Alfie the Alien

Parap Primary School

When “Alfie the Alien” landed at Parap Primary School, he wanted to learn about family. Sue Bishop’s Year 1 learners didn’t hesitate, and took the little visitor in as one of their very own.

Learn all about how Sue’s students used Solution Fluency to both teach and learn about family, food, and fellowship alongside their brand new extraterrestrial honour student.

Parap Primary School, situated in Australia’s Northern Territory, first opened its doors in 1958. The school offers students a creative, caringn and nurturing environment for learning, with dedicated and experienced teachers providing a positive and enriching program that truly appreciates the individual needs and interests of each and every child.

Lee Watanabe-Crockett visited our school at the beginning of the year to give us a better idea of how to use Solution Fluency to its fullest potential. We also checked in with Lee on a couple of Skype calls which I felt were beneficial to the Year 1 team making sure that we were on the right track.

Susan Bishop

Parap PS

My class enjoys the whole process of the 6Ds; they enjoy working in groups and are really good at delegating the roles of each member and also keeping each other on task. The language and the skills used throughout the Solution Fluency process are so rich and meaningful.

Susan Bishop

Parap PS

With Solution Fluency the learning is about students and their interests. My students feel that it has become more exciting and free … my class feels that by taking away the structured/robotic learning and leaving them in charge of what they are learning, they will all have some form of success, whether it is great or small.

Susan Bishop

Parap PS

What does it take to inspire

meaningful change?

Families are more than just our relatives; they are among our most meaningful and essential human relationships. Without family and the bonds it represents, our lives are lonelier and less enriching. The Year 1 learners of Parap Primary School were faced with a compelling challenge about this. Their teacher Susan Bishop wanted them to use Solution Fluency to consider how they would explain the idea of family to a visitor from another planet.

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“Alfie the Alien landed in the Year 1 classes in Term 2 asking a BIG question: What is family? He started off wanting to know about families and how they work,” Sue explains. “Once the students started discovering information for Alfie, the question got bigger and they then looked at what we need to survive on Earth.”

Where do we

begin to transform?

Sue’s Year 1 learners were presented with the following scenario:

Alfie has come to Earth and needs to know how a family works. Using Solution Fluency, show Alfie the fundamental needs of human life (love, shelter, food and water).

“Our only concern with our BIG question was the diversity of families within our classrooms and it becoming a sensitive matter,” Sue recalls. So they decided that Alfie would become a part of each students’ family.

The learners took turns hosting Alfie each night to help him find out more about families and how they work. Students ended up taking photos of Alfie and documenting his stay at their homes. The Year 1 learners’ new extraterrestrial friend even became a regular part of their morning investigations in class. They even wrote a book about him called Alfie the Alien Has Landed, which was entered into the
Young Territory Author Awards.

How do we plot a

path to success?

Along the way the Year 1 students discovered that some of the best learning happens by way of the unexpected. For instance, nobody expected poor Alfie the Alien to be diagnosed with a nut and egg allergy—but that’s exactly what happened. However, the unexpected always gives rise to newer opportunities for learning, as Sue knows well. “From this our next BIG question appeared which was if food is always our friend,” she says.

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The students’ task from there was to incorporate Solution Fluency once more into building a restaurant diorama accompanied by a menu that was egg- and nut-free. According to Sue, the students also showed a lot of creative diversity in answering this challenge.

“Along our Solution Fluency’ journey some students went different ways,” she notes. “Some built restaurants and created menus, some followed Grandma Poss and Hush in travelling around Australia, and others built a Healthy Food Pyramid.”

How do we measure

growth and progress?

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  • With Solution Fluency, the learning is about students and their interests.
  • The absence of structured/robotic learning leaves them in charge of what they are learning.
  • Learners enjoy working in groups and have become efficient at delegating the roles of each member and also keeping each other on task.
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  • Using Solution Fluency allows for a relaxation from the linear structuring of tasks and still creates powerful lessons and authentic learning.
  • Solution Fluency goes hand in hand with asking the BIG questions to help students learn to solve meaningful problems.
  • Students have more of a chance of success because both their social and emotional needs are met using Solution Fluency.
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  • Staff have been given more autonomy through their professional judgment.
  • Learning is more fluid, organic, and more enriching as a result.
  • The Fluencies provide a pedagogical approach that puts children at the center of the learning.
  • Students, parents, teachers, and other community members are all working together toward shared goals.

How do we continue to

improve and excel?

As Alfie the Alien said his goodbyes and returned to his home planet after learning about family, Sue and her Year 1 students looked back  with pride on this remarkable learning journey. “For me the most significant benefit of this process is that all of my students have achieved some form of success in each lesson,” Sue reflects. “I have also loved observing their newfound love for learning when solving the BIG question.”

Sue has plans to continue using Solution Fluency as much as she can in her teaching practices, since there are so many benefits to both her learners and herself in using it. “The next step is working on including the BIG question in as many learning areas as possible. For our school it would be great to see consistency of this process in all classrooms.”