Discovery Time at Hauroko Valley Primary School
We do love hearing such good stories of Discovery Time in different places.
Read the article here – plus video and pictures!
We’ll keep you posted with the latest Discovery Time news and ideas and we want to hear from you, too! Please comment and send us your Discovery Time experiences and photos…
We do love hearing such good stories of Discovery Time in different places.
Read the article here – plus video and pictures!
Professor Kay Margetts explores this issue in – Creative Play: In Praise of Getting Messy
“Craft activities that involve children copying precisely a model presented by the teacher risk stifling creativity and imagination, as well as deterring children from experimenting with materials and learning new techniques,” says Margetts, (associate professor of early childhood studies at Melbourne University).
Even worse than expecting every child to turn out exactly the same artwork, is when teachers “fix up” the finished product.
“There should be lots of opportunities for young children to pick up art and craft materials and go with the flow. Of course, there’s a place for adults to introduce and explain new techniques but allow them to choose colours and if they make a mistake it doesn’t really matter, they’ll learn it eventually.”
It’s worth having a read of the full article…
We believe there will be a range of opportunities to lead the learning in a session (see our web page on student directed learning)
An activity may be:
Occasionally it may be:
The challenge in Discovery Time is getting the balance right. The focus needs to be on students taking the lead with adults observing, supporting and asking questions that will extend students thinking.
Alongside this debate sits the concept of ‘provocations’
“Put simply, provocations provoke! They provoke thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity and ideas. They can also expand on a thought, project, idea and interest.” check out this web page from Racheous for more details
Setting the scene in a classroom is the teacher’s responsibility. Setting out activities, materials and opportunities requires careful planning and thought by the teacher but the action and end result rests with the student.
‘Loose parts’ in play, have had a lot of attention lately. So where did this idea come from, what do we mean by loose parts and what is it’s relevance to Discovery Time?
Simon Nicholson coined the phrase ‘loose parts’ in the 1970s. “In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it”
He insisted that creativity, inventiveness and discovery weren’t the preserve of the ‘brilliant and talented,’ but were available to everyone if surrounded by open-ended, real materials and given opportunities to explore and experiment.
Photos show it best…
I like the way ‘Let the Children Play’ blog puts it, “that loose parts are any materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put together in multiple ways.”
However, the ‘Right From the Start’ blog asks “Do we over complicate loose parts?” Do we become obsessed with collecting materials, sorting it and finding storage for all the bits?
“For the child, loose parts are everywhere, they probably don’t call them loose parts but they will find them. For me, the theory of loose parts is an attitude to how children play. It is an acceptance that children may use what is in their environment and make their own choices about what to do with it. Materials do not have to be displayed or stored beautifully, they simply need to be there.”
In the classroom, some organisation is necessary to reduce chaos, but the most important thing is that children have ready access to a wide range of things and are free to use them (safely) in any way they choose. Don’t let children’s imagination and creativity be limited by adults (sometimes restrictive) view.
Have a look at the Scrapstore playpod video – you may have seen it before, but it never ceases to amaze me how inventive children are and how different their thinking is to that of adults.
Give your students a Discovery Time environment where they have access to plenty of variables and watch them explore, create, problem solve, negotiate and have fun learning.
This is going to create a stir…
If you believe in Discovery Time you will be interested in the work of Longworth Education with their focus on play based learning. Linda Cheer started Discovery Time at Havelock Primary and has continued to develop the concept.
Have a look at their website and particularly their workshops which are well worth attending.
Longworth Education provide professional learning opportunities for educators, senior managers and parents.
Workshops are practical, evidence-based and reflect a practical application to the latest research around how to support students living and learning in the 21st Century.
An article worth reading…
“By Grade 4, children whose vocabulary knowledge is below grade level are likely to have difficulties in reading comprehension. How can teachers in primary classrooms support students’ vocabulary development?”
Tips to Support Students’ Vocabulary Development
She goes on to discuss:
Very practical and has huge relevance for teachers doing Discovery Time.
“Child-led learning sounds like it should be easy, just see what the children are interested in and excited by and then follow it…. Where child led learning becomes more challenging is in the personal internal battles you face as a practitioner.” says Lily Horseman in her Kindling blog
This short blog is worth a read, it’s a good story.
We all face these internal struggles from and feel the watching presence of parents and teaching colleagues. It sometimes takes courage to let children take the lead!
As you start the new term have a look at some of the activities on pinterest. Most don’t require courage!!!!
A picture will stimulate a child’s imagination (they don’t need instruction). You set the scene but let the kids decide the action. Stand back and enjoy!
Find more ideas on our board Discovery Time Ideas
Selecting an appropriate key competency focus and introducing to your class is important. Some key ideas from our Discovery Time book might get you started.
Think about the things you have observed in your class.
Do your students need more opportunities to:
Which aspects of the key competencies do your students need to develop?
This is a time to make these goals explicit and incorporate them into the learning experiences.
The learning intention for the session needs to be made clear to the students and introduced in a meaningful way.
The teacher might:
At the end of the introduction the students will:
As the students become familiar with the concept of Discovery Time they should become increasingly involved in determining the focus for each session.
Every Discovery Time session must have:
This Opinion piece by Adam Grant in the NY times is well worth reading.
He says that our brightest most talented students may excel in their chosen fields but it is those who have had freedom to explore, create and bend the rules that will make new advances in knowledge.
So what does this mean for the classroom and for Discovery Time learning?
It means that:
“You can’t program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you’ll get is an ambitious robot. If you want your children to bring original ideas into the world, you need to let them pursue their passions, not yours.”
