What does it take to inspire
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.
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.”
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?
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.”