As a biologist and ecologist, community is a word that has meaning both related to and developed alongside the sociological one. An ecological community comprises of the different populations of organisms that inhabit the same habitat, and interact. Whilst at a species level I am related to all the teachers across the country and the world, my community lives in a more localised habitat. My educational habitat could be seen as being my school, my professional community is my whanau within that school, and I represent a population of science teachers within that community.
My whanau within my school serves as a model ecosystem. Coast whanau has two senior leaders, eight teachers, a whanau admin assistant, around 200 students and teaching assistants for our deaf students and a blind student.
The teaching community within my whanau strive to ensure the connectedness of our practice. We meet weekly to plan our inquiry learning schemes and to discuss connect our subjects. We attempt to ensure that as much of our subject teaching as possible is not separated from each other and that we break the barriers found in traditional learning environments. For instance, the maths teachers had decided to teach geometry to year 8 by having them design and build a model of a community centre for our area. I took this idea into my lessons by teaching them materials science, looking at reactivity series of metals, metal and non-metal properties, even making and smashing concrete samples to investigate the importance of proportion when mixing concrete. This folded into the maths work by getting students to consider what buildings are made of, and why we use these materials. Their global studies teacher looked at how communities can incorporate their cultural diversity and kaupapa into public buildings. By showing students how these subjects can be woven together, they created absolutely beautiful work and referenced their learning in other subjects in a way we don't normally see without this level of collaboration.
|Students add the finishing touches to their buildings|
This learning reflects the vision of our school, which is that learning should be authentic and relevant to the lives of our students. Our community's values of connections within learning helps to create this authenticity. My year 8s, now that their projects are finished, are looking at the controversy of the Ihumatao special housing area in Auckland, as an example of when the differing needs of a community come into conflict. This case study has led to my learners researching the history of the Maori land wars and consequent confiscation of land, debating the relative merits of slowing or halting immigration to Auckland and writing letters in support of or opposing the plans, using their persuasive writing skills learned in English.
My personal practice aligns with this core community value of authenticity and relevance, as I strive to ensure our learners are aware of the environmental and social concerns that surround their community, their learning, and their role as scientifically literate citizens.
Y7 students talking about their action as part of reduce, reuse, recycle
By linking individual subjects together, and from there to a wider context, and empowering students to address the challenges that arise from this context, our community of practice respects and promotes the kaupapa of the school.
It also relates to the wider core values and vision of the National Curriculum, the document that connects all the habitats and populations of teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand. By having a group of practitioners, all with different subject skills, who are working together to create contextual learning that enables students to engage with their world, we are helping prepare our students for whatever challenges they may face outside the classroom.