This week we picked up some Living Seawall panels to install on school property as part of the Balmain Foreshore Project.
A section of our school property, along the water’s edge allows public access to the Bay Walk and is a thoroughfare accessed by members of the public. The project provides a unique opportunity for our school to contribute to environmental sustainability, teach students about their community responsibilities, and inform the public about environmental issues affecting the local community.
As part of this project, earlier in the year, students heard from the Aria Lee, Project Manager of Living Seawalls who told students about the research and development behind the concept of Living Seawalls, the locations where they can be found around Sydney Harbour and globally, and the ecological benefits of Living Seawalls.
A few months ago our Balmain Foreshore Project team was excited to receive a substantial Westconnex Community Grant for continuation of the Balmain Foreshore Project. As part of the Westconnex Grant, funds have been allocated to purchase and install Living Seawall panels on the seawall on school property in an attempt to improve water quality and encourage greater biodiversity in the local waterway. Prior to installation we will be collecting baseline data to identify the diversity of species currently inhabiting the seawall, and we intend to set up a longitudinal study to investigate change over time in species diversity.
The outcomes have not changed much from the current syllabus to the new draft Geography syllabus, other than some minor phrasing. In the current syllabus there are 6 outcomes for both Stage 4 and 5, and the same applies for the new draft. GE4-3 - explains how interactions and connections between people, places and environments result in change, and GE5-3 analyses the effect of interactions and connections between people, places and environments have both been discarded. In place of them the following has been included for Stage 4: describes how Aboriginal Peoples interact with Country, and for Stage 5: explains how Aboriginal Peoples interact with Country.
I think that 4-2 and 4-3 could have been combined to create a new outcome, and 5-2 and 5-3 could have been combined. This would enable the outcomes to retain the meaning of the original outcomes and still allow for the inclusion of the new outcomes.
There have been some minor changes to the descriptions of concepts for each stage. The main difference is in the presentation of the information, which in the current syllabus is part of the K-10 Concepts Continuum, but in the new draft is just present in a page and a half of text. This is generally a positive change which makes it easier to read and understand.
Inquiry Skills and Tools
Both the Geographical Inquiry Skills and Geographical Tools have been presented in the new draft Geography syllabus as a list, rather than in the Geographical Inquiry Skills Continuum or the Geographical Tools Continuum. In these cases this is a negative change. Geography was introduced as a separate syllabus for primary students with the current K-10 syllabus. The continuums allowed teachers to know which skills and tools that students would know when they entered high school. At this stage the K-6 HSIE syllabuses haven't been released, so it is unclear whether Geography will still have a separate syllabus (I suspect not). Regardless, it would be reasonable to expect that students would cover some geographical concepts, skills, tools and content in a HSIE syllabus. As a high school teacher how can I know what skills and tools students already know in Year 7? High school staff could obviously conduct pre-testing, but the continuums provided some clarity and also provided a connection between primary learning and high school learning, providing opportunities for collaborative teaching and learning activities across schools.
My main concerns about this syllabus relate to the content. Firstly the "Thinking and working geographically" sections at the beginning of the content of each topic seem to be in the wrong place and don't tie closely enough to the content. In the current syllabus, the content is organised by dot point questions (mandatory) that provide dash point lists of subject matter (optional) that could be taught to provide more detail. In the new draft there are a series of dot points with directive terms that a too generic to tie in specifically with the content listed. These could be rephrased and placed more closely with the content that they relate to, or else left out for teachers to use their own discretion (drawing on sections at the beginning of the syllabus).
The content has been cut significantly to make it clearer which parts of the syllabus are mandatory (headings and dot points) and which parts are optional (in the footnotes). While I appreciate that this is to achieve a more streamlined, simple syllabus, this could have more easily been achieved by improving teacher professional learning around the parts that are mandatory and optional in the current syllabus. The syllabus now seems overly simplified.
Learning Across the Curriculum
When the Australian Curriculum documents were first released they included general capabilities and cross curriculum priorities.
In the NSW re-write of the Australian Curriculum, these were rebranded to Learning Across the Curriculum and included Cross-curriculum priorities (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia, Sustainability); General Capabilities (Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology capability, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Numeracy, Personal and social capability); and Other learning across the curriculum areas (Civics and citizenship, Difference and Diversity and Work and enterprise).
