December 12

Let’s do Lunch, the Collaborative Way

We don’t do class parties in our room, we have shared lunches! So at this time of year, we plan a collaborative shared team lunch.

Each team had to decide on their menu for Christmas lunch. Our school has a healthy eating policy and once a year we can have a red food day. However in this case they could only have one red food in their lunch. The menu needed to be healthy choices with one sweet.

In their learning teams they needed to organise the food as well as the accessories such as plates napkins and utensils. Most wanted some kind of Christmas theme so decorations were up to them. It took real team work.

The biggest challenge was to cater only for four people. A few teams over catered!

They had plenty of time to set up, indulge in pleasant dinner conversation and clean up.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I loved the way the worked together thought together and acted together. A real collaborative effort.


Well done everyone I was impressed. We had some very festive tables indeed.


November 26

She’s back … with a few exciting photos to share.

It’s been a little quiet for term three, you see I was on long service leave and spent a fabulous time exploring the Pacific North West of America. Initially I went there with my husband to be in the path of totality for the Great American Eclipse, but as it is such a long way, we decided to stay longer and get in some hiking. It meant being away from my class for the term, but I knew they were being looked after, so I put my energy into this adventure.

Solar Eclipse August 21st 2017

For the first time in quite a while a Solar eclipse was visible across most of USA. Keen astronomers, we had known about this event and had booked our accomodation many years in advance. We were able to film the entire process as the moon passed over the Sun. Our vantage spot was in a small town called Driggs, where thankfully the conditions for viewing were excellent, here are a few snap shots.

Peter is getting ready to film the process.

The Moon begins to cross the path of the Sun.

As the Moon begins to cover more and more of the Sun the light gets dimmer. The air gets colder. We notice birds flying home to their nests.

Totality, we see the corona dancing and some solar flares. We begin to see stars, you can see Jupiter. It is amazing, there is a lot of excited whoops and hollers.

The Moon continues to block the sunlight, but as it moves on its way, we begin to see Sunlight and the diamond ring effect begins.

The Moon keeps moving, the eclipse is over. Daylight has resumed and life gets back to normal

The entire eclipse took over two hours, with totality lasting just 2 min 40 seconds. It was awesome.

From then on we spent the next 6 weeks hiking some fantastic places, experiencing the grandeur of the Rockies and great parks in that neck of the woods.

Our first hiking was in The Tetons

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next stop was Yellowstone National Park. A spectacular geothermal area that had me in my geological element. A lot of wildlife roaming about including large carnivorous ones, so we had to be quite alert. So much to see… never enough time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From there we went to The Saw Tooth Ranges a relatively young mountain range which certainly lived up to its name. The jagged peaks were stunning. Fantastic place to hike. This was true wilderness…bears everywhere!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next stop was Columbia River Gorge, sadly wildfires were to cause us a few problems. This area was lush and green, a contrast to the mountainous vegetation of the Rockies.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mount Rainier would be our next destination, a towering ice covered dormant volcano, that sadly was obscured by the relentless smoke from a plague of wildfires. This park had many hikes, ranging from rainforest trails, to alpine glacial treks. We were like kids in a lolly shop! Which ones to do?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Cascades were close by, so we couldn’t go past without a hike or three! These are called the American Alps and rightly so.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Around the corner was Glacier National Park which drew us in too! How could we resist the views, a lot of hard yakka to get there mind you.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We left that amazing alpine scenery for some more rainforest hikes at Sol Duc, another geothermal area. That required a trip on a ferry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our final hiking destination before going back to Seattle and home was Forks in Washington State. This town may have been famous for the Twilight movies but for us it was the Ho River and spectacular rainforest walks that were the draw card.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While I certainly missed my class during term three, I was kept quite busy taking in the wonders that the wilderness of the Pacific North West had to offer.


July 25

Independently choosing Learning Teams from now on

If you have checked out our Collaboration page, then you know about how our teams work in my classes, if not, here is a quick summary.

That was a brief summary. Now for some change in practice.

To begin with I am in charge of how teams are constructed and I choose the combinations of students so there is a constant mix of gender and ability. I do this for the first two terms.

At the end of last term, each team member completed a personal reflection sheet on how they saw themselves with their organisation and team skills so far. They rated themselves either Never, Sometimes or Always, then shared their reflections with the team. The team discussed each member’s in turn and negotiated their placement with a T in the category.

On the first day back for term three, I asked the students what qualities/skills/behaviours they thought they would like to see in a team member. They came up with a comprehensive list.

I asked them to compare this list and to look back at their own checklist from the previous term.

Were there things they were super confident in? Were there some things they needed to work on or could put extra effort into? Were there some things they were struggling with? Did we have perfect students?

How could we support everyone to become the best they could be?

I was now in the process of handing over the negotiating of team members to them.

Criteria for selection

Not with someone from the previous team.

Select a member from the opposite gender that you can work with. Once you have a pair, find another to make a team.

Have three things that you will support each other with. How will you do that? Record this in your team books.

