Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A walk around my bush track

It is such a nice day I thought I would share pics from my bush walk.
The beginning of the walk.
On left crown  and hen and chicken fern.
On right hostas getting ready to burst into leaf above them a native  techomanthe vine


The first boardwalk over a very swampy section.

I have a collection of ferns on the right.

Before the boardwalks it was all but impossible to get around the section.


The second boardwalk.

A small creek seeps under the boardwalk.




The track works it way along a steep bank which has two very old puriri and a group of mangeo.The big tree in view is a tawa - other big trees are pukatea

The track slopes down the hill to the biggest bridge across the stream.


The fern at the bottom is a king fern, parapara, or horseshoe fern which is common in my bush. In native bush eaten out by wild pigs

The bridge turned out to be too low and turned into a dam during a major flood - problem solved by clearing up the stream improving flow.



View from bridge looking at track along valley floor.


Crown ferns, nikau and astelia  established along track.


Once regularly flooded this problem, as mentioned, has been solved( more or less). Main bigger trees are pukatea.


Looking back up valley to beginning of walk.


Pink/purple tree a toon.

Beneath the toon cream large leaved rhododendron and a smaller red flowered variety.






Second bridge across stream.

Over the years I have lowered the stream to control flooding.



A wild kiwifriut vine climbs up and over a pukatea tree .


The vine provides food for the wood pigeon or keruru.





A weir lets water escape from the neighbours lake.




The lake.

Waterlilies.

Ducks.

Pukekos

And eels





Small dam diverts water into the lake.





The track winds under a deck and through a group of Kauri trees.







On the property there are five or so kauri trees planted in the late 40s.






The last walkway to be developed which takes us across once impenetrable swamp of paritaniwha.







This walkway provides great views of the swamp and big pukatea and rimu trees on right.














The track then climbs back up the hill past kauri, kowhai, nikau, rimu, tanekaka,  silver fern and king fern.








A collection of old milk barrels and artifacts marks the end of the track.





The end/entrance to the track.






An earlier photographic walk.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Educational Readings -Sitting Bull/ creativity/ and 'Modern' Learning Environments?



By Allan Alach


I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allan.alach@ihug.co.nz.

This weeks homework!

William Mathis on "Economics, Education and Sitting Bull"
Facing the extinction of Sioux culture, Sitting Bull realized that their hope their only hope was in the life they made for their children. Confronted by this reality, he saw that education was
something far more than the narrow teaching of a set of test-based, academic skills. Education must impart the knowledge of the ways of the society, of fruitful interactions, of sustaining and nurturing cultural beliefs and rituals, of language and of the economic order, if you will, of a group of independent but related nomadic tribes. (And when the Anglo forces won, they established Indian schools to stamp out this culture).

Fostering Creativity In The Learning Process
As educators, when it comes to creativity in the classroom, there are 2 things we can do. We can take the path of least resistance and take creativity out of the learning process. Or we can create an environment that fosters creativity in learning and allow kids to explore their talents.

Franz Kafka and the Metamorphosis of Teacher Evaluations
One morning, when Mr. K woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his
classroom into a horrible insect. He lay on his segmented brown belly propped against his teachers desk. He had fallen asleep trying to grade English papers again. His armor-like back ached and wiry thin antennae kept bobbing into view like stray hairs. If he lifted his head a little, he could see his many tiny legs waving about helplessly each holding a pen or pencil.
 “Whats happened to me?he thought.

Engaging students in learning, not just schooling
In any given lesson or class, some students are engaged in their own learning process because they are inherently interested in the topic.  Other students may just be attending to get it over with. These are the students we are losing, because they are only engaging in their schooling, not in their personal learning. But, how to help these students to engage in their own learning?

By Jo Nocera
Imagining Successful Schools
The main thing that works is treating teaching as a profession, and teachers as professionals. That means that teachers are as well paid as other professionals, that they have a career ladder, that they go to elite schools where they learn their craft, and that they are among the top quartile of college graduates instead of the bottom quartile.

Do girls learn differently?
Neuroscientist Lise Eliot has argued persuasively that, while small inherent differences in aptitude between males and females do exist (even as infants, for example, boys seem to have an edge in spatial cognition), society takes these small differences and makes them much biggerby supporting boys in math and science, and by discouraging girls who study these subjects.