In the new draft syllabus, the old "Learning Across the Curriculum" will be known as "Capabilities and Priorities". It seems that this will include the other areas that NSW included in the current syllabus that were not in the Australian Curriculum, however there is insufficient detail at this stage to be sure. The new draft Geography syllabus does include a list of Capabilities and Priorities, nor does it include the coding of content that is included in the current syllabus to show where to include them. I would suggest that this area needs to be a little clearer - at the very least it needs to include a list of the Capabilities and Priorities.
Creating written texts
Geography easily lends itself to the inclusion of literacy and numeracy development. There are two sections of the new draft syllabus that describe the importance of teaching writing in Geography (page 5 and page 12). The written texts are specified as "descriptions, explanations, discussions, exposition and reports". As literacy is one of the General Capabilities, this seems like a bit of a double-up.
Key Inquiry questions
Key Inquiry Questions have been removed from the current syllabus. In the current syllabus the inclusion of outcomes, key inquiry questions and content is unnecessary. The removal of Key Inquiry Questions in the new draft Geography syllabus simplifies the topics and is a positive change.
I have a Year 9 Elective Geography class this year and we are just starting the Global Citizenship topic. The topic starts by looking at what citizenship is, roles and responsibilities of citizens and moves on the explore global citizenship and and global challenges. In the first lesson I raised the idea of learning part of the topic through a community/city simulation without having thought the idea through entirely, The students loved the idea. I was thinking that it would be based loosely on a game like SimCity (old school I know) but run more like the way Australian Business Week runs. Students would work as a class and in groups to make decisions about the city and its operation, while learning about concepts like understanding varying perspectives, global awareness, intercultural understanding, shared responsibility and sustainability. I would provide resources and responses to their actions which would drive how the town was running, the interactions between citizens and their exposure to global issues.
The lesson sequence includes the standard kind of activities where we brainstorm the characteristics of an ideal citizen, discuss the roles and responsibilities of citizens and how Australian citizens are connected to the world. Students completed practice citizenship tests found here: Australian citizenship practice test
Setting up the town simulation
Designing the town
Students were provided with some time to work together to create the town. This was a paper-based, cut-and-paste craft activity, which the students seemed to really enjoy. It was a bit "primary school" but I think occasionally the students like being off their computers and doing something hands-on. To build the city we used Paper Cities made by Joel.
A vote was held to name the town: Thneedville
The students were given a set of 20 characters and were able to choose their character. I gave them the option of writing their own character if they wanted to. The descriptions of the characters include a name, age, occupation, gender, marital status and number of children. Students were also provided with a description of how their character displays active citizenship in their city.
I used Chat GPT to create the characters using the following prompt:
Create 20 brief descriptions of characters that are representative of people living in a medium sized town in Australia. Include their name, age, nationality, job, religion, marital status, number of children.
Town profile and creation
Students were provided with a town profile which included: location, population, population characteristics, employment by industry, age profile, income, dominant industries, economic development, and social issues.
The ChatGPT prompt to create this was:
Create a community profile for an imaginary town called Thneedville. Include information about population size and make up, employment by industry, age profile, income, dominant industries, economic development, social issues. Base the community profile on the island of King Island in Australia.
Electing the Mayor
Students were asked to nominate themselves if their "character" was willing to run for Mayor. Students worked in groups to briefly develop election campaigns and a Mayoral election was held. A series of newspaper articles were provided that discussed the inauguration of the town and election fo the Mayor.
The following Chat GPT prompt was used to create an article about the election of the Mayor:
Write a mock newspaper article about a person who has just been elected Mayor of a town called Kneadville which is located on a small island. His election platform was carbon neutral energy, increasing taxes for the rich to invest in social initiatives for the town. Details about the person are: Name: Thomas Wilson
Job: Retired school principal Religion: Christian (Catholic) Marital Status: Widowed Number of Children: 2
These resources took absolutely no time to create, and I was able to easily incorporate information from class discussions into the resources. One of the students commented, "Miss you've done so much work to prepare for this lesson". I told the students that all the resources had been created with Chat GPT, and that I was doing an experiment with them to see how it would work. I explained that I would be able to create resources very quickly that were responsive to what we had been talking about he previous lesson. The students were happy to explore how it would turn out.
