Sunday, November 27, 2016

Food for Thought: Heads Conference reflections

Dear all,

Hope you have all had a good week, I'm sure it was busy as normal. The Cognita Head's Conference was very interesting and provided me with an excellent opportunity to meet Chris Jansen's new team and get to know them better and their ideas regarding education. I do believe that the team Chris has put together sincerely believe that the number one target for a serviced based education business is building good schools that provide a quality education for its clientele. During the conference there were keynote addresses from Sir Kevan Collins on the importance of character education; Sir Clive Woodward on how to create High Performing teams and lastly Andy Buck talked about how leadership matters in schools. All three were interesting but none were that far away from where we are, or are going at ISHCMC. 

This week's Food for Thought links directly to our classroom pedagogy and is linked to some of the ideas that the speakers above touched on in London. The first is a short video by Doug Lemov, the author of Teach Like a Champion, a book that I highly recommend that every teacher should have read and have in their pedagogical library. He believes that great teachers are not born but made, and that through careful attention to practice and pedagogical techniques it is possible for every teacher to grow. This short video, Practice makes Perfect links well to the final article for this week

This article is a summary of the findings of two researchers, John Hattie and Robert Marzano. Their work is famous and shows that there are certain characteristics that 'Great' teachers display that produce consistently high outcomes in the classroom. Although bringing the work of these two researchers together does involve nearly 100,000 school studies one still has to reflect upon the data before jumping to conclusions that it i sall correct. The article identifies the key characteristics identified by both researchers that we should all be thinking about in our classrooms. However, I do have one reservation and that is that most of the schools in the studies are not schools that are employing inquiry pedagogy to deepen student learning and understanding. Regardless an interesting read.

"John Hattie and Robert Marzano have each conducted significant reviews of what works best in the classroom.

There are some clear differences in their work.
  • They use different terminology to each other
  • Marzano uses more isolated strategies, while Hattie combines strategies into broader approaches
  • Marzano’s findings are based heavily on teacher-designed assessments, while Hattie’s findings make more use of standardized tests
However, as you can see, there is significant agreement between Robert Marzano and John Hattie when it comes to what works best in the classroom."

I will see you all late morning tomorrow.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Food for Thought: The Importance of Empathy in developing who we are as learners.

Dear all,

As we have been working on compassion for the past two weeks I thought that this article from Mindshift on empathy might help to build our understanding and to see the importance of empathy in our classrooms as we encourage the growth of learning skills that are applicable in the 21st century.

"Like other aspects of modern life, education can make the head hurt. So many outcomes, so much important work to do, so many solutions and strategies, so many variations on teaching, so many different kinds of students with so many different needs, so many unknowns in preparing for 21st Century life and the endless list of jobs that haven’t been invented.What if we discovered one unifying factor that brought all of this confusion under one roof and gave us a coherent sense of how to stimulate the intellect, teach children to engage in collaborative problem solving and creative challenge, and foster social-emotional balance and stability—one factor that, if we got right, would change the equation for learning in the same way that confirming the existence of a fundamental particle informs a grand theory of the universe?That factor exists: It’s called empathy."

Here is reminder of why we do Mindfulness each day. It is only a few minutes and centers around children in Australia explaining why they find mindfulness so important each day. The programme they are following is called Smiling Minds and you might find the information available on the website useful for your understanding and teaching each morning.

Have a good week,


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Food for Thought:

Dear all,

Hope you are having a good long weekend, you all deserve a break.