The wasteful fraud of sorting for youth meritocracy
What if we celebrated the students who regularly try the hardest, help each other the most and lead? What if we fast tracked those students, and made it clear to anyone else willing to adopt those attitudes that they could be celebrated too? What if you got cast, tracked or made the cut because you were resilient, hard working and willing to set yourself up for a cycle of continuous improvement? Isn't that more important than rewarding the kid who never passes but still scores a lot of goals?

Pseudoscience has nested in schools
When Nick Rose worked as a parapsychologist, his job was to investigate why people believed they had been haunted by ghosts or abducted by aliens. When he became a teacher, he expected that all this would be replaced by hard facts and a rigorous curriculum but teaching is rifewith myths and pseudoscience, he believes.
At a major conference on the use of research in education, Mr Rose said schools had very little immunity to nonsense and urged teachers to have the confidence to ask impertinent questions about approaches that had no scientific basis.


This weeks contributions from

How iPads, mobility and a pedagogical mind shift can transform learning.
Bruces comment: A creative NZ teacher shares ideas about using technology in her MLE classroom.

Heres a series of links about modern learning environments.

Bruces comment: Modern Learning Environments are the in thingbut most of the material seems to relate to architectural and resource features but the link below does provide how pedagogy and modern learning spaces interact. For those with very long memories such  ‘open plan modern learning environments were all the rage in the 70s in the UK, the US and New Zealand. Take a quick look at the link below but get down to the real school examples from Australia, the US and the UK at the end. The proof of course can only be judged by the quality of the students' in depth thinking across the Learning Areas to be successful they ought to reflect the things you would see  at Science, Technology and Maths  fairs or Creative Arts performances.

Linking Pedagogy and Space.

New Zealand examples are Pegasus Bay School

and Hobsonville primary and secondary schools.

Modern Learning Environments.
MLE 1968 !
Bruces comment:I find it hard to accept that the ideas expressed about Modern Learning Environmentsare modern or new but I like the questions on page 5 in the link below. Principals of such schools would be well advised to search out Living and Learning’  book published by the Ontario Department of Education 1968! This 220 page book covers school design and pedagogy to a greater detail than is currently available.

Why Classroom Wall Displays Matter
Bruces comment: Someone I totally agree with ! A MLE teacher in a Singapore School. MLEs should produce powerful displays of in depth learning.
In the 21st century we are all very focussed on utilising digital technologies with our students as a tool to support learning. Dont get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for technology in the classroom, and this article is not an anti-technology battle post. One of the thing that I have found recently when I have been in amazing digital schools is that often classroom wall displays are lacking, I found myself asking why .

Classroom Display Inspiration
Bruces comment about this Pinterest site: Maybe there are a few ideas below  to inspire displays of student thinking?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kowhais too good to miss! - a mini integrated unit



Artist : Graeme Hammonds Kumeu Auck

This is just a reminder for New Zealand teachers to ensure their students develop an awareness and understanding of the kowhai which is in full flower at present -although there seems a lots of individuality variety regarding flowering of kowhai.

Examine, count and name parts
What do students know about the kowhai? Are they able to identify a kowahi?

Visit a kowhai tree. While there students could record ideas to develop into a three line poem ( a simple version of a haiku). What are their thoughts about the flowers? the trunks and branches, and finally the petals lying on the ground.

If teachers pick a few flowers students, back in class, can be encouraged to complete observational drawings of a flower
. From this questions might emerge for students to research. Teach the 'secret' to drawing is to look carefully , then draw,and continue doping this until finished.
Measure growth of young pod

For science (and maths) carefully pull a flower apart to count how many petals their are. Help the students recognise the stamens ( the male part of the flower) and the stamen ( or female part -which grows into the pod). What are proper names for parts of a flower?

What is the scientific name for Kowhai? Why do plants have scientific names?
What other plants are in the same family ( think of plants with similar flowers which grow into pods)

Research Tuis
What native bird is often found in the kowahi? What are they doing?

Answers to their research, there drawings and diagrams of the flower, could be developed into a research chart or displayed as part of a wall display.