One of the challenges of teaching is ensuring that your lessons are designed in a way that supports the learning of the all the students in your class. In the average classroom you might differentiate for high potential students, lower ability students, and EAL/D students. (Adjustments for students with specific diagnoses or disabilities will be addressed in another post).
What role can AI play in supporting differentiation?
Let's assume you already have a lesson planned for students of general ability on a topic. Either post it online somewhere publicly so that you can just direct the AI tool to the website, or summarise your lesson plan so that it can be easily copy and pasted (ensure the formatting is super simple).
Some prompts you could use in a tool like ChatGPT are:
As a trial, of this process I ran the following prompt:
ChatGPT produced a 7-point guide on differentiating the lesson (it was about a page and a half long) including suggestions related to content, process and product differentiation. Examples included providing advanced reading and opportunities for individual exploration (each with several sentences explaining how to do this). It provided a few options for allowing students to use different learning pathways, and also a few options of different products the students could create to demonstrate learning. Some of the advice provided was a bit generic, about differentiation strategies generally, but there were several good suggestions that were practical and could be easily used in the classroom.
Following this I tried the following prompt:
This prompt provided seven different lesson activities which were reasonably original and fairly different to each other. This was even more successful when I choose a specific learning ability (e.g. for example a student with low literacy levels).
I'm still exploring what this can do for supporting teachers to differentiate, but in these first few tentative steps I think AI definitely has something significant to offer. Moving forward, it will be fairly simple to create multiple differentiated versions of the same lesson very quickly to best cater for our students. The key is going to be knowing how to ask for what you want. My hint: keep asking more questions...
It's that joyful time of the semester again where everyone is setting and marking a lot of assessments and writing junior reports. Tensions are high, patience is low and sleep is something we catch up on during the weekends. Many classroom teachers are writing reports for close to 200 students. While teachers are more than capable to writing their own comments, it is a repetitive task - often commenting many times on the same tasks or skills, and it can be hard to come up with original comments particularly towards the end of the reporting cycle.
I came across a page on SchoolReportWriter discussing using ChatGPT to generate report comments, and while I'm not sure I would want to rely on ChatGPT to write comments about specific students, I was interested to see what it could do to generate comment banks for staff to use across the school. I concentrated on specific elements within a report comment, so that different sentences could be pieced together from different categories to make up a complete (or near complete) comment. Obviously they would still need to be personalised and checked to ensure that they meet the requirements of the school's report style guide.
I used Chat GPT to generate a series of generic report comments for specific topics such as :
- academic achievement based on basic performance descriptors (Outstanding, High, Sound, Basic, Limited)
- technology use
- attention and application to school work
- completion of classwork
- research skills
- critical and creative thinking
I used ChatGPT and the following prompts to generate the comments:
I was actually really impressed with most of the comments that were generated, and I ended up with 17 pages of report comments that could be used by most staff. I did go through and make edits. One of the main issues was that some of the comments were generated in first person. I experimented with asking ChatGPT to produce comments in a passive voice, but I didn't like the way the sentences were structured - they were much too clunky. It was easier to rephrase them myself. I also deleted some of the comments because I felt they were too negative, not phrased in a way that parents would appreciate or didn't convey a message that was consistent with the key messages of the school.
Report comment banks are nothing new, but ChatGPT allowed me to generate a comprehensive report comment bank very quickly and I was able to tailor it for specific items. If I was to develop a HSIE specific set I would enter specific tasks, fieldwork, skills, Business Reports, etc. I was impressed with the ability of ChatGPT to complete a job that will hopefully reduce teacher workload. Click the icon below to download the Reports Comment bank generated by ChatGPT.
This is part 4 of a number of posts about Fieldwork - Reef Surveying.
Read the other posts:
Fieldwork - Reef Survey - Preparation
Fieldwork - Reef Survey - Where to snorkel
Fieldwork - Reef Survey - Student Activities
Any active learning, where students are out in the field and enjoying nature is good for the students, good for us as teachers and helps to promote the real world application of our subject. Introducing students to snorkelling will expose them to a whole new world that they may not have engaged with before. It will encourage them to be more passionate about what they are learning, be more active in trying to protect environments and hopefully engage in more active citizenship to address environmental issues.
