Our students are more than just the kids that we teach. Often they can end up teaching us. Ellie Barclay, a teacher at Newport Gardens Primary School, knows from her own classroom experience.
This is the story of how her students used the Fluencies and rose to a challenge demonstrating the love they have for our great planet and its colourful animal kingdom.
Our students are more than just the kids that we teach. If the situation is right, often they can end up teaching us—something Ellie Barclay, a teacher at Newport Gardens Primary School, knows from her own classroom experience.
Ellie had discovered the Essential Fluencies through the book Literacy is Not Enough. “Lee Crockett’s book inspired me, and I understood the importance of teaching students to become lifelong independent learners,” she says.
Our students are more than just the kids that we teach—often they can end up teaching us.
The students had begun studying animals, their features, and different habitats in Biology. What they didn’t know is they were about to be inspired to rise to a challenge that would truly show the love they have for our magnificent planet and its colourful animal kingdom.
As students were studying animals in class, Ellie recalls the topic of endangered species had been mentioned by them several times. It had become a particular area of concern for many of the kids. It seemed to be the perfect focus for their upcoming unit of inquiry.
“Our students were outraged that these beautiful creatures were endangered—we had a problem, and we had a way to solve the problem, so we decided to implement Solution Fluency,” says Ellie.
An employee from Melbourne Zoo visits the kids as part of their Orange Day project
Their essential question was: What can the Junior Learning Community do to help endangered animals? In their research, students discovered that human behaviour was the primary cause of animal endangerment. One student’s mother, who works at Melbourne Zoo, explained to them how the unsustainable production of palm oil was destroying the habitat of the orang-utan.
Hearing this led students to explore the Melbourne Zoo’s online Zoopermarket. “Our students began refusing to eat specific foods because they contained unsustainably-produced palm oil,” Ellie claims.
As students enthusiastically tackled the issue of endangered species, the Junior Team praised the ideas that kids were visualizing in the Dream and Design phases of Solution Fluency. There were so many terrific concepts that they realized it was best to streamline the process a little.
“We decided we would collaborate to complete a whole-learning community action to raise money and awareness for one animal,” Ellie remembers. “The resounding choice was the orang-utan.”
The students show off projects and masks made for the Orange Day initiative
After sharing posters and live speeches to promote their cause, students created a school-wide campaign they called Orange Day. All the money raised through donations went to supporting the Melbourne Zoo’s Don’t Palm Us Off campaign, where you can ‘adopt’ an endangered animal.
They were incredibly proud of the students’ efforts. “Orange Day was a resounding success, and the support from our school community was moving,” Ellie says. “We were able to support fully Don’t Palm Us Off by adopting an orang-utan for two years.”
Right from the beginning, Ellie's learners were excited about the challenge they faced. As such, they all made plenty of wonderful discoveries together using the Fluencies.
- Students are beginning to take ownership of their learning.
- Facing real-world challenges is something students find empowering.
- They enjoy making a difference and being able to take meaningful action on important issues.
- Students now see higher levels of relevance in their learning.
- Learning is more collaborative and creative with the Fluencies.
It has been heartwarming for Ellie to see her students express compassion for living things and a strong desire to make a positive difference in the world. She finds herself telling everyone about her experiences teaching the Fluencies to her students, as the journey thus far has been so inspiring.
- Teachers have learned to “take a step back” and let the students’ take responsibility for their educational experiences.
- They see the importance of finding connections between the content and the students.
- There is a higher value placed on creativity and collaboration skills.
- Teachers are now facilitators of creative and active learning.
Ultimately any shift of pedagogy and philosophy will have a lasting effect on the whole-school culture. After working with Wabisabi, this is what's happening at Newport Gardens Primary School.
- Teachers and students are supported and encouraged to take risks and have fun learning together.
- With the Fluencies, the mandated curriculum is delivered in a manner that is interesting and relevant to students.
- The inquiry process has become more meaningful and purposeful.
- There are a greater understanding and appreciation of the Essential Fluencies and how to integrate them into teaching and learning practices.