Orange Day

Newport Gardens Primary School

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.

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.

We took the idea to the students and they were excited from the first minute. We explained that we had noticed that they were interested in endangered animals, so we were going to do something about it. We did a lot of discovery together.

Ellie Barclay

Newport Gardens PS

It has been heart-warming to see our students express compassion for living things and a strong desire to make a positive difference in our world. I find myself telling anyone who will listen about our experiences teaching the Fluencies to our students, as I have been so inspired by our journey so far.

Ellie Barclay

Newport Gardens PS

Their dreams were fabulous and ranged from an animal dress-up day, to making and selling bracelets for raising money, to making a life-sized elephant donation box for the office. They put in an incredible amount of effort and their enthusiasm was sustained for weeks.

Ellie Barclay

Newport Gardens PS

What does it take to inspire

meaningful change?

Our students are more than just the kids that we teach. If the situation is right, often they can end up teaching us. This is a fact that 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. “I was inspired by Lee Crockett’s book and I absolutely understood the importance of teaching students to become lifelong independent learners,” she says.

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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 great planet and its colourful animal kingdom.

Where do we

begin to transform?

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 definite 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.

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.

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.

How do we plot a

path to success?

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.”

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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.

Needless to say, they were extremely 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 fully support Don’t Palm Us Off by adopting an orang-utan for two years.”

How do we measure

growth and progress?

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  • Students are beginning to take ownership of their learning.
  • Students are empowered by facing real-world challenges.
  • 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.
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  • Teachers have learned to “take a step back” and let the students’ learning take them where it’s meant to go.
  • They see the importance of finding connections between the content and the students.
  • There is a greater value placed on creativity and collaboration skills.
  • Teachers are now facilitators of creative and active learning.
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  • Teachers and students are supported and encouraged to take learning risks, and are having fun learning together.
  • With the Fluencies, the mandated curriculum is being delivered in a manner that is interesting and relevant to students.
  • The inquiry process has become more meaningful and purposeful.
  • There is a greater understanding and appreciation of the Essential Fluencies and how to integrate them into teaching and learning practices.

How do we continue to

improve and excel?

As students debriefed their journey of supporting endangered animals, their responses to the experience were overwhelmingly enthusiastic according to Ellie.

“It has been exciting to witness how our students have responded so positively to the Fluencies, and to see how they are beginning to think deeply about the issues that affect our world,” Ellie claims. “We are continuing to experiment with the different Fluencies and improve our professional knowledge in this area.”

For Ellie, the Essential Fluencies feature prominently in her continuing professional practice, and in her quest to bring exciting and challenging learning experiences to students. “I am excited to connect with other passionate teachers around the world—to share with, and be inspired by, my fellow 21st century educators.”