Snorkelling is a great activities for Year 9 Elective Geography students studying Oceanography. There has been growing recognition of the Great Southern Reef as an excellent case study for Year 10 Environmental Change and Management and Year 12 Ecosystems at Risk. It could also be used in the new Stage 6 syllabus for the new Year 12 Ecosystems and Global Biodiversity topic. Unlike a case study of the Great Barrier Reef, students could actively engage in fieldwork multiple times within a topic if your school is relatively close to the coast. Even if you aren't close to the coast, it is a lot easier to organise an excursion that doesn't involve air travel, so it is still a great option. Fieldwork for this case study is also a lot more economically accessible if you teach in a school with a low or complex socio-economic background, or have a group of significantly disadvantaged students.
In Elective Geography, in the Oceanography topic, reef surveying could link with the investigative study investigating an issue relating to the use of oceans. This could include an issue such as: crayweed or seagrass loss in the Sydney region/North Coast/South Coast, biodiversity in the Sydney region/North Coast/South Coast, or a similar issue that you identify as a class that the students are interested in.
In the Environmental Change and Management topic, reef surveying could link with work completed on the Investigative study, addressing aspects of:
- biophysical interactions
- causes, extent and consequences of change
- examples of some management strategies
In the Ecosystems at Risk topic (current Stage 6 syllabus), reef surveying could link with the case study of an ecosystem, addressing aspects of:
- geomorphic and hydrological processes
- biogeographical processes
- human impacts
- management strategies
In the Ecosystems and Global Biodiversity topic (new syllabus - to be implemented in Year 12 in 2025), reef surveying could link with the investigation of an ecosystem (this would need to be the example within Australia). It could address aspects of:
- characteristics of the ecosystem
- human-induced modifications
- responses and strategies
Underwater Writing Devices
Depending on the types of activities you are going to do (and how often you will be doing them) you might like to invest in underwater slates or clipboards. This means that while students are snorkelling they can be taking notes - perhaps about their location, types of organisms, or number of species observed or a particular underwater geological feature.
View underwater writing devices:
Dip N Dive - Under Water Writing Devices
You may also like to use an online field guide such as:
Marine Life Identification Guide from Snorkeling Report.
However, keep in mind that you probably don't want students and teachers using their phones/laptops while wet or near the water, so this might be more useful for checking fieldwork results back in the classroom.
A simple quadrat square can be made from pvc piping and corners, to use to do quadrat sampling.
Students gently lay down a quadrat square underwater (being careful not to disturb anything growing). They can either take a photograph to examine later or make notes about what they see within the square. For example, they might make note of the number of seaweed or seagrass species within the square, or the number of sea urchins within the square, or the variety of species. This activity should be repeated a number of times. Students can determine average calculations of a general location and then compare it with another location, or repeat the activity at another time to determine change over time.
Measurements and colour analysis
Students can use a ruler and colour chart to explore corals, seagrasses or seaweeds. In the case of corals, colour is an important indicator of coral health.
Underwater photography and videography
Students can easily take photographs and videos of the fieldwork site. These can be shared and compared with their classmates. In-built GPS will help to geotag the photos, or a GPS logger can be used. Photos and video can be used to identify different species, examine data on abundance of species, or explore human impacts. Photos can be added to locations on digital maps using Scribblemaps.
There are a couple of relatively cheap underwater cameras you can buy. Be prepared - if they are used regularly, they will get broken, and most likely they get water in them (also meaning they will be broken). I have bashed more underwater cameras into rocks than I care to admit. There used to be a wide variety available, but there aren't too many on the market these days. If you are going to get a student to take photos, make sure you get a wrist guard with a floatation device attached in case they drop it. Another good option to to use a hair elastic attached to the camera strap to that it doesn't get lost. For around $600-700 you can get basic model underwater camera from Olympus: Olympus TG-6 Tough Underwater Camera (Black). There are lots of other options for underwater cameras available, but they tend to be very expensive.
Probably the easiest option is to use a GoPro, with a waterproof case attached with either a velcro wrist band or a strap around your chest or head. Even though the GoPro11 is advertised as waterproof, I was advised to also get a waterproof case. There are also some masks that you can buy so that you can attach the Go Pro directly to the mask.
