Photo courtesy of Emily Stanley, Fulbright DAT
It is hard to believe that when you look at the picture above that you are actually looking through a window and not at a painting!! The views from the Seatoun Primary School (that we were able to tour thanks to our Fulbright NZ Leader Extraordinaire, Mr. Colin Kennedy, and his lovely wife that teaches there!) are stunning! Even though, my project is on science education at the secondary school level, I thought it would be helpful for me to see where some of those future high schoolers get their start, so when we received the invitation, I was in! The school is situated right along the coast of the southern portion of Wellington along the Cook’s Strait. All of the classrooms have these amazing windows with natural light coming in (as most all schools that I have visited in NZ have!) and spectacular grounds surrounding the school for some wonderful outdoor play!
Photos courtesy of Emily Stanley, Fulbright DAT
This school was super impressive not only with the views, but also with the students and the programs! The principal, Mr. John Western, was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to share with us the activities and community collaboration that makes this school so great! He led us on a tour of the school (built in 2002, 418 students, year 1-8) after an incredible presentation by two of the Level 5 students that are the top leaders of the environmental program – Enviroschool. This program is one near and dear to my heart with my background in Environmental Science as an undergraduate degree and for teaching! These two boys explained all of the projects they work (recycling, gardening, composting, waste audits, fundraising, etc.) on with the rest of the school and how they have to apply to be environmental leaders each year! This position is also voted on by the teachers after they apply! Not only are these students interested in these topics, but they are infused throughout the entire school culture! They have meetings on Wednesdays during lunch period and they create a beautiful scrapbook each year highlighting all of their work. They also go on a field trip with other schools to work on environmental ideas together – what a way to create some meaningful collaboration! Below is a picture of the timeline created about their projects. They students also have a “vision map” of the community in which they brainstorm the areas of need for their Enviroschool, so it is really student driven and led even at the primary level! The school as a whole has a very dedicated staff and community and are focusing on a theme this year – “Growth Mindset” – using the book by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck (2006), titled Mindset.
On the tour we discovered an entire kitchen for children to take cooking classes (see below) and a music room with all kinds of instruments, a fabulous gymnasium for their morning calisthenics led by students, comfortable rooms with reading spaces and all kinds of learning taking place! We even interrupted a student leading a presentation about his experience with water testing through the environmental studies field trip for the class! He did not skip a beat with our stepping in to observe, and I was so impressed with his speaking skills for an audience! This is something that even high schoolers struggle with sometimes and he was explaining using a turbidity column for water testing! I was impressed royally! We also learned that they are a BYOD (bring your own device) school, but also have laptops available on carts for classrooms to use. Additionally, they are textbook free and teachers use other resources for the learning materials!
Kitchen for cooking classes! Oh, and the school is “water only” for all the students! Refillable water bottles, of course! How inspiring!
So great to get to see one of the places where the wee ones get their start to have some of the best base for science education in NZ!