What does it take to inspire
Stepping back and watching learners take the lead can be hard to do as a teacher. Nevertheless, when we find the courage to do so we end up astounded by what they can accomplish—and how much they want to make a difference in the world.
A native animal project taken on by the Year 1 learners of Penrhos College is just such an example. It’s a story of friendship, discovery, innovation … and a tiny long-necked turtle named Rocky.
The Penrhos Year 1 teachers set out to investigate how teaching Science could be enhanced by a shift in pedagogy and emphasis on developing the general capabilities. In this case, they landed on the 6Ds of Solution Fluency as well as the 10 Shifts of Practice. Together these would be used to engage students in their learning while helping them develop world-changing habits and attitudes as a result of scientific inquiry.
Where do we
begin to transform?
Part of Year 1 Science requires students to identify features and needs of living things. Teachers Fleur Cagnana and Dominee Carr invited their zoologist friend Mandy Bamford to assist the students with conducting investigations into native habitats in the local area.
To offer the Year 1’s some practical experience, Mandy brought them a native long-necked turtle to look after. “Having a live animal in the classroom personalizes the experience for the students and increases their engagement in the project,” she says. The girls decided to call their new friend Rocky, and their beautiful relationship with her began.
Caring for Rocky included a daily regimen of monitoring and recording observations using various worksheets and checklists. Even though it was a lot of work, the Year 1 girls embraced it wholeheartedly. “The learning process was student driven and meaningful to them,” Fleur and Dominee claim. “They understood the role of the teacher was to guide, not direct.”
As they became closer to Rocky through her daily journey, the girls started thinking bigger. Their enthusiasm for their newfound friend led them to the larger question that would take their learning even higher: How best can we help long-necked turtles survive?
How do we plot a
path to success?
With an essential question established, Solution Fluency took over as the girls began an investigation into their problem. They had gained an appreciation for animals in their natural habitats while caring for Rocky. However, their resolve to find an ideal solution doubled when they discovered how many species besides the long-necked turtle were under threat.
“It was a real-life opportunity for Science inquiry skills to be developed,” says Nathan Ducker, Learning Technologies Coordinator at Penrhos College. “They were determined to help.”
The next phase of the project involved brainstorming ideas for solutions that would contribute something of value to the community. A proposal was shared with members of Penrhos administration that detailed their final idea: create and market reusable bags featuring messages that encouraged people to do their part to protect native animals.
In addition to designing their bags, the girls wrote songs and developed short message videos to help promote their project. All sales profits were then donated to the Perth Zoo for preserving local native turtle species.
How do we measure
growth and progress?
How do we continue to
improve and excel?
As Fleur and Dominee and the Year 1 learners reflected on their quest to help native species, everyone agreed that overall it had been an enjoyable and meaningful learning opportunity for everybody.
“The students’ drive to become responsible citizens, and to implement their learning in all aspects of their own lives, has been truly inspiring,” Fleur and Dominee state. “We want to continue on our learning journey and use other Fluencies to stimulate both students and teachers.”
And what about Rocky, the other star of the show? Seeing as she was a rescued turtle, she’ll stay in the company of her beloved Year 1 friends at Penrhos until she has grown big enough to be released safely back into the wild. After that—much like the young girls who gave her a second chance—she’ll have all new adventures to look forward to.