GoPro HERO11 Black Action Waterproof Camera
GoPro Protective Housing
GoPro Hand + Wrist Strap
Body Glove Adult's Arid 2 Piece Set Blue & Black
Students can use a basic outline map of the field site to demonstrate features which relate to human impacts on the reef. Students might mark on a map stormwater drains, stairs or entry points, boat ramps, pools, jetties, etc. Students may use the map to identify where they observed particular species in the field site. Students might map areas of natural vegetation surrounding the field site.
It has been great to hear a change in tone and implied respect in the few bits of communication we have had regarding education with the recent change of state government. It has been a long time since we have had communication that didn't feel like we are being reprimanded, misled or gaslighted. One fo the key messages we are being told is that there will be a concerted effort to try to reduce teacher administration so that we - as teachers and schools - can focus on the key to education - teaching and learning.
Many reports and articles have been written about teachers' perceptions about teacher administration (or "administrivia") and the impact these types of task have on teacher morale and the core purpose of the job. A couple of articles/reports you might like to read are:
AITSL: Shifting the balance: Increasing the focus on teaching and learning by reducing the burden of compliance and administration.
Teachers need more support, less admin to deliver quality education
Reports such as these outline that teacher administration, accountability and unreasonable demands are crushing staff morale and reducing time available to work with students.
I'd like to take this in a new direction and identify what this administrivia is and how it can be reduced, from someone working within a school. I'm going to start by thinking broadly at the system and whole school level, and then look at faculties.
Problem 1: Curriculum Reform
Following Geoff Masters' review and report on NSW Curriculum which wrapped up in 2020, the former NSW Government announced the comprehensive rewriting of K-12 Curriculum. This needs to be considered in the context that ACARA introduced a whole suite of new curriculum documents in 2013, which NESA (then BOSTES) rewrote into the NSW syllabuses. Schools have already been through the process of implementing new syllabuses in many subjects reasonably recently - Geography 7-10 was fully implemented as late as 2018. Some of the phase 3 subjects in other KLAs were implemented as late as 2019-20 (TAS).
The former NSW Government set a very ambitious agenda to develop, consult formalise and implement the new syllabuses very quickly. In HSIE alone, 2023 will involve planning and preparing for Senior Geography, consultation and release of Geography, History, Aboriginal Studies, and Commerce, with planning and preparing in 2024 and implementation in 2025. Consultation and release for Geography Elective, History Elective, Work Education in HSIE will occur in 2024, with planning and preparation in 2025 and implementation in 2026. These are the changes for one KLA alone, and mostly only for 7-10. Primary schools are already well under way implementing new English and Maths syllabuses.
We are now beginning to see the implication of these changes across subjects and years. Schools developing new teaching and learning program proformas, scope and sequence proformas, and assessment proformas for the new syllabuses. Faculties and teachers designing new programs, scope and sequences, teaching activities, and assessments, reviewing existing resources, and choosing new textbooks or online programs.
Solution 1: Slow down the implementation. It is not necessary to implement so much change so quickly. If we want the new curriculum implementation to be successful we need to allow time for teachers to really engage with the syllabuses, and have time for proper planning and collaboration.
The previous NSW Government announced five hours available per teacher per term to be used for planning. At the time no thought had gone into how this would be staffed, paid for or organised. Advice since has been scant. Given the extensive changes and period over which these changes will occur, why not provide funding to reduce teachers' teaching hours by half an hour per week and timetable it in?
Problem 2: Organisational overlap, discord and change
There are too many layers and levels of organisation, policies and documents that influence schools and teachers, and these are constantly changing. In the area of subject teaching alone ACARA designed the National Curriculum and looks after external testing like NAPLAN, NESA designs the NSW curriculum/syllabuses and the department then designs and implements additional layers such as literacy, numeracy and physical literacy continuums. Sometimes these layers don't always correlate with each other, and even when they do it still create fiddly jobs like coding one document against each other.
In addition, the roles and responsibilities of different departments and organisations are constantly changing so that teachers complete a task one way, and then soon after have to learn to do it a new way, or understand which organisation completes which role and then it changes.
Solution 2: Collaboration between the federal and state government is required to align the organisation goals, roles and objectives of federal and state curriculum authorities and government departments to reduce duplication and overlap. This would reduce time that teachers spend having to code and cross-reference multiple layers of policy and curriculum documents, and hopefully ensure that once a job is done once it doesn't need to be re-done.