Imagine a school day where morning and lunchtime play have been cut to a minimum to leave more time for the core curriculum – maths and literacy! This is the reality for many schools in the USA!
Some brave schools in Ohio are bucking the trend and giving more time for free unstructured play – that’s 15 minutes 4 times a day! And the kids think they are lucky!
New Zealand children take it for granted that they will have 1 hour 20 mins a day. What’s more, research shows that children allowed to play freely – role playing, swinging from the bars and playing sport, do better academically. Surprise, surprise!
“If you want a child to be attentive and stay on task, and also if you want them to encode the information you’re giving them in their memory, you’ve got to give them regular breaks,” says Ohio State University pediatrician Bob Murray.”
“Murray says brain imaging has shown that kids learn better after a break for physical activity and unstructured play.”
Have a read of this article – Turns Out Monkey Bars And Kickball Might Be Good For The Brain
Be thankful that we teach in New Zealand!
“The magic of play can unfold anywhere as long as children have the freedom to unleash their imaginations – on the playground, deep in the woods, nestled in the sandbox, or inside cardboard boxes”
This info-graphic (click for full graphic) provides good quotes for you to use on your display boards
A ‘must read’ research article for all you Discovery Time explorers. (Keryn Davis, 2015. New Entrant classrooms in the re-making)
It validates all the things you have been experimenting with and shows that our ‘gut instincts’ combined our knowledge of teaching and learning theory, are absolutely what children need.
These are the ideas that informally guided the re-making of Mairehau school’s New-entrant / year-1 classes.
Using a collaborative approach teachers started by wondering how they might provide a better transition for children coming from early childhood centres into school. From these ‘wonderings’ they have made significant changes that keep the creativity, enthusiasm and joy of learning alive.
Well done Mairehau school and Core Education for an excellent piece of research!
If you are looking for some easy Christmas shopping don’t forget our lovely NZ picture books (also available in Te Reo).
Purchase on line at www.pagebreak.co.nz or get our Christmas special by emailing us and then paying directly into our bank account.
Hampden Street School continues to ‘grow’ their Discovery Time programme…
We have had a request from Charlotte in Auckland and thought someone might be able to help. Sounds like a great development that I’m sure others would be interested in it too.
So if you are doing something similar please let us know.
We are hoping to run a more fluid programme in our NE/Yr 1 classes next year and looking at the possibility of developing a more personalised system for students along the lines of discovery time with must dos and can dos in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Can you recommend any schools using discovery time in this way (more often than once a week?) that would be happy for us to visit? We are also looking at opening up our classes and co-teaching so interested in this approach in that context. Any advice you can give us would be appreciated. Kind regards Charlotte
Children had a lot of fun exploration and discovery while exploring the possibilities of primary colours – red, blue and yellow.
The teacher provided a variety of brushes, sponges, rollers and a variety of thickness/ texture to the paint.
Last month I visited Peak School in Hong Kong. They had just started Discovery Time in their school.
The excited buzz of the children’s play was a treat. You could immediately see they were leading their learning and making great discoveries.
This plastic bin of things that needed washing was very popular, especially the pot scrubs! Of course if you have washed it, then you have to dry it.
It seems counter-intuitive to think that less classroom time and more outdoor play would lead to a better education for kids. But longer time on task doesn’t equate to better results, only greater burnout.
For years, educators have tried different unsuccessful strategies – more testing, more instruction– to reverse these trends. The answer, however, is not more class time. It’s more play.
Other countries have figured this out. In Finland, for example, students take a 15-minute break for outdoor play after every 45 minutes of classroom time. In East Asia, most primary schools give their students a 10-minute break after 40 minutes or so of instruction.
Here in the United States, however, the average first-grader spends seven hours a day at school, sometimes without any recess, much less one outdoors and unstructured. Read More…
Jeff A Johnson & Denita Dinger
(Let Them Play)
Just by calling it an ‘inventors box’ encourages a different way of thinking about junk.
It’s not just about making things, but having unique ideas and creating something different.
This comes from a site called The Educators Spin On It and I love the range of things that they have put in their box.
Not just the usual cartons, tubes and bottle tops but objects you can take apart and use in different ways.
Have a look and see.
Fits very well with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
Have a look at what another parent has done with their ‘take-apart inventors box’
You don’t need expensive equipment for Discovery Time activities. Your community can often supply ‘loose parts’ that you can get for free.
Start with your school community and ask families to save corks, bottle tops, boxes, fabric, wool scraps cardboard tubes etc
Then look at your business community and get offcuts from timber yards, plumbers, printers, manufacturers etc
Keep an eye out for excess produce. Some schools we’ve visited have been able to get hold of large quantities of: eggs, lemons, tins of spaghetti, strawberries, beans…
Whenever you have an excess of any one thing get creative! Set a challenge for the children to come up with ideas for using them.
children came up with for using plastic cups.
Have a look at the article from Community Playthings that gives lots of ideas for ‘loose parts’ – I liked the one about old sheep bones that teachers buried in the sandpit for kids to find.
Despite the trend for formalised instruction to begin earlier and earlier, replacing what used to be learning through play and exploration, there is growing scientific evidence that not only does this approach fail to deliver long-term improvements in achievement, but that it can actually be detrimental to a child’s emotional and cognitive development.
The opinion piece, Let the Kids Learn through Play, from The New York Times goes into more detail of the mounting research that suggests our move away from play and towards striving for earlier academic instruction and testing is not giving us the results we were looking for.