Thought that I would keep this Food for Thought short and related to the big news of the week, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. There have been many articles written questioning how this could have happened so thought that I would share this TED interview which took place ahead of the election. You may be asking how does this link to ISHCMC and why should I care. Well, during this interview with Jonathan Haidt a leading social psychologist,' Can a divided America heal?' it becomes apparent that the characteristics portrayed in this election relate closely to normal human behavior and that with the declining influence of the 2nd WW generation we are now moving into the era of the baby boomers. Near the end of the interview Haidt refers to ways that people can address the polarization that is taking place world wide, and I think this links to our work with positive emotions and in particular empathy and compassion. When reflecting upon his arguments I felt that if the world was full of schools practicing mindfulness, positive education, and looking towards breaking the old authoritarian model of education we could avoid some of the problems that appear to be emerging on the political horizon. I hope watching this might also equip you with a few answers for when our students want to talk about the election and how Donald Trump managed to win. It might be an interesting interview to share with some of our older students in I&S or ToK or MUN club, as it does raise lots of questions about our next decade and international relations and politics.

Finally, this week also marked the passing of one of my favorite musicians/ philosophers/ social commentators, Leonard Cohen at the age of 82. I only grew to understand his work recently as I became more mature in my life and thinking. Discovering I liked Cohen's work, writings and thinking so much shows me that although we may think we know who we are at different phases of our lives we won't really know till we are nearer to its end. If you don't know much about Leonard Cohen here are two articles about him, this one from Rolling Stone is about his career, and the other from Brain Pickings is more about the predictive nature of his writing.

Have a good Sunday,

See you all on Tuesday, we will have a briefing at 7:15 in the MPR.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Food for Thought: Time to get dirt under the nails of more of our students.

Dear all,

Hope you are having a good weekend.

Having recently re-watched Jamie Oliver's TED Talk about teaching children about food and working on the new campus design with its large science garden that we hope will be a mini farm producing organic vegetables and herbs for the food technology class and the cafeteria I thought it appropriate to be sharing a couple of articles and videos on this topic.

The first video is a TED that I feel asks some good questions that could be used to develop our garden community. Although about low income urban schools in the USA I think that a great deal of the talk is transferable to ISHCMC as an international community. This type of thinking links beautifully with our work on 'who we are' and the community strand of the Cognita Way. Again, like mindfulness, building a community garden could provide a calmness that many of our students require as well as time for students to work along side their parents and teachers at weekends. My goal would be to start work on a community garden on the roof of the language building as soon as possible so that we could use this as a pro-type for the garden at the new secondary campus.

Secondly, this article on children eating their produce has lots of excellent links that will make us think deeply about what we are doing and why we should make this an important initiative for ISHCMC.

Do kids who grow kale eat kale?

It’s back-to-school time in the United States, and for countless children across the nation, it’s also time to get back into the school garden.
For centuries, educators and philosophers have argued that garden-based learning improves children’s intelligence and boosts their personal health. In recent years, concerns related to childhood obesity and young people’s disconnection from nature have led to a revitalized interest in the topic.
Tens of thousands of American schools have some form of school garden. Many are located on school grounds and others are run by external community partners. Most are connected to the school’s curriculum. For instance, seeds are used in science class to explain plant biology, fruits are used in social studies to teach world geography and the harvest is used in math to explore weights and measures. Some even incorporate food from the garden into the school lunch.
As a researcher and an activist, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade working to promote a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system. Through this process, I have heard bold claims made about the power of garden-based learning to meet these challenges.

School gardens claim a variety of benefits.

Given the enthusiasm that surrounds garden-based learning today, it’s worth taking stock of their overall impacts: Do school gardens actually improve the education and health of young people?

Promoting school gardens

School gardens have become a favorite strategy of prominent advocates in the “Good Food Movement.” Both celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and First Lady Michelle Obama have been vocal supporters.

An elementary school garden with six raised beds is meant to help kids learn. U.S. Department of Agriculture

Nonprofit and grassroots groups, who see these gardens as a way to provide fresh produce for the food insecure, have forged partnerships with local schools. Then there are service-based groups, such as FoodCorps, whose members spend one year in a low-income community to help establish gardens and develop other school food initiatives.
Philanthropic organizations like the American Heart Association have also sponsored the construction of hundreds of new school garden plots.
Taken together, upwards of 25 percent of public elementary schools in the United States include some form of garden-based learning. School garden projects are located in every region of the country and serve students of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic classes.