Problem 3: Teacher shortage
The teacher shortage is not new. The impact of the teacher shortage on existing teachers in a school includes: taking extra classes, liaising with casual teachers for positions that are not filled, helping casuals plan lessons and assessments, preparing extra lessons, writing extra reports, dealing with additional behaviour management issues as students don't have a regular teacher (including assisting with recording information on the school's online systems).
Solution 3: The recently announced strategy of converting long-term temporary teachers into permanent teachers is a good one. Another option would be to provide extra funding to schools to employ multiple teachers to work full-time on casual loads (for sick leave, long service leave, professional learning, etc) under contract for the whole year., or perhaps even a few years. This would informally convert more casual teachers into temporary teachers, and ensure a steady, reliable way of covering leave periods and ensure students are familiar with those covering the classes. Many schools do this in an informal way anyway, so why not formalise this process a bit more? Providing more predictable work is a way of encouraging teachers without permanent jobs to stay in the system.
Problem 4: Policy
There are 219 policies that schools and teacher need to comply with. This is too many. Policies are currently recorded on a department website with duplication, multiple sections, weblinks, etc. It is difficult to find the information you need, there is a lot of waffle and much of it is not relevant to people working in schools. Trying to find some basic information can take a long time and increase the time it takes to get jobs done.
People across the state are duplicating work - risk assessments, WHS - all sorts of things.
Solution 4: Write policies in a short, simple way. Each policy should have a short summary with key points at the beginning of the document, and then further details. Policies should be in PDF form so that they can be downloaded and printed. Policies could be divided into those relevant to teachers, managers, and Non-School Based staff.
Instead of templates, ready to use documents are needed. Let's take a look at something like risk assessments for excursions. Why are people across the state writing their own? Surely someone in a Non-School Based Position (or a team) could create a bank of risk assessments that meet all the requirements and only require minimal changes by teachers.
Problem 5: External Validation and School Planning
Whole school accountability creates a huge administrative burden for teachers, head teachers, deputies and principals. External Validation involves a school being assessed on the judgements they have made about where the school sits on the Schools Excellence Framework. The Schools Excellence Framework (SEF) is a useful document that can be used to guide schools on the programs, strategies and actions needed to drive improvement. Each term Executive Teams can complete a Self-Assessment to review progress, reflect and plan forward. However the process of External Validation where documentary evidence and copious amount of data (did anyone say datafication of teaching?) needs to be uploaded and tagged according to the school plan and SEF elements, is overly formalised, time-consuming and basically a box-ticking activity that contributes little to the way schools are run. It creates stress when it isn't necessary, and takes time away from more meaningful activities.
School Planning seems like a duplication of SEF Self-Assessment and planning and discussions that come from it, and if External Validation is based on the SEF rather than the School Plan it seems entirely superfluous.
Solution 5: External Validation should be streamlined or discontinued, to be replaced by a once a term discussion with the DEL (like currently occurs for the School Plan).
School Plans should be discontinued. All schools should use the School Excellence Framework to guide improvement and not write a school plan. This is basically eliminating the "middle man", and would simplify the whole process.
Problem 6: Mandatory Training
There is an ever-increasing list of mandatory training. Mandatory training is generally repetitive, boring (mostly poorly designed online learning), and often irrelevant. The large amount of mandatory training required eats into weekly meetings and staff development days and reduces the amount of time that can be provided for faculties to undertake planning, do faculty organisation and to work collaboratively.
Solution 6: Eliminate all the superfluous mandatory training down to a list that is manageable and relevant. Reduce online learning modules - most people prefer to be spoken to by a real person, and this allows the deliverer to tailor the content for the school context.
Problem 7: Extracurricular activities
Many of the amazing things that happen in schools are run by teachers in their spare time by choice. All schools have so many extracurricular activities on offer - knockout sports competitions, breakfast club, art and drama club, SRC, robotics clubs, the list is never ending. The easy solution is to say to teachers to be more selfish with their time. Only that is not generally in the nature of teachers. Teachers tend to see a need, know what the limitations are in providing whatever is needed, and finding a way to do it regardless - usually the biggest cost is teacher time and workload. How can this be addressed by the new government? Providing period allocations for teachers running extracurricular activities would go some way to addressing this.