Thank goodness most New Zealand children don’t have a problem with getting outdoors. But we do have to be alert to the potential threat of play-stations, ipads, DVDs and television and the overseas trend of limiting play times and lunch times to focus on teacher directed learning.
The article Saving Children From Nature Deficit Disorder is worth a read. It gives some excellent ideas for outdoor activities that could be incorporated into Discovery Time sessions. Have a look at the ‘dirt digging area’ and ‘logs’ easy to do in most schools.
Love this photo from a friend in Wellington’s recent wet weather!
“Friedrich Froebel, the un-sung creator of Kindergarten, protested the “stamping and molding” educational process of his time that squelched creativity. He maintained that through play, children could develop into “free, thinking, independent people.” The Kindergarten, (literally, a “children’s garden”), was intended to be an environment that would nurture the true nature of the child instead of merely training them for maximum economic productivity.”
Reading this post from Community Playthings I’m wondering if we are continuing to ‘stamp and mould’ our young people instead of providing the opportunities to learn and flourish for themselves.
What do you think?
How much of a child’s day is teacher, parent or adult directed?
What is happening in your Discovery Time session? Are you directing all the action or are you setting the scene where children can explore, discover and learn for themselves?
student directed learning
Education is not just about literacy and numeracy! Developing social and emotional competency is equally important.
I came across this statement in a recent Incredible Years newsletter.
“Encourage children to praise themselves and others! This skill will help them build up positive relationships with other children.”
For example, you might say “You must feel so proud of yourself for reading that whole chapter by yourself! Give yourself a pat on the back!”
‘Praising others’ might be a Key Competency focus for a Discovery Time session.
If you’re looking for some alternatives to good old playdough for your Discovery Time sessions, check out these recipes at The Whoot website. While you’re there, have a look around, there are lots of creative ideas to get your and your students’ teeth into.
An interesting interview on Radio New Zealand this past Saturday with Chair of Cinema Art + Science at Columbia College Chicago, Bruce Sheridan. He is the fourth Creative Fellow for the University of Auckland’s Creative Thinking Project, delivering a series of lectures.
He talks about reintegrating science and art in education and industry, and also clarifies what ‘art’ and ‘creativity’ mean to us.
About 12 minutes in, he starts to talk about how to be creative, collaboratively and how this is going to be crucial in the near future. To us, this seems to fit in perfectly with the idea that in our schools we are teaching the Key Competencies with a focus on how important these are.
From around 30 minutes, the discussion turns to failure and how this can lead to success. Bruce Sheridan say “All education can build in ways for it to be safe to fail.”
We believe Discovery Time is one perfect place to do this.
You can listen to the full show here.
Click here for more information; Gecko Pataka Invitation V2 (1) (1)
One rainy day, I decided some crafts would be a great idea to keep my two girls occupied. I got out some coloured matchsticks, some feathers, glue, paper and pens. Little did I know that what I had in mind was not what my daughters had in mind! The above picture is the result. The feathers and pillows became a nest, the matchsticks became the ‘prickles’ to protect the nest and I became the nature documentary narrator as the girls flew around the room, squawking and collecting food for their soon to hatch babies.
That day, they reminded me, that as parents and teachers, we often have preconceived ideas about what our children/students ‘should’ be doing with our planned activities. Discovery Time is a time for the children to take the lead, to create and innovate and we should expect the unexpected!
I came across a great video on the Tiny Rotten Peanuts facebook page which shows how to make these great doodle creatures. A fantastic, quick and creative way to draw and have fun. Why not try it with your class?
What causes it? What can we do about it? – an article by Professor Dianne Levin read article
Well, to start with we don’t need yet another label for students! But that aside, the content of the article highlights an issue that most schools are grappling with! How do we help children settle disputes, use words instead of fists, take turns and develop understanding and compassion for the feelings of others?
The article goes on to look at possible explanations and things we as teachers can do.
The need for explicit teaching of social skills – modelling, feedback and feed forward is imperative, but so is the opportunity to practise these skills in an authentic context.
Cancelling play time as some American schools are doing is not the answer, but maybe more Discovery Time with a focus on key competencies will make a difference.
We are proud to announce the arrival of Page Break’s newest title; Go Green Gecko! It follows the adventures of the Wellington green gecko as he forages for food in the New Zealand bush. Again, Margaret Tolland uses texture and layered images to bring the characters and native bush to life and Gay Hay’s rhythmic language builds tension. What will happen when green gecko becomes the prey?
It is also available in Te Reo Maori.
At a time when schools can be very focussed on ‘standards’ and ‘results’ it can be very easy to forget that learning should be fun!
In this article, ‘Joy: A Subject Schools Lack’, mother of three, a teacher, and a developmental psychologist, Susan Engel, reminds us that ‘the thing that sets children apart from adults is not their ignorance, nor their lack of skills. It’s their enormous capacity for joy.’
She also makes the interesting, and somewhat wistful point that ‘A child’s ability to become deeply absorbed in something, and derive intense pleasure from that absorption, is something adults spend the rest of their lives trying to return to.’
Greetings to you all
It’s the beginning of a new school year in New Zealand – we are just back from our summer break.
Time to get to know a new group of student!
Discovery Time is the perfect opportunity to excite children’s curiosity, discover their strengths and stand back and observe how they work together. Keep your ‘Key Competencies’ focussed on ‘managing self’ and ‘relating to others’ i.e. looking after equipment, sharing, taking turns, cleaning up when you have finished, trying something new, working with someone you don’t know…
If you are looking for activity ideas don’t forget about pinterest.com but be cautious about activities that are prescriptive and teacher directed. Ideally you want to find things that are open ended and encourage curiosity, creativity and imagination.