Reminder about the language of negotiation.

It was important to model the process of asking and negotiating. Being proactive as opposed to waiting. What happens when you don’t get the answer you thought you would? What could you do?

Once that was completed the students found their record books and team books and begun sorting out their new teams for weeks 1-5.

It was interesting to see them take control. They were a little hesitant at first, but as some modelled actively seeking out suitable team mates and sitting down to compare checklists, others soon followed. There were some students who forgot to bring their lists and couldn’t complete this stage, so by default, they became team members and could sit down to sort out their support strategies.

Teams could also select any table, should it still be available.

Once they had completed their recordings, they set about writing a common set of rules. We have been working on being clear in statements saying what, why and how we want things. They are really becoming good at this.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Checkout this round of team rules. I love the variety and explicit nature of their expectations.


Once the rules have been negotiated and recorded, they proceed to the regular morning tool check. As it is the first one of the week, they also choose a focus for the week again being clear as to what, why and how.

These children have come a long way from their first attempts at this process and continue to build their skills in actively listening and engaging in collaborative team work. I was very proud of them on the first day back.

Your turn to think

How did you feel about selecting your own team this term?

What do you think about your new team?

How will you make sure you do what you said you would do?

Would you prefer Ellen to create teams? Why? Why not?

D you have any suggestions for teams or team work?

What type of team criteria would you like to see?

July 25

Spinning in Space

Last term we learnt about how the Moon,


the Sun

and Earth

spin and rotated in space. We also learnt that from all this spinning and rotating, the positions of the Sun and Earth played a big part in how we experienced day and night.

Relative sizes

It was important that we understand exactly how big these objects are. Now that is kind of tricky because we really can’t see Earth as we are standing on it, as for the Sun and Moon, well at a distance they can play tricks on your eyes.

We are fortunate in our Solar System to have the Moon and Sun exactly where they are because they actually look the same size. We know the Sun is huge, but it is 400 times further away than the Moon. The further something is away from us the smaller it looks. That is why when he Moon moves in front of the Sun we get a perfect eclipse.

Actually things in space are big, really, really big in fact somethings are so big our heads can’t get it at all. This is what we mean.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Checking this idea out

We had a go at using a basketball to represent the Sun and a tennis ball to represent the Moon. In teams we worked together to move the Sun away until it appeared to our eyes to be the same same size as our Moon.

I had my eclipse glasses handy so we all had a couple of safe looks at the Sun. Although this mighty sphere was shining brightly, it looked indeed no bigger than a full Moon. Some children even saw the Sunspots.

Understanding shadows

How much fun is shadow tag! But there is a lot of science in shadows.

Why don’t shadows stay put?

On a sunny morning, we went outside and traced around each other’s shadow.

Then we played some shadow tag. That was challenge, they never stayed put!

Back in the classroom we discussed and recorded what we thought we knew about shadows.

Time to return outside to checkout our shadows….oh no!  They had moved. We needed to trace them again.

We noticed that all the shadows that we could see had moved from the base. To start with, they were facing west, later on, they were moving Easterly. That was odd. Why did this happen? Ah, the Sun moved. Of course, that was it!  Or was it?

Time to get serious with a scientific investigation.

I gave each team member an investigation planner, together they discussed and recorded their plan. This is a summary of our discussion, once planning had ceased.

Luckily for us the day was one of the last sunny days before the cloudy days of winter settled in.

We went out every hour on the hour, as best we could, throughout the day, sharing jobs to complete the investigation. To make it a fair test, we needed to place the cardboard in exactly the same place, have the same equipment and record the shadow line carefully. Teams worked collaboratively to complete their observations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The following day, in our teams, we analysed the information together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had some interesting data that we were able to place in a table and record graphically such as this example. We know that tables are useful to sort out information and graphs show us data that we can see clearly.

We discussed our observations and concluded that as the Sun moved across the sky from East to West, the shadows moved in the opposite direction. Our proof was the marks we recorded on our cardboard posters. We found out that the shadows were longest when the Sun was lower in the sky and shorter when it was high in the sky. Our proof was the measurements we took each hour. Our claim based on our data was that the Sun’s movements caused all this. So the Sun did move!


We knew better though. Earth is really the object that moved, not the Sun, that object stays in the centre of our Solar System  and rotates. It is the rotation of the Earth that caused the Sun to appear to move in the sky, which then caused the shadows to lengthen and shorten.

You see we’d also been learning about the spinning and revolution of Earth. There was a lot to remember. Everything spins in space. You can get dizzy trying to remember everything.

We found this clip to be a great reminder.

We learnt a great deal about our neighbours in space and how they affected our life. At the end of the unit, I asked the students to design a scientific poster that explained how we get day and night. Here are a few.


Here are some things to think about.

What did you enjoy most about the science unit? Can you remember an impressive fact?

What didn’t you like?

Are there things you still are curious about and have more questions?

How did you feel about giving your oral presentation?

What do you think of space and the things beyond Earth?

What impressed you?