Obesity Fighters

Newport Gardens Primary School

The students of Newport Gardens Primary School are eager to make a positive impact in both their school and their whole community. Theodora McGlade knows this well, and has seen it in her own teaching adventures.

Read about Theodora’s young fitness avengers and their exploits in this inspiring case study.

The Newport Gardens Primary School vision is “Nurturing Our Future.” Those at Newport Gardens Primary School believe a 21st-century approach to education is vital. As such, they strive to develop independent thinkers and creative problem solvers.

Staff were encouraged to explore the Fluencies in their Professional Learning Teams and to discover how they could best suit our school. Obesity Fighters was the first inquiry that my team teaching partner and I explored with the students.

Theodora McGlade

Newport Gardens PS

The students are able to look broadly at their defined problem of practice, seek points of view other than the teacher (which is a significant departure from our previous practice) and are able to question, critique and challenge information to discern its validity, reliability and usability.

Theodora McGlade

Newport Gardens PS

Using Solution Fluency, the default position for the students is one of maturity and equality. The students see the teachers as one source of information or validation of their work, rather than the font of knowledge from which the teacher drip feeds the students at a pace that suits the teacher.

Theodora McGlade

Newport Gardens PS

What does it take to inspire

meaningful change?

At Newport Gardens Primary School in Victoria, Australia, the processes of the Essential Fluencies are a big part of the teaching and learning landscape. Many of the Newport Gardens teachers have had great success with using the Fluencies as their framework for creating meaningful project-based learning for students. Theodora McGlade is certainly no exception.

“The Fluencies were identified by our principal as a way that students could take ownership of their learning, think deeply about critical and relevant world questions, and take action that is meaningful to them,” Theodora claims.

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These are exactly the kinds of qualities that Theodora and her teaching partner Michael would see their students demonstrate as they faced an interesting and challenging prospect. They were to apply Solution Fluency to the idea of promoting a healthier lifestyle to their peers in school, and eventually to their whole community.

Where do we

begin to transform?

Theodora and Michael’s students had to discover how to make pursuing fitness both easy and appealing. At the same time, they would be addressing a rather alarming statistic. “Our challenge in this inquiry was to change the statistic of 65% of children in Australia becoming obese by the year 2020,” Theodora explains.

Their next goal was to find ways to inform other children of this, and inspire a change in their behaviour to achieve a long-term mindset. In response, the students created the Obesity Fighters team.

In the course of their research, the students of the Obesity Fighters team soon discovered the contributing factors to this threat to children’s health and wellness included an increasing use of technology, a lack of physical activity, poor eating habits, and a lack of basic nutritional knowledge

How do we plot a

path to success?

The Obesity Fighters assembled during the Dream phase of the student’s work with Solution Fluency. They ‘dreamed’ of all the ways they could promote an interest in health and fitness through the use of a range of communication strategies. These included magazines, a website, an informative fitness video hosted by the Obesity Fighters, and a “bring a healthy lunch box to school” day.

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Theodora reflects on her students’ accomplishments with a sense of pride in what they were capable of achieving. “The end result made a positive impact, with many children changing their habits in order to change the projected obesity statistic,” she recalls. “This occurred not only with the students in our learning community but also across our school and the wider community.”

She adds, “Working directly with Lee Watanabe-Crockett was an invaluable experience, as he was able to do for us what we do for our students. Lee brought clarity to the process, provided opportunities for exploration, and offered plenty of support along the way.”

How do we measure

growth and progress?

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  • Students find working with the Fluencies effective and engaging.
  • They display a strong understanding of the processes and the content.
  • Learning is shared with parents and with the larger community.
  • Students are developing high-level thinking and problem-solving skills and mindsets.
  • They are seeing their independence and maturity being nurtured.
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  • Teachers see the Fluencies processes extending far beyond the curriculum in their applicability.
  • They are stepping into the role of facilitators, rather than directors, of their students’ learning.
  • The Fluencies provide an answer to the question “What is 21st-century learning?”
  • Teachers have been inspired to mentor others in the Fluencies processes.
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  • Teachers are both learning from and challenging each other constructively.
  • With the Fluencies, the mandated curriculum is being delivered in a manner that is interesting and relevant to students.
  • Experience with the Fluencies has given Newport Gardens a tangible process of planning and support for finding a stronger connection to student learning.

How do we continue to

improve and excel?

As Theodora looks back on the amazing journey her students experienced, she marvels at how much things have changed for the  better in modern classrooms. “This position of facilitator challenges 200 years of a teaching paradigm,” she says. “We have seen students’ excitement and enthusiasm to take control of the direction of their learning.”

Theodora explains Newport Garden’s vision for the future beautifully. “For the school, the next phases of implementation will require additional induction for new staff, continued mentoring for current staff, and hopefully the development of connections with other schools,” she claims.

“We believe this strengthens the understandings we have, and keeps us actively engaged in the process for both the students we work with, and also for students others work with.”