Published Reviews of the Discovery Time book and the programme
Play full of learning
Play and discovery are valued and fostered at Porirua East School
“Once a week, children put down pencils and schoolbooks and have some good wholesome and educational fun at Porirua East School.
They’ll choose from a wide range of hands on learning activities like cooking, inventing new games or making music. All the while, they are encouraged by teachers to make decisions, work things out together and explore through play.
It’s all part of a programme called Discovery Time which has run at the school since 2002.”
Discovery Time – Meeting the Needs of a New Generation of Learners
Gay Hay & Brenda Martin
Reading Forum N.Z. Vol. 24, No. 3 2009
“Discovery Time allows a different approach to teaching and learning. It provides a meaningful context for developing key competencies and puts the student firmly in control of their own learning.”
An Evaluation of the Discovery Time Programme
Rebecca Fisher & Brenda Martin
Kairaranga Vol. 7, Issue 2, 2006
This article describes the Discovery Time programme, a largely child-directed developmental programme, and discusses it in relation to the sociocultural approach to learning. It considers the effects of the programme on children’s oral language and cooperative social skills in a Year 1 classroom. Survey information gathered by the teacher indicated that the language and social skills of the children increased over a 10 week period. The review of the Discovery Time programme also considered information through interviews with key participants, observations of the programme in action and review of the child participants’ stories and pictures. This additional information indicated that discovery time provided a positive learning environment and enjoyable experiences for the children, teacher and school community. The article concludes with suggestions for further developments of the programme within the school.
An Exploration of Teaching and Learning Through Discovery Time
Gay Hay & Brenda Martin
New Zealand Principal Vol. 20, No. 2 2005
“We need to balance the holistic needs of the child with the current outcome and assessment focus of today’s education. Discovery Time is one way of doing this and the teachers at Porirua East School believe that it not only enriches their teaching programmes but also adds that all important element, fun.” p6
May, Helen (2011) I am five and I go to school: Early Years Schooling in New Zealand, 1900-2010
Otago University Press
“The early work on implementing the revised curriculum and the key competencies excited many teachers. In 2008, the Ministry’s own Education Gazette ran an article showcasing ‘play full learning’, ‘education through play’ and ‘young explorers’ at Porirua East School and Lucknow School. Periods of play, discovery and creative activities were being timetabled into some junior school programmes. Interestingly, and ironically, the programmes were based on a New Zealand ‘package’ called Discovery Time, designed and developed by two teachers Gay Hay and Brenda Martin, to support the key competencies through activity-based child-directed learning. The discovery time programme, they claim, had its origins in the ‘developmental or choosing time of the 1970s [but] has added structure, so teachers can guide children through learning experiences.’ The Principal at Porirua East School, Irene Unasa, whose school has introduced the programme, said, “We’ve forgotten how children learn through play.’ This comment and development is a more optimistic initiative with which to conclude this book. Other schools have set up similar programmes, sometimes called ‘fun Friday’. It is hoped that this re-discovery of the ‘work of play’ will have many versions and, more particularly, that it is not undermined by the demands of national standards” p284
Book Review: Discovery Time
“Discovery Time is a most valuable book written by two New Zealand educators Brenda Martin and Gay Hay. To acquire this book visit their website. Discovery Time, an activity based programme held once a week, provides an exciting environment in which to strengthen the key competencies and bring fun into children’s learning.
I have visited a number of schools that have introduced ‘Discovery Time’ but until now have not taken the time to discover what it was all about. All I knew was that the teachers in the schools involved were highly enthusiastic.
Last week, by chance, I became more informed about Discovery time and now have no hesitation in providing my wholehearted support. I was presenting creative teaching and learning ideas at a school in Lower Hutt where one of the authors, Brenda, a Resource Teacher Learning and Behaviour ( RTLB), was attached. The principal assured me that we would have much in common.
At the conclusion of my session the ‘author’ and I had a discussion during which I was given copy of their book.
Discovery Time was introduced to create a balance between the skills and knowledge demands of curriculum and the activity-based, student-directed focus that many teachers believe in.
One one hand, the authors write, there is large body of research that indicates young children learn best through developmentally appropriate, experience-based student-directed learning, whilst on the other hand there is a demand for measurable, outcome focused, highly structured and teacher directed programmes.
The authors believe that we have tipped too far towards the outcome focused assessment model at the expense of a more holistic experiential learning; that we have become so focused on academic learning that we have neglected important social and emotional needs.
As a result play ( ‘the natural way children go about the business of learning’) is being neglected and as ‘children don’t get a chance to test ideas, explore and experiment because they are always meeting imposed adult expectations.
As a result young children are not as resilient as they no longer have the time nor the opportunity to try things out, make mistakes, fall flat on their faces and then pick themselves up.
World wide, the authors report, that the emphasis on improving test scores has neglected creativity and innovation. In order to foster creativity children need to be actively involved in wide-ranging experiential learning and able to participate in learning of their own choosing.
In order to redress some of these concerns new curriculum have introduced ‘key competencies’, ‘the things all people need to know and be able to do in order to live meaningfully in, and contribute in , and contribute to, a well functioning society’.
Discovery Time was written in response to this need and is a programme that provides an activity-based student directed environment where students have the to opportunity to explore and develop ‘key competencies’.
The authors write that, while their programme is loosely based on ‘Developmental’ or ‘Choosing Time’ a strong features of New Zealand junior school classrooms of the 70s and 80s, it provides a greater facilitative role for teachers; a greater emphasis on quality feedback and teacher interaction.
I particularly liked the structure the authors provide for the ninety minute discovery time. The teacher begins by introducing the focus for the day which may target a specific aspect of the key competencies as well as the content involved.
The children then select and participate in the activities during which teachers provide feedback, ask questions and generally encourage students to take learning risks and to expand their thinking.
At the end of the session the class comes together in a ‘wrap up’ session to share and reflect on what they have learnt.
The implications of each key competencies are clearly explained which I am sure teachers will find valuable.
Teachers are also provided with a planning format which covers the three steps outlined above to assist them make the best use of discovery time. Teachers will also find the assessment suggestions useful along with the extensive lists of possibilities to include in discovery time. Detailed examples of planned units are provided to give even greater guidance.
The theme of the book is that the possibilities are endless.”