Pick a 100 pods. What the seed average?
For maths, other than recording the number of petals and stamens, tie a piece of wool to a flower that has shed all its petals and then record the growth of the pod. Students will be surprised at the speed of the growth of the pod.

If there are last season's pods to be gathered collect them and group then into tens and get group to count the number of seeds in pod ( percentages)

Soak plants in water and try to grow some seedling kowhais.

Whitebait Season in New Zealand - a great mini study!




A creative teacher should be aways on the alert for interesting things to introduce to his or her class. What do your students know about whitebait?


The whitebait season is with us once again.

I wonder how many children in your class have tasted whitebait fritters or better still been out catching them? Do they know anybody that catches whitebait?

What do your children know about whitebait?

Whitebait made front page news in our local paper last week! The article  stated that 'they are a small fish in trouble. But that is nothing new.Their gradual demise has been well documented since 1840 when shoals were as long as a rugby field were a common site. Back then whitebait were weighed in tons; the next century it could be measured in kerosene tins, then pounds and now, more than ever, in cups.'


It would be great if you could acquire a few whitebait to keep in the class aquarium to study.If not access pictures of whitebait from the Internet of from reference books and make use of for research.

Whitebait make an interesting 'mini study'. Such a study could be part of the literacy programme and an opportunity to introduce research reading and writing to the class. A small research booklet could result and include observational drawing and diagrams.

First ask your students what they know about whitebait ( their 'prior ideas') and from this what questions about whitebait they can think of to research. Teachers could interact with their students to add question children might not think of - or wait because as the study progresses ( and students read up on whitebait) further questions will emerge.

Some questions might be:

Why do they have seasons ( introducing the idea of sustainability)? The season , in most of New Zealand, runs from  August 15th to  November 30th.

What are whitebait? Children will discover there are several native species that collectively are called whitebait. There are five main species of whitebait. They are called kokopu  or inanga. The scientific name  for the species is Galaxidae named after the Milky Way because they are caught their eyes, with their translucent bodies, look like dazzling stars

What is the life cycle of whitebait? Whitebait travel up rivers in Spring, spend the summer up river growing to several centimeters long - called kokopu at this stage. Kokupu then travel downstream to lay their eggs in wetland near the sea.The eggs are washed out to sea - returning in the Spring as whitebait.

How do you catch them?
How do you cook them?

Some interesting maths could be developed around the cost of whitebait? How much do they cost each. Maybe the teacher could buy 200 grams so as to estimate how many in a kilogram!
The price this year is $140 a kilo. Some are being sold @ $35 for 250 grams!

Adult whitebait - inaunga
Whitebait bring up the issue of conservation. What might be done to protect whitebait species?


Art work @ 11c a whitebait!
Their answers to their questions could be drafted out and good copies placed in their study books or a small display could be mounted on the classroom wall.

In earlier days teachers would have called this a single animal study.There are possibly articles in school journals for students to refer to? Schools could contact the Conservation Department for information

Friday, September 19, 2014

Educational Readings - music/autism/ PE/Finland/ making and creating



By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allan.alach@ihug.co.nz.

This weeks homework!

Study: Music Education Could Help Close The Achievement Gap Between Poor And Affluent Students
Why does this only help poor students? I suggest that all children benefit from music education. The poverty problem needs be solved by reducing inequality. Anything else is a cop out.
These findings are a testament that its a mistake to think of music education as a quick fix, but that if its an ongoing part of childrens education, making music can have a profound and lifelong impact on listening and learning.

Look at Life Through Autistic Eyes
For their senior film at the Ringling College of Art and Design, Marisabel Fernandez and Alexander Bernard created an animated simulation of life through the eyes of a non-verbal child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and her constant struggle to cope with the world around her,as they write in their artist statement.
Link to video included in this article.

Ray Bradbury on How List-Making Can Boost Your Creativity
Heres something to incorporate into classroom written language.
How to feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.

