Sunday, May 22, 2016

Community engagement in learning: how this supports our passion projects

As we started our passion projects across the senior school, we knew it would help quite a few of our learners if we introduced them to some new hobbies and interests. Not everyone had a quick answer to the questions, "What are you passionate about?", "What do you love to do on the weekend/when you have free time?" or "What do you want to know more about or want to be able to do?" 

Passion ignition workshops worked really well at Akoranga o Naenae, and the senior teachers were very open and keen to bring in experts to excite and spur on our students. Also, our Infinity learning maps showed that our learners could identify a few key people, places and tools that supported their learning and we could see their learning environments would benefit from being expanded with our workshop experiences and explicit teaching and reflecting. 

The process went something like this:

* Brainstorm a whole bunch of "things' our students had shown an interest in or we thought perhaps many had not been exposed to before that may 

* Those on the team who may have had connections to some of the people bagsed them to contact, the rest we shared out. 
* We emailed the experts and invited them in to work with our learners.
* We set up an overview to ensure we had everything under control.
* Students chose three workshops. We made them "passports" so they knew what workshops they were in, what order, what room. They hung these around their necks and it worked really well.
* The day came, it was amazing. 

 We were so thrilled by how many people we approached agreed to give us their time and expertise. In fact, there were so many the teachers didn't have to run any workshops; we could check in on groups/kids, take photos, do the activities. It was wonderful. 

When we emailed the experts, we were really explicit the workshops hand to be very hands-on, snappy (there were three half hour workshops) and fun. They all obliged and delivered. 

We just wanted to do a special shout out to the Science Learning Hub. A plea was put out on Twitter and, almost instantly, they connected us with Te Papa, MetSevice and the Malaghan Institute. 

Displaying DSC_1201.JPGThe mix of experts was really interesting. There were whanau from our school (including our board chair), businesses from the Wainuiomata community, businesses from Lower Hutt and right out to Wellington. There was a lot of variety in what students got to learn about, tools they used, and people they connected with. Many have used the passion ignition workshops as a launch pad for their current passion projects, and have been back in touch with the experts for information and asking to visit. 

The other day, there was a Twitter feed around the place of community engagement in learning - why go there? There was rich discussion and many reasons to do this summarised by @nzcurriculum into four main ideas: it's the intent of our curriculum, it serves the needs of each unique community, it creates a localised curriculum, and it helps to build productive partnerships and relationships with the community. All these things were evident during our passion ignition workshops where our learners talked about people they knew in common with or experts, examined clouds in our sky (and beyond), diseases that affect us, planting seeds for our gardens at home, how to care for our pets, drawing our favourite characters and more. And these connections are continuing to blossom and grow. In fact, we cannot think of one negative thing about the whole experience. 

All our experts have said they would love to come back and do it all again in Term 3. And we can't wait!

We would like to especially thank these experts who were so magnificent and shared their passions and their time with our learners and us:

  • Ma'ao (coding)
  • Adrienne (sewing)
  • Lisa (MetService, weather)
  • Kara (Malaghan Institute, disease)
  • Chrissy and Amber (The Warehouse, Wainuiomata, planting)
  • Brianna and Kerry (hip hop)
  • Mitch (drawing)
  • Aidy, Erica and Nicole (Blue Carrot Catering, cup cake decorating)
  • Matt (SPCA, animal care)
  • Jimmy and Tracey (Car care)
  • Leon and Scott (Te Papa, botany)

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