Transforming kids lives through gardens?

Advocates argue that gardening helps kids make healthier eating choices. As the self-proclaimed “Gangsta Gardener” Ron Finley put it in his popular TED Talk,
“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale.”

Does garden-based learning help school kids? UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences - OCCSCC BY-NC

Many proponents go even further, suggesting that garden-based learning can inspire a variety of healthy changes for the whole family, helping to reverse the so-called obesity epidemic.
Others, like Edible Schoolyard founder Alice Waters, argue that experience in the garden can have a transformative impact on a child’s worldview, making sustainability “the lens through which they see the world.”

Sure, gardens can help

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that garden-based learning does yield educational, nutritional, ecological and social benefits.
For example, several published studies have shown that garden-based learning can increase students’ science knowledge and healthy food behaviors. Other research has shown that garden-based learning can help students better identify different types of vegetables as well as lead to more favorable opinions on eating vegetables.
In general, qualitative case studies of garden-based learning have been encouraging, providing narratives of life-changing experiences for children and teachers alike.

Do gardens improve the intake of fresh foods and fruit? RubyDWCC BY

However, when it comes to actually increasing the amount of fresh foods eaten by young people, improving their health outcomes or shaping their overall environmental attitudes, quantitative results have tended to show modest gains at best. Some of the most highly developed school garden programs have been able to increase student vegetable consumption by about a serving per day. But the research has not been able to show whether these gains are maintained over time.
A lack of definitive evidence has led some critics to argue that school gardens are simply not worth the time and investment, especially for lower-income students who could be concentrating on more traditional college prep studies.
The social critic Caitlin Flanagan has gone so far as to say that garden programs are a distraction that could create a “permanent, uneducated underclass.”

There are no magic carrots

There is no doubt that the power of garden-based learning is sometimes overstated.
Particularly when describing garden projects in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, popular narratives imply that a child’s time in the garden will rescue her from a life of poverty and chronic disease.
I call this the “magic carrot” approach to garden-based learning. But as we all know, there are no magic carrots growing in the school garden.

When is a garden successful?

For gardens to effectively promote learning and health, they must be supported and reinforced by the community as a whole. Surveys of school garden practitioners show that garden programs have serious potential to enhance school and neighborhood life – but only if certain conditions are met.
Notably, school gardens are most successful when they are not held afloat by a single dedicated teacher. Instead, multiple involved stakeholders can ensure that a garden doesn’t dry up after only a season or two.

If kids grow kale, do they eat it? U.S. Department of AgricultureCC BY

For example, participation from administrators, families and neighborhood partners can turn a school garden into a dynamic and sustainable community hub.
Many experienced practitioners have also shown that garden-based learning is more powerful when its curriculum reflects the cultural backgrounds of the young people it serves. When children of Mexican descent grow indigenous varieties of corn, or when African-American youth cultivate collard greens, the process of growing food can become a process of self-discovery and cultural celebration.
In other words, if kids grow kale, they might eat kale, but only if kale is available in their neighborhood, if their family can afford to buy kale and if they think eating kale is relevant to their culture and lifestyle.

Creating valuable green space

As my own research has highlighted, there are organizations and schools across the country that incorporate garden-based learning into broader movements for social, environmental and food justice.
These groups recognize that school gardens alone will not magically fix the problems our nation faces. But as part of a long-term movement to improve community health, school gardens can provide a platform for experiential education, create valuable green space and foster a sense of empowerment in the minds and bodies of young Americans.

If you are treally interested in school gardens, having chilsdren know more about food etc here is an excellent site:

Finally, I want to share the link to Deepak and Oprah's 21 day meditation series for those of you who like to do a daily meditation but need something different occasionally. 

A Message from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey

It’s not too late to enjoy Creating Peace from the Inside Out: The Power of Connection from the beginning! We encourage you to join us and take advantage of this incredible journey. 

All meditations remain available online for a total of five days. Simply log in here and select the appropriate day to catch up easily. 

Have a good Sunday,