Solution 7: The best solution a new government could provide is reducing teaching loads, so that teachers have the time to concentrate on fewer classes, explore meaningful data to get to know those students well, and have time to create or source the best teaching materials for those classes. An extra staff development day here and there, announcing that staff should get extra release time (when there are no casuals, funding or guidance on how to provide it) and coming up with new initiatives that talk about workload but do nothing will not solve the problem.
Problem 8: Lack of support staff
Additional SASS staff to undertake non-teaching tasks could reduce workload. This could be updating the school website, maintaining social media and communications. While the amount of photocopying has reduced in schools since the introduction of digital classrooms, teachers still spend time photocopying documents, scanning work samples (another accountability issue) and maintaining organisation of digital assets. SASS staff are also overburdened by cumbersome systems so we can't just allocate more work to them.
Solution 8: Additional support to complete non-teaching tasks such as communications, collecting and completing photocopying, scanning documents, organising digital assets, etc would reduce workload. Providing a SASS person for one day a week per faculty could reduce these administrative tasks.
Additional Comments - 6 May 2023
It was great to see the announcement that the curriculum releases as part of the curriculum reform have been pushed back. I would still argue they need to be pushed back a little further, but it's still a good outcome.
Students in our Year 10 Enrichment class are currently undertaking the Balmain Foreshore Project, a cross curriculum unit of work in Geography and Science.
Implementing the project
The first full implementation of the project occurred during the second half of Term 1, 2023. It will result in a separate teaching and learning program for our Enrichment class (a class designed specifically to cater for HPGE students), including different content and learning activities. The students will also have a differentiated assessment task.
Students were led through initial discussions about the main aim of the project - a focus on research and hands-on application of research to rehabilitate a section of Balmain foreshore on school grounds.
In this iteration of the project, students focused on extent and quality of mangroves in the area. An important part of this project has been making Geography come alive as a subject - engaging students actively in physical activity, getting out of the classroom and engaging in practical activities. Students kayaked from the school grounds to observe and test mangroves on the foreshore at Rodd Point. They undertook monitoring of mangroves using GPS mapping, water testing, field sketches, underwater and aerial drone activities, photography and observation.
Students undertook a weed assessment on site at the school and and some weed removal, completed a rubbish count and analysis of types of rubbish around the foreshore and during the school's participation in Clean Up Australia Day, the class did their clean up focused in the foreshore area of the school.
Students participated in a workshop with Jenny Newell, the Climate Change Curator at the Australian Museum. The group was involved in a discussion of the global context of environmental change and management including climate change and the sensitivity of environments, global actions that address climate change and personal responsibility around environmental issues. They also explored how the Balmain Foreshore Project, a local initiative, fits into this wider context, and how they can make a positive contribution to their community.
Students also met with Charles Scarf, Environment Manager with Rozelle Interchange/Western Harbour Tunnel. He spoke about their project and the environmental impact process they had to follow to get approval, as well as how both science and geography investigation is used in the project and the careers opportunities in this kind of field.
This is part 2 of a number of posts about Fieldwork - Reef Surveying.
Read the other posts:
Fieldwork - Reef Survey - Preparation
Fieldwork - Reef Survey - Student Activities
Fieldwork - Reef Survey - Curriculum Links
Where to snorkel?
A good spot for a first snorkel is Clovelly because it is directly in front of the Surf Life Saving Club, it is a fairly contained area, and in most cases in is quite calm. You can pretty much count on seeing a groper. This is a good introduction site.
A couple of other good sites around Sydney where you are likely to see a variety of aquatic organisms are Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve (entry via Shelley Beach or Fairy Bower), Gordon's Bay and Chowder Bay. Outside of Sydney you might like to try:
- the rockpools at Norah Head,
- Shelley Beach at Toowoon Bay,
- Sharknet Beach, Huskisson
- Plantation Point, Vincentia
- Greenfield & Blenheim Beaches, Vincentia
There are obviously lots of other sites, but for ease - consider finding places where you can snorkel straight off the beach.
You might like to read:
- Best Snorkelling in Jervis Bay
Below: Image of the Rock Polls at Norah Head (left). Image of Hyams Beach at Jervis Bay (right)
Cabbage Tree Bay
Below: Image of Gordon's Bay from the Carpark (left). Image of Gordon's Bay from the footpath (right).
Below: Images of Chowder Bay
You might like to read: The Ultimate Guide to Snorkelling
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the Geoactive text book series.