Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Service Learning Cycle

A couple of months ago I was on a cycle diagram frenzy, using Google Drawings to make and customise cycle diagrams from the MYP guides, inspired by the Design Cycle. Meanwhile, the idea of Design Thinking in schools as a process for problem-solving and authentic inquiry has been gaining traction in education and we are starting to see more ambitious Design class projects surface here at school. It is an encouraging time – as we gain competence in the new MYP, more ideas are starting to surface from teachers about how we move forwards.

Buy it!

At the same time, I’ve been working with our super-inspirational Service Learning Coordinator on student learning expectations against the learning outcomes for service for each MYP stage. We got to the point that we figured we should gather what we know from various sources (including the MYP support documents and Cathryn Berger Kaye’s Complete Guide to Service Learning) and put it into a cycle diagram – to apply the Design Cycle to Service Learning. This might be something we adapt and apply throughout the school as a protocol for service as action. This is an early draft, but I welcome feedback and ideas in the comments below. The second image in the slideshow is a service learning cycle developed by Berger-Kaye, which is explained on the ECSL website here.

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In the greater context, we have been framing the value of the Global Contexts recently as the driving force in the MYP that makes a good backwards-designed curriculum into an authentic and explicitly international education. Through knowledge and skills students develop conceptual understandings, which the global contexts help us to shape into meaningful, pragmatic inquiry (critical, reflective, consequence-oriented thought), resulting in action (including service), leading to international mindedness (a state of mind) and global engagement (behaviours). Meaningful action arises in conjunction with cultural competence. Through all this, we hope to develop the IMaGE of our learners.

As the pieces fall into place through curriculum and professional development, as well as gradual cultural change, we are poised to put the service learning cycle in a more prominent central role in our educational experience.

This is an attempt to connect the elements of the MYP framework with Action (of which Service is a subset), leading to International Mindedness and Global Engagement (IMaGE).

This is an attempt to connect the elements of the MYP framework with Action (of which Service is a subset), leading to International Mindedness and Global Engagement (IMaGE).

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Here’s Cathy Berger Kaye presenting to the IB Americas’s Conference, in 2012.

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Update: 2016

Here we added some level expectations, based on ATL skills, connected to the Outcomes. The idea here is that as students plan and reflect on their Service Learning, they are addressing these goals in a balanced, sustained and meaningful way.

Service Learning Cycle & Expectations Poster [CA 2015]

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Edits & Corrections

[Dec 16 2014] Removed hyphens from Cathryn Berger Kaye’s name (apologies!) and updated her service learning cycle image with the current version, from CBK Associates (pdf).

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Quick Review: Tony Butt’s Guide to Sustainable Surfing

Dr. Tony Butt

This quick read (74 pages,£0.87 on Kindle) is worth an hour or two of your time, especially if you’re into surfing or outdoor pursuits and are concerned about the environment. Tony Butt is a big-wave surfer and has a PhD in Physical Oceanography; his educational columns on Surf Science in Surfer’s Path magazine (and his book on the same) are excellent primers on waves, surfing and the environment.

In this text, Dr. Butt sets out to describe how we impact the environment as surfers and how we can make choices that can mitigate these impacts. He makes connections between the issues of Energy, Travel and Stuff related to surfing, highlighting the unsustainable nature of the jet-setting, product-hungry, WCT-inspired modern surfer. Of particular interest are issues of embodied energy and product life cycle assessment, which you may recognise from Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff series on YouTube, or Daniel Goleman’s Ecological Intelligence. As a marine biologist and science teacher there was little that was new to me, but some of the information on surfboard construction and wetsuits was enlightening. At times the text reads as though it was minimally-edited (there are repeated uses of similar phrases and references to Mentawais trips), but the message gets through loud and clear: make careful choices, cut down on unnecessary travel and buy-to-last, not buy-the-latest.

Anya in Baleal, Portugal.

This short text should act as an inspiration to surfers to learn more about our impacts: follow the links, recognise that we are not separate from nature and aim to be mindful in our choices. I would love to see more of his articles presented in cheap Kindle-format like this (Surfers’ Path, if you’re reading this…) and would definitely recommend a copy to surfing friends or students. I think this book could effectively be adapted into a series of webisodes on sustainable surfing to spread the message further.

As an international teacher getting back into the water, it was a good reminder of where the negative impacts of our lifestyle lie and how we might take action to reduce them. International travel may be an essential part of our lifestyle, but wastefulness need not be. It certainly helps that gear here in Japan is so expensive, too – just last week we hunted out a large second-hand store with a big selection of used boards. As my daughter develops as a surfer I hope that we can give her a sense of environmental responsibility and ocean stewardship.

