29 July 2013

Nature Kindergartens

Following on from my post on Ken Robinson's korero (talk) a few days ago, a video broadcasted on the television programme Sunday looks at the NZ context of child-rearing (but most likely relevant to many other countries) and the issue of over-parenting. The video highlights a centre in Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand and their Forest School programme. The importance of risk, resiliency, the health benefits of being outside and leading healthy active lives. This video is an exciting move forward for New Zealand education, shedding light on the notion of "cotton-wool kids" and the importance of Nature Kindergartens in New Zealand.

Link to video: Raising Generation cotton wool kids

Play and Learn Early Education Centres have held the notion of  "learning beyond the walls" for nearly twenty years. Taking children on small excursions into the community - embracing the rich learning experiences that occur at the farm, the zoo, the beach, the bush and ensuring children feel a sense of belonging in their own community.

Play and Learn formally introduced "Nature Kindergartens" after sending two of their educators to the UK to be formally trained in the principles of the Forest School programme. In the first term, of being introduced there were incredible and significant benefits almost immediately. Some of these include:

* Increased fitness in children
* Less likely to be absent from school due to illness (common knowledge that germs and cold are better spread outdoors than from person to person indoors).
* Children who sometimes showed signs of shyness at the early childhood centre taking on leadership roles in Nature Kindergarten.
* Increased opportunities for conversations and oral language (we know that oral langauge is the foundation to all literacy).

Among these are many, many more examples of the benefits. So now I ponder the thought of Nature Kindergartens, and the possibility of introducing this concept to my children I am teaching at TKS? Any ideas?

26 July 2013

Ken Robinson on escaping education's death valley.

I've been a fan of Ken Robinson and TED for many years, and posted several years ago on his most popular/earliest talks "Are schools killing creativity?". If you haven't seen this video, this is a must watch for all educators across the globe.

Seven years on from his first enlightening speech, Ken Robinson shares with us his views on escaping education's death valley. He uses his fun witty humor to engage us and take us on another journey.

As I start thinking about the beginning of the school year and my class of 15 children that will join me in a journey of learning - I am prompted to think about my goals, my thoughts and my reflections on how I can make it the best year of learning and teaching. In New Zealand, we use a term called ako - it means teaching and learning and values the role of the learner as a teacher and teacher as a learner.

This year I want to:
* listen more
* laugh more
* feel more

And the quote that's got me thinking on a practical level:

"If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child they will learn without any further assistance, children are natural learners..."

What does this mean for me at TKS?
How can I make the learning in my class engaging, relevant, challenging and significant?
What does relevant mean in the context of TKS?
At it's deepest, most raw state - what does 'curiosity' mean?

I'm looking forward to thinking more about this more over the next few weeks.

25 July 2013


Twitter is a fabulous tool, even when you don't visit the twittersphere as often as you would like to. A few weeks ago, my fabulous friend @hanna_fale tweeted that she had signed up for a course.

Having completed 4 weeks of our 9 week summer holiday, I figured I'd like to look further into this new found course of hers. 

Coursera is an educational technology company offering massive open online courses founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University.
In my excitement, to get re-engaged in my own learning i have signed up for a handful of courses. Keep posted to read my reflections on my short courses.

Stop, think and reflect...

Often during my online travels I come across websites, images, articles that truly take my breath away. Today was no exception.  I hope to post more of these gems on my blog rather than bookmarking them for later on. Today I'll share a list of the most impressive images I've seen in a while...

The 50 most perfectly timed photos ever, can be found here

And below are some of my favorite images from the list.

In my role as a facilitator, I would encourage teachers/students to pick an image from the vast range of images I had and invite them to share how an image they have chosen relates to an aspect of our learning. For example, choose an image that reflect how you currently feel about technology.  Images are powerful, the images on this website have prompted me to reflect on my goals in life and recharge my own camera batteries.