5 reasons why we need physical activity in schools
So, in closing, let's increase opportunities for our students when it comes to physical activity. When we add physical activity to our overall instructional programming rather than cutting it, we might just get the results we are looking for…”

The Myth of Monotasking
This is a timely counter to GERMers spin to justify standardisation.
“… I hope, helps lower anxiety about how well we are or are not doing against some mythical standard of sustained, focused attention.  Bottom line:  the mind wanders a lot because the mind's task is to wander.

Teacher: Finnish schools let down two-thirds of kids
Heres a provocative article!
A provocative new book by teacher Maarit Korhonen calls for urgent action in Finlands classrooms to stop children being marginalised by what she sees as outdated and uninspiring teaching. The outspoken Korhonen says Finlands high scores in the PISA international rankings have spread complacency among the educational establishment.

An End to the "Close Your Door and Do Your Own Thing" Era
More than ever before, we need to work together to better ourselves and our profession. In this age of high stakes testing, the need to prepare students to be college and career ready, and with a changing teacher evaluation system we need to support one another. Our success and our students achievement are directly tied to our commitment to learn from, with, and on behalf of one another.


This weeks contributions from

The Lowdown on Longhand: How Writing by Hand Benefits the Brain
Bruces comment: This sounds mighty old fashioned in this era of digital communication but the act of penmanship has a positive effect on learning. Just as the act of conservational drawing has more positive learning effects than using a digital camera. Both give the brain the time to absorb
ideas, to consider alternatives, pose questions some of us older teachers ( retired) used to believe in the importance of slowing the pace - doing fewer things well to develop a more reflective mind-set ( and also allowing time for the teacher to come alongside the learner to assist and/or challenge). Students who rush to finish ( assisted by fast moving digital technology) miss out on thoughtful learning.
So in this age of technology, I'm suggesting that students take notes with paper and pen. It's a crazy idea, but hear me out.

How the Maker Movement Is Moving into Classrooms
The Maker movement is a unique combination of artistry, circuitry, and old-fashioned craftsmanship. Certainly, learning by doing or "making" has been happening since our ancestors refined the wheel.


The Student Side of Making
What do a jacket, a set of paintings, a wood sculpture, and a series of photos have to do with a student's success in life? Maybe everything.That's because making these pieces requires skills for modern learners -- namely, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and persistence.


Mastering the Teaching Game
Bruces comment: These eight ideas by Carol Tomlinson  synthesize what four decades in classrooms have taught her are the most important principles for teachers to understand
There are several paraphrased points that I hope will resonate with other educators as affirmations, challenges, or both. These eight ideas synthesize what four decades in classrooms have taught me are the most important principles for teachers to understand.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Zealand Elections :More of the same - or a turning point to a fairer more sustainable world?


Some pre -election ramblings!

( Adding to my earlier blog on the elections)


Market Forces is a failed concept, the rich have got richer the poor poorer.

NZ at a crossroads.
 It's the voice of private enterprise ( in reality international corporations)  rather than the needs of people that are now listened to. A majority of people still cling to the belief that John Key's government will save then. It seems you can, contrary to the saying, 'fool most of the people all the time'!

We are like the story of the rabbits sailing out in the ocean in a boat made from a carrot selfishly busy eating their own boat without time to think of an alternative. Or, like  the Easter Islanders, so busy chopping down their trees to build their monuments  to notice their forest had gone.  Today some call this 'vulture capitalism' ;  capitalism based on growth to solve all problems without any real appreciation of the effect such growth has on the sustainability of the environment. The issue of climate change , in such an environment, is in the too hard basket. As one environmentalist has written 'we are eating our future!'

The phrase 'market forces' and a trickle down economy are no longer being mentioned by National Politicians except for their allies  the ACT party. The public  it seems just want to believe in the assurances of John Key -  personality politics.

Whale Oil
 In earlier times Margaret Thatcher used to say 'there is no alternative (TINA) but this is no longer the case. Between them the Labour and Green parties provide a real sustainable alternative but sadly they have not gained the imagination of the voters  - particularly Labour.

Opposition parties, with the exception of Internet/MANA,  have  chosen not to attack the failure of  the market forces ideology and  instead  have focused on providing positive  alternatives. In contrast the National Party have had no such qualms in attacking their opposition and have  unashamedly made use of right wing 'attack blogs' - the worst being Cameron Slater and his destructive Whale Oil blog. I am not not sure that this reluctance to attack the premise of market forces has been a good move.