Here’s Tony Butt discussing the Energy issue in terms of renewable energy sources over oil, following an oil spill in the Canaries that rendered the environment dangerous and the waves unrideable.

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Footnote: This Story of Stuff video from 2007, which we used in environmental science class, gives a quick and general overview of some of the issues discussed in Dr. Butt’s book.

Post-script: I wonder how sustainable these new Patagonia wetsuits really are? Although Dr. Butt’s book pre-dates this innovation, he recognises that wetsuit technology is inherently polluting (and oil-based) and suggests that we should aim to buy the most durable suits we can, rather than regularly replace large pieces of non-biodegradable neoprene. Thanks to scientist Karen James (@kejames) for mentoning it on Twitter.


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Teaching our Sons not to rape: SexEd & #YesAllWomen

This is a brief reflection on a work in progress, but health education in school is very important to me. It is a brief reflection on a project to update and refine a Sex Ed sequence, bringing in a stronger element of values education, sexuality and attitudes. It aims to move away from the traditional ‘plumbing and don’t get pregnant or raped’ approach to a more powerful and relevant ‘plumbing, make good decisions and be a good person’ approach. 

Background

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From @feministabulous on Twitter.

Towards the end of the year we had the opportunity to review and teach a G9 Sex Ed class, standing separate from the regular MYP PHE class and with a different staffing allocation. It comes at a time when the school is working out how to re-distribute health topics into PE, to make PHE, yet retain the balance of content work and physical activity. Sexuality education is a hugely important service schools provide students and their families and with this five-week (five hour) sequence we wanted to maximise the impact of the course. The course followed the end of a sequence of ‘peer group connection’ classes, which pairs up groups of older and younger high school students to discuss social and community issues. As a result, the groups come in fully-formed and comfortable with each other. The school has a very packed schedule, so finding time for all this with students is a challenge – they don’t get the weekly health & social class that I had been used to teaching from G6-10 in Bandung.

The Approach

After a review of the existing course, the aim was to set up some lessons and supporting resources that gave students reliable information but which also led them to other useful sources. I wanted to make sure that we weren’t afraid to tackle difficult issues, so the flow of the course goes:

  1. Anatomy, Physiology (including ground rules for SexEd, discussion of purposes). This built on their pre-existing knowledge (which was minimal) from puberty classes. The ground rules were shown again at the start of each lesson.
  2. Menstrual Cycle, Sex and Pregnancy (lots of video, quite teacher-directed)
  3. Abstinence, Contraception & Avoiding STI’s (starting to open up discussions, looking at different approaches to safe sex and STI avoidance, includes condom/banana demo).
  4. Consent: Making Safe Choices (further into discussions of values, risks, pressures around sex and communication. Heavy emphasis on the nature of consent and ‘no means no’. Starts to explore attitudes towards sexuality and introduces alternative sexualities.)
  5. Attitudes & Behaviours (really focuses on being aware of and avoiding negative behaviours, including rape prevention not as a fault of the victim but as a responsibility of the potential perpetrator.)

Students each week received a double-sided sheet for notes, with clear statements for Understand, Know and Do, as well as vocabulary list, key content and links to the supporting resources on a GoogleSite. This all took a lot of time to prepare, as it was accompanied by discussion-cards and a presentation as well. The GoogleSite is filled with videos and further links to sources I’d vetted, in order to allow students to explore more in class and at home. Towards the end of the course, students were able to use the resources to answer their own questions.

Every week started with a tuning in exercise, usually a quiz or discussion based on the previous week, and ended with an exit ticket, used to inform teaching in the future weeks. The final lesson ended with an evaluation GoogleForm.

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Reflections

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A key message of the course.

The course was very well received by students who completed the survey, and the dynamic in discussions improved as the prompts became more interesting. In one session I noticed a very quiet group of one-word answers, so for the following week adapted discussion prompts for a rotating discussion model, as seen in the presentation. This made a huge difference and came from one of our focuses for next school year in supporting all teachers to be language teachers.

Through formative assessment I noticed that students’ memories of the reproductive system organs were weak, though their understandings of the processes were strong. The emphasis on consent, respect and safe decision-making came through loud and clear, and I was grateful for that. Students understood that there were multiple factors influencing how we think about sex and sexuality and that “no means no; the absence of yes means no.”

We looked at a range of non-traditional, yet important, issues around sexuality, from masturbation and pornography to sexual harassment, discrimination, homophobia and sexual violence. We saw examples of campaigns targeted at men to prevent them from being rapists and discussed the victim-blaming nature of existing approaches and policies.