Have a look at Discovery Time Activities on Pinterest for a few activities that we have collected
Please forward this to anyone you think might be interested in Discovery Time and contact us if you have any thoughts or questions. If you are starting DT for the first time let us know so that we can add your school to our list on the website.
Most importantly… have fun!s
If you have children or grandchildren with you these holidays make sure they get plenty of time to play. Not necessarily organised activities, just freedom to be!
Provide opportunities for great ideas to bubble up. Kids think of things that we would never come up with if you give them space.
Who would believe that a bit of gardening would end up with intense snail washing with paint brushes and water!
Be involved, but follow their lead. Ask questions and help them to think things through.
Most of all have FUN!
We all agree that when children are actively involved they are more likely to learn more. Add student-directed to that and you have a winning combination. I came across the website for the Royal Institute of Great Britain today and found these great science activities
It looks as though they will be adding to them but so far they have:
Each activity starts with a video of children experimenting and then poses questions and encourages children to explore further.
Explanations are also given in straightforward language that provides the scientific theory behind the activity (great background knowledge so parents and teachers can ask open ended, stimulating questions).
Get your children enthused by showing them the video and then let them explore – great for home and school.
In the holidays I arrived to look after my 4 year old granddaughter with a bag of cardboard tubes and some stick-on magnets. I’d seen a good idea on pinterest I explained. We could make a marble track that would stick to the side of the fridge (we’d played with marbles the week before so this was a good extension, I thought!)
She peered into the bag and pulled out the longest tube (from a roll of fabric)
She waved it around a bit,
She looked through it… “Maybe a telescope!
“She blew through it… “A didgeridoo!
“Lets decorate it!”
Children’s learning can go in many wonderful and unexpected directions…
Why not celebrate Maori Language Week by exploring Page Break’s beautiful picture books which are available in Te Reo Maori.
There are also some great links to resources and ideas on TKI website.
I like his initial definition of play, “an activity with ‘apparent purposeless’ as well as something that’s fun and in which we loose ourselves.”
But he also goes on to say that, “When we stop playing, we stop developing, and when that happens, the laws of entropy take over — things fall apart…When we stop playing, we start dying.”
So… with one week left of the holidays, give yourselves time to play!
Watch Out Snai!l has recently been reviewed by Alyna Higgs-James on The Booksellers New Zealand blog. You can read a snippet of the review below;
“Overall my children and I really enjoyed Watch Out, Snail!, the beautiful creative language and stunning artwork kept all ages absorbed in the story, from the two year old spotting creatures to the 4.5 year old learning about this great native snail … even mum learnt a thing or two!”
To read the entire review, click the link to The Booksellers New Zealand blog here. Thank you Booksellers!
I was at a school recently that had a ‘Wheels Day’, the activities involved children bringing in all sorts of wheels; scooters, bikes, skateboards, roller blades, and then heading around a variety of wheels based stations. Some being ‘active’ activities and some being classroom based. I think it would also make a great Discovery Time session.
If you’d like instructions on how to make the balloon cars, click on this link: Making a balloon car
If you have any ideas for exciting Discovery Time sessions, we’d love to hear from you on firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a look at this inspirational video about an orchestra for young musicians who play on instruments made from trash! These children and young adults lives have been transformed by what other people throw away. We wonder what inspiration you and your children might take from this video in your Discovery Time sessions? Perhaps your own ‘Recycled band’?
Opportunities for science and creativity:
Some hands on activities to help you kick start the term. Help save the planet by getting kids involved in the world around them
Watch Out, Snail! has been announced as a finalist in the book awards this morning! Wow!
This is Gay’s second picture book and a wonderful achievement!
Make sure you have a copy in your school library – also available in te reo – purchase from our website or email us on email@example.com
Here is a quick look at a Rube Goldberg machine that was entered into America’s got talent! There are many more examples on the internet, the complexity and imagination put into these machines is amazing to see. An example of a more simple one used to pour milk onto some cereal can be viewed here.
If you’d like to see some examples of children having a go, then watch M and J’s Rube Goldberg project, and if you think it seems too complicated for your younger students, then take a look at this example.
What an interesting way to introduce physics to your students, cause and effect, levers, pulleys and much more.
Linda Cheer, a long time advocate of Discovery Time is busy putting the joy back into teaching.
In February she launched her new project – ‘Discovery Learning’ in the trees at Longworth Forest. Check out the weekly journal of the fantastic learning that’s happening at Longworth Forest – absolutely inspirational. Have a look at the Discovery Learning Activities too – great ideas for your own Discovery Time.
Read the article in her blog on Assisted Discovery Learning and the research that shows that this is superior to all other approaches to teaching and learning. She makes the distinction between Discovery Learning and Assisted Discovery Learning read to find out more…
Welcome back to the new year everyone. We hope your school term has begun with enthusiasm and inspiration.
We all know teachers love practical ideas to use with their students. If that sounds like you, take a look at this website of ‘Cool Experiments for Elementary School Kids’,
Check back here next week for more practical ideas using marble runs and Rube Goldberg machines.
We’d love to hear your feedback, if you try some of these experiments, to hear what worked well and what didn’t. You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
There has been a lot in the media lately about a West Auckland school, Swanson Primary School, who for the last two years has been part of an AUT and Otago University’s PLAY study, looking at encouraging play and physical activity. The school has reintroduced activities which have become restricted or banned altogether in many New Zealand schools such as; climbing trees, bullrush and riding scooters, bike and skateboards in the school grounds.