This would've been a more honest hoarding!

Inequality, which ought to have been one of the most important issues, created by thirty years of market forces, has not been faced up to. National's answer is to rely on growth with no mention of the 'trickle down' metaphor!. The trouble is  we are not creating enough jobs; too many jobs are poorly paid ;many families have to survive by both parents working; and there is now a group of citizens now classified as the working poor. As well the majority of workers have not received a  recent pay rise while at the same time the wealthy were given tax cuts.. We have become a self interested me first society; greed above need.

Read what Nigel Latta and Max Rashbrooke have to say about inequality in New Zealand

The excluded are still waiting in NZ.


Right wing governments world- wide continue to follow a neo -liberal market forces ideology based on:  less government ( and as a result less protection for citizens); less  regulations ( particularly for the financial sector); and individual choice ( for those with the power to use it)   . The real winners of this ideology have the international corporations, the financial sector and  wealthy individuals  all who avoid  paying their  fair share of tax and make full use of tax havens.


Consider the implications of the TPP

The time has come for a new political ideology to replace the market forces.


Live like it's 1929!!
 Looking back over history it seems political movements have a viable life of three or four decades. If National return it will be putting off the inevitable need for change if we ever  are to face up to problems of inequality, sustainability of resources and the challenges of climate change.We now , in so many respects , are in a similar position to the world in 1929 which led to the great depression.. Following the  share market crash ( and later the destruction of World War 2) Western countries developed social welfare policies - the welfare sates of the UK and NZ and the 'New Deal' of President Roosevelt.Such programmes delivered great prosperity and equality in contrast to out current 'me first' dog eat dog society.

 We need such 'new deal' again - a 'green new deal'. 

Market Forces - ever see a dog share a bone!!

Market forces has run its course - re-electing National is only delaying the inevitable.



The world we live in.



It certainly didn't come about in the US.

 Sir Geoffrey Palmer , reflecting on the problems resulting from alcohol has written ,'the  companies that operate in this industry are big multinationals whose tentacles stretch into every country. There is absolutely no doubt at all to stand up to them requires some intestinal fortitude.'

Something National is not prepared to do!


Some people are easily fooled.

A design fault in current thinking!
Right wing governments decry the 'nanny state' believing private enterprise is preferable - which it is for the powerful. In its place they have introduced the surveillance culture of 'big brother knows best'.

Privatisation and financial deregulation has passed  the power over to multi-national corporations as we have seen in the reluctance of our government to challenge those who control alcohol - and this can only get worse. The so called 'hidden hand of the market'  , which has dominated for thirty years, has worked in favour of the rich and  the world wide corporations while deepening the  corrosive qualities of inequality and poverty worldwide. As a result of privatization public assets have been sold and many public services have been contracted out to private providers - even in such important fields as education and prisons - profit making trumps service.

Only a strong nation state can ensure corporation are kept in their place - and ensure democratic  rights of all citizens are protected.


The state, contrary to popular belief fed by right wing politicians, is a vital safeguard or the peoples interests and are crucial to stand up to corporation pressures. The belief that markets can work for the common good of all is simply not true. Successful  Nordic and  Asian countries ( including China) retain a strong role for the state. Only a strong  democratic state can ensure all its people are looked after. A strong state can introduce good regulations to protect its citizens and also ensure all its citizens, through education and training, can contribute to ensue the protection of common good for all.

Modern societies need to be inclusive , adaptable, inventive, well informed and creative.

The future requires the political will to realize such a society and to create an inspiring future vision that will capture the imagination of all people. After several decades of 'there is no alternative' we now have a chance to regain a sense of shared optimism that will create a better world than we currently have.

'Vulture capitalism's' gift!


Our generation needs to make such a transformation - to place the common good above self interest - to leave a world worth inheriting There is a better society to be won. A society based on the principles of decent work, an
environmentally sustainable environment, and an economy that places the needs of all people as central.

That many people in this election fail to see this opportunity, preferring growth as usual; placing self interest above common good; failing to see that the current market model is now the problem, is sad.

I guess we will have to wait and see what the voice of people say this Saturday.