An important shortfall noted in the feedback was that the course felt too short and that there was not enough time to really explore some of the more current and interesting issues. For example, although I emphasised that we were not pushing only hetero-normative values, we did not really give students much opportunity to discuss LGBT issues.

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#YesAllWomen

In between the fourth and fifth weeks of the course, after looking at pressures around sex and going into a lot of depth on consent, the #YesAllWomen campaign exploded on Twitter. This was a powerful response to the misogny-fueled mass-shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Some of the students had seen the news, few understood what was behind it. Some had seen the hashtag and we looked at the stream during class. At that time there were over 50 tweets coming through per minute, a steady stream of everyday (and extreme) issues faced by women.

“I noticed things in this course that sometime now I don’t like to notice,” 

I asked students to watch the stream, note some of the hard-hitting tweets and try to clarify to each other what they meant. The girls got involved right away, with lots of ‘Oh, yeah‘s, but the boys took a while. When they got it, it led to some profound moments of reflection that I hope we can build into meaningful changes in attitudes and positive future actions. Over and over again, we stated that if we truly believe in equality for all, we need to change the mindset of the population to really move away from victim-blaming and into taking real responsibility for actions.

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Personal Reflection

I am thankful for the opportunity to do this with the classes, even though it was an exhausting effort at the end of an overly-busy year. There is clearly some way to go in the development of these resources, and I’ll aim for a sixth more open-ended week next time. Approaching sex-ed in this way is a risk and needs confidence and caring in the classroom to make it work – I honestly can’t see it being successful if forced on those who don’t want to teach it this way. We are very fortunate at CA to have students who are capable of mature and compassionate discussion.

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Links

The materials and ideas for the course are pulled from many sources, all of which I checked as rigorously as possible for currency and accuracy. Many of them are posted on the course GoogleSite. Here are some key resources:

Interesting

This TED Talk on ‘The Great Porn Experiment’ is super-interesting – and highlights an issue in sexuality education that we would not have had to deal with (to the same extent) the in days before always-on, in-your-face internet exposure to sexual imagery.


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2 Million Views on i-Biology.net!

This week saw i-Biology.net push past two million page views. It now gets around 4,000 views per day, which is a lot of teachers and students looking for resources. This week also saw the closure of Gifts4Good.co.uk, who had been processing charitable donations for Biology4Good.

 

So this week is the perfect time to re-launch my appeal for donations to charity through Biology4Good on a bigger service,  JustGiving

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JustGiving guarantees that 100% of the donation is passed on to the charity.

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A Year of Meat-Less Living

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote on my family blog in 2011, but I was encouraged to edit and re-post today by an article posted on GOOD Magazine’s website: “Eating some meat may be better for the environment than eating none.”

Factor in the intense meat-holiday of Christmas with the Taylors (and the holiday weight that needs shifting), as well as the intense work-avoidance of a Master’s assignment and the feeling that I should be blogging more about my practice and the decisions I make as an educator and here you are.

For more than a year now (bar Christmas!), we have been trying to make conscious decisions to live “meat-less.” This doesn’t mean full veggie, but we have cut a lot of meat from our diets.

An updated version of the original article is below. Here is a little TED Talk from Graham Hill of Treehugger, on why he is a weekday veggie:

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Biology4Good is taking off!

After a run of generous donations, i-Biology users have so far donated well over £700.00 to my chosen charities, including the Marine Conservation Society, Mines Advisory Group, Hope HIV, Save the Children, Save the Rhino, Tree Aid and Medecins sans Frontiers!

A couple of years ago I started a Gifts4Good charity list for my site, called Biology4Good. The idea was that people who used my resources might feel like they could give back by donating to charity through the list. It was very slow to take off, but after some promotion during the final IB exams in May and November this year, it’s finally getting going!

This Movember also saw the site generate some support.

At first I was unsure if offering a wide range of charities would be a good thing or if it would spread donations too thinly, but I’m happy I’ve kept it broad. This way users can choose a charity which most closely aligns with their own personal feelings. It takes a lot of time and effort to put this site and the resources together, but feels good to know that others find it worthwhile enough to make a small contribution to charity as a result.

Thank-you! If you are an educator why not consider doing something similar. Get your work out in public and let it work for others who need the help. Call it Teacher CAS.


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A Million Views on i-Biology.net

One meeeelion viewers. Link to my Movember profile.It’s exciting to see how i-Biology has grown over the past few years, and to get feedback from students and teachers who are using the resources here from all over the world. As always, constructive comments are welcome and if you spot any errors or have suggestions for resources, please let me know.

If you want to show more support, please make a donation to either my Movember account or Biology4Good. Every little helps! All donations go completely to the charities.