Interestingly, they reintroduced these activities, and more, by simply “letting kids play”. In a child-led way, children started climbing trees, making huts with old playground equipment and riding bikes and the school staff “turned a blind eye”. They have introduced a junk pit, wilderness areas and have got rid of the old rules which said that older and younger students had to play in certain areas. In a large school, this has meant that the older students tend to look after the younger ones and also that the students are more evenly spread throughout the school grounds, making it less crowded. Children are risk-taking, experimenting and playing!
There are of course challenges, but principal Bruce McLachlan, says that when left to it, children by in large can resolve issues themselves. Parents were largely very supportive of the changes. In contrast, staff were hesitant as they were scared they would get the blame should anything go wrong. In reality, the school now has to have less teachers on duty because there are less conflicts, students are more engaged and they no longer need a time-out room. Some of the most hesitant teachers are now the biggest supporters of the programme.
Rachel Taylor, from Otago University, is the principal investigator for the PLAY study explains the ideas behind the study were to increase physical activity, practicing risk taking and to reduce bullying.
Take a listen to the Radio New Zealand interview and see what you think. What does playground play look like in your school?
Once when looking for ways to introduce science topics to New Entrant students I rediscovered Suzy cato from my childhood in the form of a set of d.v.d.s called ‘Suzy’s World’. Each disc covers a science/technology topic, for example ‘Where do things go?’, ‘The body’, ‘Pop and Fizz’. It is then divided up into six episodes, each covers one aspect of the overall topic including great background knowledge, interesting experiments and discoveries.
They are definitely worth taking a look at if you need some interesting ways to introduce a science or technology topic or some ideas on experiments/activities to do with your students. I have most recently found them at The Warehouse for a very reasonable $4.99! There are also a couple of episodes not on d.v.d. on the you tube channel Treehut TV
Hopefully this helps all of you starting to get your heads back into Term time thinking!
Happy 2014 to you all. We hope you had a lovely festive season and that your holidays are relaxing, rejuvinating, adventurous or whatever else might be your cup of tea.
My holidays, by conicidence, took me and my family to the fantastic Kowhai Park in Whanganui. If you haven’t been there, and you have children, it’s a must stop the next time you’re passing. It is full of unique and wonderous characters, some original and some familiar from childhood stories and nursery rhymes. Alongside the characters are a flying fox, a mini railway, a pirate ship, a castle, a huge dinosaur slide, just to name a few. It got my husband and I talking about how generic most childrens’ playgrounds are these days; and we hadn’t actually realised it until we visited this one. Kowhai park was geared towards play, imagination and simply ‘wowing’ the children!
I wonder if your break has taken you to any unique and inspiring places? Happy holidays!
Christmas is a message from the past, in the present and for the future. The future message is the big one.
This is a wonderful message from Colin James in his daily column for the Otago Daily Times 24 Dec 2013 – take a moment to read it…
Take a listen to these interviews on Radio New Zealand with “…lecturer in education and developmental psychology at the University of Regensburg in Germany, Dr Sebastian Suggate, and a professor of education at Otago University, Helen May, discuss whether the trickle down effect of National Standards is formal education starting in year-1, and whether that’s damaging developmentally to children.”
Dr. Suggate states that the research is clear, there is no convincing evidence that exposing children to formal instruction in literacy at 4 or 5 years old will increase reading ability later in their education. He is also an advocate for play based curriculum saying it is an integral part of early childhood education and shoudn’t be overlooked and a signatory to the Too Much, Too Soon campaign which you can read more about in our blog post here. He also says that research needs to be done into what harm might be occuring when there is less time for young children to learn through play. For example, how are childrens’ language and social skills being affected?
Helen May discusses how our New Zealand Te Whariki curriculum does not mention the traditional three R’s of Reading, Writing and Arithemtic at all but instead has a focus on the three R’sResponsive, Reciprocal and Relationships. She does, however, believe that in New Zealand, there is a sharp transition at 5 years old when children begin school here, where all of a sudden there is a strong focus on goals and standards in literacy and numeracy. She also thinks our new New Zealand curriculum was heading in the right direction by focussing on the Key Competencies alongside the curriculum areas but because it was still ‘bedding in’ at the time that National Standards were brought in that the sharp academic expectations of achievement at the end of 1 and 2 years at school have taken over the opportunites for play based approach curriculum in the early years.
Helen speaks very interestingly about why play based education is so important in the early years from about 12 minutes into the interview.
Discovery Time can be an effective way to ease the transition from our early childhood education to school by keeping the play based education going in our schools. Some interesting listening for the holidays to come!
Last week the results from The National Monitoring Study of student achievement revealed that almost 80% our Year 8 students were achieving below the expected curriculum level for their age. The results for writing were not much better.
There is still a lot of interpretation to do to identify what may be causing this large gap between expected level and achievment but Sir Peter Gluckman, The Prime Minister’s chief science advise,r has said, “I think that some of it’s related to curriculum, some of it relates to teacher skill, and some of it relates to the family background. It’s all those issues that need to be addressed in concert.” The Government has allocated $3.5 million dollars to boost science in our schools. More details and links to related interviews can be found here.
Above are photos of schools in action using Discovery Time to engage students’ interest in science. The nature of the Discovery Time programme excites childrens’ passion for asking questions, problem solving, critical thinking and experimenting. Another great reason to continue using Discovery Time in the senior school as well as with our juniors.
There are many ways to think big when it comes to Discovery Time. You may notice children in your class showing a keen interest in particular projects or topics throughout your Discovery Time sessions. These are great opportunities to explore your local and wider community for ways to extend your childrens’ ideas and also to nurture those all important Key Competencies such as; participating and contributing, thinking and relating to others. After all, isn’t it our ultimate goal to arm our children with the tools and skills to get out there in the big wide world and make a positive difference?
