ideas for ways we can operate/manage the class, including for myself. Once a week or so we will catch up and see if there are any entries we need to discuss together. We then had a go at a creative thinking warm-up "what if the earth had no moon". The aim of this task is to think fluently about consequences that might arise from the "what if" question. The students were quick to consider tidal problems, changes to space exploration, a lack of eclipses, changes in fiction (no werewolves e.g.). We will continue to work on fluency of ideas throughout the year. I then assigned the class a mini-research mission - to identify one of our habits of mind that appeals to them, to write questions about it (including foremost, what it means) to gather information and to present their findings in their own words. This task involved a lot of research skills, including practising the questioning we had started last week. It was a good opportunity to see what the students do and don't know about research. Katherine was well aware that paraphrasing meant to not copy and Aubrey could tell us that plagarism was copying without due credit. Most of the students knew they could turn to google to help with information but we quickly realised work was needed on search terms. We talked about the importance of using key words (rather than writing out entire questions) and of scanning the blurbs google presents. We begun creating a class document documenting what we know and what we found out about the research process today. We modelled some google inquiries as a class and helped Amy find out what creating, imagining and innovating was and why it was important. Ben K, Oliver and Ty showed superb persistence and had the clever idea to a) ask for help and b) uncover the root of the words they were unpacking. Most of the students were able to contribute something to our research process document and we will continue to chip away at developing these skills throughout this term. At the end of the day we reflected on our Habits of Mind research and I was very impressed with how much of the language the students had gained through their research in the morning.

In the middle session we developed our I am from poems further. We talked about some poetic tricks and a group modelled a brainstorm and wrote a poem together to practise some of our poetry. The students were already familiar with some poetic techniques and we have tried to incorporate these into our writing. For the most part, however, this task is about thinking about ourselves and the people, places, learning and values that we think are important. We rounded out the morning with a tutorial with John on how pieces (apart from pawns which we started with last week) move in chess, and a game of chess each.

In the afternoon we settled with a reading of an Isaac Asimov short story about formal education in the future. Sophie, Ella, Ben R and Ben K all contributed thoughtfully to our discussion. The students understood the purpose of the story was to consider the possible future for children but were a little perplexed at the idea that it might also be a way for us to reflect on ourselves in the present. Reflection is not typically a natural skill for primary students but it is one we will continue to discuss and practice at Pakiki. We started our talent groups to finish the day. The scratch team were well into their task with many having previous knowledge they could apply. Ty showed excellent skill picking up how to animate his sprite and a nice artistic touch in the tools he used to create "smelly cat". The writers wrote fluently on some Chris Van Allsburg inspirations. I look forward to reading over these and seeing what direction the lessons need to take to cater for the students various writing strengths and gaps. Sophie and Ben R, whose writing I was able to look at during the session, both showed a succinct understanding of plot and a willingness to revise work to plug necessary holes that left the reader wondering. Next week, for them, we will unpack the roles of the protagonist and the antagonist and start some beginning character development. The illustrators began with some simple mammals - a cheetah and a rabbit. The focus was soon on the way the legs are structured, highlighting the thigh, knee, ankle structure which many land mammals typically share. Ella, Katherine, Ollie and Aisha all made good efforts at improving their legs. Katherine and Ollie also spent some time working on relative size. Next week I have an in depth video tutorial for the students to watch to think more about the bone structure of mammals limbs and how this knowledge can be generalised in a lot of drawing of animals.

A full day's learning team - well done,

Kia ora from day one Tuesday,

wow! great to meet another group of bright and curious kids. We started the day quickly learning a waiata for our mihi whakatau with the North East Valley senior students. Team Tuesday sang very well and handled themselves with appropriate dignity throughout the welcome. Once we were back in class we played a quick name game to get associated and then got into our learning. We started with a fun thinking activity where the children had to first create a code, then write a message out in code, and finally decipher the code of another group. Once the message was decoded the students followed the messages instructions and earned some Pakiki dollars ( an incentive scheme I run, mostly based around class community tasks, that results in a blind auction at the end of term). After play we took a look at the "Pakiki Way" which is my version of class guidelines. This concentrates on learning behaviours - being creative, critical, taking risks, persisting, striving for accuracy and so on. Today we focussed on risk taking and began thinking about the role fear has inhibiting our learning, the students sharing experiences of fear and some of the techniques they used to overcome it. This is an ongoing focus for us across the year as we seek to build responsible risk taking in the students' learning. We then took a look at questioning. We examined how different kinds of questions provide different depths of answers. Using this idea we watched a short video on the role of neurons in the brain and set about asking questions in response to the ideas. We paused periodically and shared some of our questions which were very impressive for the first day. We then evaluated what we felt the depth of questions were. Many of the students had an almost immediate grasp of how to make this judgement - well done Aubrey, both Ben's, Oliver, Gracie and the others who were able to make this assessment. We will continue to build this understanding over the next few weeks. Our morning ended with chess and our tutor John Calder working through a pawn game with the students before they played games of their own. It appears we have quite a bit of prior chess knowledge in the class.

The afternoon session started by introducing the talent groups I have set up for the start of the year. These include digital storytelling, scratch animation programming, accelerated maths and scientific illustrations. The students get to rank what they are most interested then I compare their choices to the talents identified by home schools and parents. From this information I will construct the talent groups and we will get started proper net week. As the year goes on students often get more independence and personal choice, helping co-design their projects. We completed the day by analysing some "I am from" poems and brainstorming the skeleton to create our own.

An enjoyable day meeting and getting to know Tuesday's team

See you all next week,