13 July 2013

Skype in the Classroom

I have finally signed up for Skype in the Classroom for my K2 class next year. I really hope this leads to exciting conversations with learning communities around the world. If you are keen to Skype in and read my class a story, sing a song or share ideas please add us on Skype: k2superlearners

12 July 2013

Third Culture Kids

Our recent move to Saudi Arabia has highlighted a number of interesting concepts for our family of six, one of these being the notion of 'Third Culture Kids'. What is a Third Culture Kid?
A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. Accessed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_culture_kid
This is something I had never heard of before coming to Saudi Arabia. Upon meeting a range of people with vast International experience I soon became familiar with the idea.  For example, a child in my class proudly proclaimed that her mother was born in China, her dad was born in a different China, she was born in America and her brother was born in Saudi Arabia. In her 4 years of life she has lived in America, Saudi Arabia and China. She is conversant in Mandarin and English and has understanding of simple Arabic phrases. Now that's what I call a TCKid.

The following link provides a lighthearted take on characteristics of a TCK (see images below). My husband and I have a blended family with four children. I am NZ Maori and Cook Island Maori born in New Zealand. My husband is a Niuean born in New Zealand - we consider ourselves PolyKiwis. Our oldest three children have been immersed in NZ Maori/NZ/Niuean/Cook Island an Tongan cultures as these are the nationalities they identify with. After learning of the TCK concept my husband and I considered the impact this would have on our own children. We feel that our kids have a good handle on a sense of belonging to NZ but can definitely see our youngest child being influences heavily by her surroundings - she has embraced Saudi culture and the Arabic language with open arms and often flicks between her different cultures - whether it be via language, music, traditions or ways of being.

The video below 'Third Culture Kids"  indicates there are not so good things about being a TCK, research suggests these kids find it hard to settle down, suffer from depression and constantly feel a lack of belonging. This video confirms that, but suggests a glimmer of positiveness when the last speaker refers to the website TCK World where TCKids can find others like themselves.

Then why is the idea of our own children experiencing, embracing, enjoying other cultures something that we have strived for? I reflected on this in a recent interview with the creators of edtalks.org, interview can be seen here. My husband and I watched as many of our friends migrated from New Zealand to Australia in search of a greater lifestyle, including very close family members. We decided very early on in our marriage that if we were to move it would be to a place so far removed from our own culture that our kids would experience a culture shock and if we were going to give up our huge support system it would be so that our kids would experience life on the other side of the world. 

Obviously Saudi Arabia meets this criteria and then some. We are delighted with the opportunity to bring our 4 children to the other side of the world to explore new cultures, smells and ways of being. They may not be TCKids, they've not spent enough time outside of their own culture to be called this - yet! But we welcome the opportunity for our kids to be outside of their own culture so they can value their own.

Introduction to PMP - Unpacking my understanding

What does PMP stand for?

Performance Management Program - the annual process by which TKS teachers are evaluated and improved.

Assessed on 4 Domains:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Professional responsibilities
  • Contributions to the school outside of the classroom
  • Goals (2 goals)

Evaluated in three areas:

  • Distinguished
  • Proficient
  • Does not meet proficient standards


  • Self evaluation
  • Set goals
  • Collect evidence`
  • Re evaluate
Examples of evidence

My understanding

Ongoing reflection in teaching has been something that I have advocated for many years  (see reflection presentation below). I believe ongoing reflection is vital to ensuring teachers are critiquing their practice and taking the time to revisit great practice. Teachers consistently do amazing things, everyday they are giving their all - just as reflection is about critiquing our practice is is very much about celebrating our successes too.

The PMP process as I understand this to be is a model attached to our ongoing reflection and evidence collecting. The PMP process is still in the Draft mode @ TKS but it seems to me that as long as I continue my goal setting and ongoing reflection (which I have done for years), strive to be a teacher that focusses on teaching and learning of children in my classroom and align these with the Distinguished Learning Outcomes (striving for excellence) then this is something that can be easily achieved. Stay posted on how this looks in practice. Roll on 2013-2014 school year!

Reflection Presentation from Naketa Ikihele on Vimeo.