One local school has been involved in the Nga Uruora Kapiti Project to collect native seeds, raise seedlings and then plant them out with the aim of bringing back bird song from Kapiti Island to the Kapiti Coast. Take a look at this video which shows what they have achieved. Can you spot one of our Discovery Time celebrities?
If you’d like to find out more about the project you can find the website here.
Great to see Page Break’s books on display at Porirua Library along with some other great titles.
Why not request ‘Watch Out Snail’ at your school library?
We have recently come across some very interesting articles discussing current research around what impact early, formal learning is having on our children as opposed to informal, play-based programs.
The consensus seemsto be, that high quality, play based early-education is good for children’s academic success and well-being but also that our switch to formal, test and standard driven literacy and numeracy education (which is starting earlier and earlier) is at best not making an impact at all
“Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7…..By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later.”
at worst it is actually detrimental.
“…a number of studies have documented the loss of play opportunities for children over the second half of the 20th century and demonstrated a clear link with increased indicators of stress and mental health problems.”
Hope School in the Nelson region sent us this email at the end of term 3. We frequently hear of schools implementing DT in response to oral language needs. If you have activities that have been particularly successful in stimulating oral language we would love to hear about them. Send them through.
Thanks for sending this Audrey
“We are a small rural school in the Nelson region made up of 4 classes. Each class teacher has added Discovery Time to their class programmes this term. (We all attended a workshop held in Richmond at the Tasman District Library in term 3 this year and were very inspired.)
I have the class of Yr 0-1 children. Earlier this year I was concerned at the lack of oral language skills from a group of my students so Discovery Time has given the children a chance to talk and discuss using their own vocabulary while at the same time learning and using a new range of vocabulary inspired by the range of learning experiences offered. For me personally I have always known how important child lead activities were but Discovery Time has given me license to move purposefully away from the demands of the curriculum and get back to basics. Thank-you.
I add posts about our discovery sessions often on our class blog here is a link to one of these sessions recently.”
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw
In the most recent Good magazine there is a page dedicated to how adults can and should play. It encourages us, as adults, to keep playing by doing activities such as; dancing, hiking, playing sports, sculpting, gardening or tinkering.
It also gives a link to a peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated entirely to the subject of play called The American Journal of Play – take a look!
How do you plan to play these school holidays?
Take a listen to this Radio New Zealand story on National Standards. It discusses the impact National Standards have had on schools, teachers and education in general, four years after their introduction.
In particular, at about 18 minutes into the story, the discussion turns to “the incentive to narrow the curriculum” where Literacy and Numeracy are focused on at the expense of other curriculum areas. Although the principals interviewed for the story all denied that other curriculum areas were being marginalised, research suggests otherwise. It shows there is less time being spent on topic work and much more time being spent on assessment activities. Also, opportunities to integrate literacy and numeracy into the meaningful contexts of science, technology, the arts or social sciences are not being used to their full extent.
Other forms of ‘narrowing’ are also being seen in schools where teachers’ time and emphasis is being spent on the students who are just below the National Standard as it is perceived that they will be more likely to achieve the National Standard with the extra focus. In turn, because of the extra resources being poured into these target students, enrichment programmes for gifted and talented students are “taking a back seat”.
We have seen schools using Discovery Time to ensure that the focus in classrooms is not purely on literacy and numeracy and that curriculum areas such as the arts, the sciences, technology and of course the key competencies are not being left out. The photos from Wainuiomata school below demonstrate beautifully the integration of literacy into one of their Discovery Time activities. The students were creating their own fruit kebabs and were very enthusiastic about writing out their lists of ingredients before getting started!
We’d love to hear about how Discovery Time is keeping all the curriculum areas alive in your classrooms. Please get in touch if you have stories to share.
On a recent visit to Wainuiomata Primary school we saw some fantastic Discovery Time in action! These students were getting their hands dirty dismantling a lawn mower. What an engaging way to learn how to use tools and to see what might make a machine like this work. There was also some creative problem solving going on when they discovered that the nuts and bolts were very tight!
Page Break are about to launch their latest picture book, Watch Out Snail! We’d love to see you at the launch.
You can take a look at the invitation details by clicking here.
Some teachers have been asking for Discovery Time inspiration for senior students. Over the next few weeks we will be posting some great creative ideas in this area. One topic we have seen work really well at getting older children engaged is ‘Animation’.
There are many angles you can take with this one, from computer animation using programmes such as Kidpix, Keynote or Powerpoint, to stop motion using plasticine or even materials as simple as paper and cardboard. There is even Sand Animation! The whole topic of animation lends itself to all the students in your class finding areas that get them excited. Some may like to storyboard the narrative, some may like the technical side, some may like making props and scenery and then there are all the added extras such as music sound tracks and directing.
Take a look at this video of some basic stop motion claymations done by Gorham Kids Camp.
Students also can get creative with the materials they use to make the characters and props. Have a look at these mini sculptures made from bottle tops and wire. We can just see this little character taking off on a stop motion adventure on his motorbike!
If you or someone at your school has some ideas to share on the topic of Discovery Time for senior students we’d love to hear from you.
Take a look at this article on Our Big Box, a book written by Gemma, age 7, about her and her brother’s adventures with a large cardboard box. It got us thinking about the beauty of using simple resources to spark children’s imaginations.
As teachers doing Discovery Time, we sometimes feel that we need the latest, most expensive equipment to engage our students. In reality, it is often the more open ended, simple resources such as; cardboard boxes, a sandpit, playdough, lego or recycled materials, which allow children to be truly creative. Equipment like this has not been designed for one specific activity and therefore leads to open-ended play and can become whatever the children want it to be.
If you would like more inspiration on using cardboard boxes, take a look at the clip Caine’s Arcade.
It is amazing what simple cardboard boxes have led to for Gemma and Caine. The possibilities are endless!
If you are doing Discovery Time then have a look at Helicopter Parents on TV One Sunday programme.
In our Discovery Time workshops we ask teachers what level of risk is acceptable in their classroom or school. Will they allow children to use knives, hot glue guns or real carpentry tools. Time and again we are surprised at the response. A few teachers are game, but the majority limit activities that are perceived as risky! Urban schools seem to be more risk averse than rural schools – interesting!
New Zealanders have a reputation for being innovative and creative but if we limit children’s opportunity to try things out and experiment, we are likely to lose this important quality. Should parents and teachers be showing children how to assess risk, act responsibly and learn from mistakes? Is this an important part of developing confident, capable and resilient young people who can cope with whatever life throws at them?
The above programme explores the possible effect that overprotection can have on children’s well being. Have a look at it, listen to what Celia Lashlie has to say and make up your own mind.
You might also like to read Cotton-wool kids in the Daily Mail.
We had a meeting with two people from the Ministry last week who were working on an Oral Language initiative and it made us realise that they had no idea of how many of you are running Discovery Time programmes. So thought we’d better put something together. Hopefully it will also help you to connect with other schools in your area, maybe even get you started on a local Discovery Time community of practice (COP).
So if your school is doing Discovery Time and would like to be added to the directory please let us know – either a comment below or an email to email@example.com
I’ve had someone in Nelson asking if they could get in touch with anyone who has based their whole classroom programme on Discovery Time… that is, they are doing DT all day?
We’d love to hear from you. please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks Brenda
Isn’t this the most fabulous playground for creative play!
Headline in the Weekend Herald on June 1st read:
“Bullrush and other potentially bruising activities are returning to play as research points to the long term benefits of scraped knees and the odd broken bone.”
We frequently ask children to take risks with their learning – have a go at spelling a word or conquer their fear when making a speech to the class, but we pull back from allowing challenge that might result in scrapes and bruises.
Unless we give children the opportunity to take reasonable, supervised risks as youngsters they may not recognise the difference between responsible and irresponsible risks as teenagers and adults.
Remove some of the cotton wool from around your students at Discovery Time. Let them use real saws, drills, hot glue guns, knives, staplers, hot cooking pans, skateboards, trolleys… But also teach them how to use them safely and minimise the risks.
Last year I visited Suzhou in China – a city just west of Shanghai. Whilst there I did a workshop at Dulwich International School.
I got an update from them this week…
Since you visited us, we have been able to re-write our timetable to allow a full hour and a half session for Discovery Time every fortnight. Teachers are coming up with some brilliant ideas and it has proved to be many teacher’s (and more importantly the children’s) favorite time of the week.
Hope you have all found pinterest it’s a great source of ideas for Discovery Time activities.
To get started have a look at the basics
I have set up a Discovery Time Ideas board to collect ideas that appeal to me.
Give it a go and let us know how you get on
Set up your own board and let us know, then we can follow you too.
‘Nature Inspiring Creativity’
I came across this DVD at the wonderful Nelson Art Market – but it is also sold on line at www.oursdvd.co.nz It “aims to promote right-brain thinking – creativity, intuition, imagination. Vital skills for young minds”
It has 8 themed chapters that explore: line, contrast, camouflage, 3D, reflection, colour, shape and texture.
Each chapter has the most gorgeous close up photos and videos of NZ flora & fauna, that illustrate the theme of the chapter and provide inspiration for a creative response from children. It then follows this up with children doing a range of art activities around the theme.
What I really like about it is that the activities are not prescribed. They are merely suggestions of what children might do if they are free to explore ideas and create. Perfect for our Discovery Time philosophy of teachers setting the scene but students deciding on the action.
Previews are available on their website so have a look and see.
Holiday reading maybe?
I thought some of you might be interested in this newsletter from Early Life Foundation in Australia.
It talks about resiliency and ways to build it in children.
Have a look at it over the holidays when you have a bit of time!!!!
“It worries me that my daughter, who will be three in a few months, and who engages in imaginative play at the drop of a hat, could lose that important quality, and partly because of the design and structure of our educational system. I want her to be a truly innovative leader who thinks critically and isn’t afraid to imagine. I believe we want that for each and every student we encounter. We can’t afford to experience a further “creativity crisis,” and it should never be a problem for students to play”
Ende makes 3 suggestions for educators to help students become reacquainted with play, creativity and innovation.
1. Provide time to be one with the world – too much education takes place indoors.
2. Promote percolation. Instead of letting a class end with a bell, build in 5 mins for students to reflect. For many students,reflection doesn’t just happen, and strategies (such as creating a “Questions I have…” chart, or an “If it were up to me…” learning progression statement) should be incorporated to help students begin to become more active thinkers)
3. Push for unstructured “play”
He cites work by Kelley, David and Tom Kelley. (2012). Reclaim Your Creative Confidence. Harvard Business Review. 90 (12), 115 – 118. that might also be worth looking at.creativity, Play, thinking
This is an amazing piece of equipment on show at the RTLB conference.
It encourages imagination, creativity, lateral and logical thinking, experimentation
concentration, individual or team work and is suitable for all ages.
Whew! It’s a marble track like no other! Check it out.
From the Think Farm – Live Learn Love Play
Dr. Ken Ginsburg, pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, and Dr. Marilyn Benoit, Chief Clinical Officer at Devereux Behavioral Health and former president of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, address critical issues facing children and families today – rising levels of stress and anxiety, obesity-related health problems, dramatically reduced time for free play and play outdoors, hectic and overscheduled family life – and offer solutions to addressing these problems.
Produced in collaboration with the Alliance for Childhood and KaBOOM!
Director General of CIMO (Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation) in Helsinki, Finland, and expert in educational reforms, training teachers, coaching schools and advising policy-makers, Pas Sahlberg visits New Zealand to speak at the annual meetings of the NZEI and PPTA.
Listen to this Radio New Zealand Saturday morning programme interview with Kim Hill on 6-10-12.
Check out this link from Gay:
A new occasional column from Pam Englert
Michael Angelo did not reveal ‘David Victorious’: he gave us David determined to try. Haven’t we all seen that look before? It’s that moment of risk; when the baby abandons the ground for the first toddle, or the swimmer lets go of the rail. It’s the start of our brave learning voyage, when we move away from the thing we know and towards the thing that we don’t. But are our child-centred parents holding our children back? Is this kind of caring really a kind of neglect? Glenda Cooper was shocked to encounter a mother with a baby in a sling, who was wearing a safety helmet. She reports on new research that shows we need to let children take more risks and get out of the way while they do it.
Quoting American psychologist Dr. Madeline Levine, Cooper talks of ‘underparenting’ as the best way to raise confident, healthy kids. Dr. Amanda Gummer (a psychologist with a play and development focus) also agrees. Furthermore, they believe that our drug-taking and drink-driving teens are the result of ‘helicopter’ and ‘lawnmower’ parents who stifle the David moment; leaving their kids weak, vulnerable and prone to emotional problems.
There are lists of important tasks that they need to learn for themselves: putting dishes away, stacking the dishwasher, washing clothes, cleaning a bathroom. The report also gives good reasons for adventurous, outside play opportunities, without an adult standing guard. Some of the most interesting suggestions were from author Claire Potter who sets her family challenges. How cool would a 13 year old feel with these chores to do by himself on a Saturday afternoon?
Or for younger ones:
If you read this interesting article, you’ll be sorely tempted to read the source books as well.
Learning is a risky business. Underparenting may well be the best way to manage it.
You might have heard of Nature Schools or Forest Schools that originated in Scandinavia in the 1960’s.
I just came across this article about a preschool in New Hampshire. Interesting philosophical parallels with Discovery Time.
Children spend their day outside – regardless of the weather. “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing!” Don’t you just love that concept! Children are in control of their day and teachers observe and watch for the moment when they can assist, offer information or help them take the next step, always following the children’s lead. Research has shown that this approach meets the emotional, social and physical need and that academic learning is enhanced. Have a look at the article and remember that when they talk of pre-school this will be up to age six. New Zealand is one of the few countries where children start school at five so much of what they are saying is very relevant to our school age children.
“The teachers are there to facilitate what’s going on,” Mammarelli said. “If children are curious and want to turn over a log — I mean, that’s kind of a typical thing to happen, but it’s really exciting when you’re 3. We lift up the log, and we look at what’s underneath it, and we talk about carefully putting the log back. They collect worms. They will touch everything. Sometimes they catch things in plastic containers and we study it.”
But always, the activities are kid-generated.
Lucknow School in Havelock North has a wonderful nature area that they have developed behind their junior classes. On our visit I remember one little boy who spent most of the session poking a stick down a hole trying to find the insect he was sure was down there somewhere. And the group of three who were up a tree with a log of wood and a piece of rope busy making a rat trap as they were sure that with all the bushes there would be a rat and if they dropped the log they could catch it! Great stuff!
We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. – Irish Literary Critic, 1856-1950, George Bernard Shaw
How many times have you heard this quote, and said to yourself……..how true! We all know the power of play, but do we actually take time to do it?
You see the importance of play in your own children young and old, as well as the children you teach every day. Play is rejuvenating, energizing and a way to help balance your mind, heart and soul. Adult play can be anything you want, as long as it’s enjoyable and fun, and takes your mind off the routine “adult life” we all live.
Have you “played” lately? If not, it’s time to build that play into your schedule. Play has a powerful positive impact on our lives. Go out and PLAY. Do something Positive, Laughable, Actionable and Youthful. You’ll be a happier person if you do.
We are very excited with our new look image!
Hope you are enjoying the new look. Let us know what you think.
It is hard to believe that we are now into the second half of the year. We hope all is going well for you.
If you have a spare 10 minutes do a Google search if Discovery Time NZ images. It’s great to see what’s going on around NZ. Send us some of your ‘magic moments.’
If you are interested in education in New Zealand then don’t miss this interview with John Hattie on National Radio’s ‘Nine to Noon’
John is a leading educational expert, now at the University of Melbourne, and is the author of Visible Learning (2009) & Visible Learning for Teachers (2011). His research examined over 800 meta-analyses from across the world over a 15 year period. He looked at classroom practices that had significant effect on student outcomes.
Take the time to listen (less than 10 minutes). It puts the current educational issues in New Zealand into a context that make sense.
Winter is the time for lemons to ripen. If you are lucky your trees will be covered in juicy lemons.It’s really easy and fun for children to make their own lemonade. There are heaps of different lemon squeezers to explore.
How about then setting up a cafe…….or a little stall…….or freezing lemon ice blocks.
I hope you all know how to make invisible writing appear!!!!!