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So much is written about encouraging STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) subjects  in our schools today.

As I looked through at an article listing 11 top Israeli innovations for treating wounds I was in wonder at the ‘can do’ attitude to develop solutions for seemingly simple problems. From an adhesive bandage which has a breakable capsule that releases a multi-compound therapeutic substance onto the sterile pad to a pressure bandage which features a unique built-in pressure bar to stop bleeding, the developments listed here are quite mind blowing!

Perhaps motivation for students in our schools could be as simple as exposing them to high tech solutions to everyday problems such as these that have been developed or are in trial testing or patent pending stages of development in overseas countries.

The power of one may well inspire the power of many!

An adage long shared within my family is

You are what you eat!”

So reading how academic performance is higher in those students who regularly eat fruit and vegies comes as no surprise to me!

An article by Henrietta Cook in last Sunday’s Age: Eating vegetables linked to higher NAPLAN scores ….. highlights a family who are growing up with a real sense of the value of eating well.  Both at home, where their mother regularly serves up healthy vegetable based meals, and at school where the children have gained an insight into the importance of food by participating in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program run in their primary school – Auburn South Primary  – eating ‘healthy’ is a given and, says their mother, her children’s school performance is well above average.

Although I’ve not been able to locate the research paper referred to in this article (unfortunately details are not documented), an online search turns up an abstract of an article to be published on September 1 by Appetite: Associations between selected dietary behaviours and academic achievement: A study of Australian school aged children.

Based on results of this study:

Greater consumption of vegetables with the evening meal (7 nights/week) was associated with higher test scores in the domains of spelling and writing (p=<0.01), with the greatest effect observed for spelling with a mean score difference of 86 ± 26.5 NAPLAN points between the highest and lowest levels of consumption (95% CI: 34.0-138.1; p=<0.01). Increased consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with significantly lower test scores in reading, writing, grammar/punctuation and numeracy (<0.01).

It is concluded that:

The findings of this study demonstrate dietary behaviours are associated with higher academic achievement.”

This short abstract is enough to convince me that there is merit to the notion that good nutrition based around the increased regular consumption of fruit and vegetables by children is a very worthy research topic.

Meantime, the notion of putting a bowl of fruit – regularly replenished – onto the circulation desk in our library is more than a fleeting thought.

I wonder if …..

I seriously blinked in disbelief when I read this headline in a recent EducationHQ Australia publication!

But ….. much to my shock ….. the article confirmed the stats were real!

More than 1000 Prep students aged four and five – 1028 in fact – had been suspended in Queensland in 2016 – a statistic that is almost double the 572 recorded three years earlier in 2013.  The reasons for suspension included “physical and verbal misconduct and persistent disruption.”

Attempting to explain such incredible statistics, Kevin Bates, the Queensland Teachers’ Union president suggested several reasons:

  • prep education level was only introduced in Queensland in 2008
  • young students are ill-prepared for school
  • questionable opportunities for socialization before they come to school
  • the inadequate impact of daycare and home environments

Fortunately though, I discovered as I continued my read of the article, this figure represents only 1.1% of prep students!

The great majority of state school students from prep to year 12 behave appropriately every day, are actively engaged in learning and have positive relationships with their fellow students and teachers” said a Queensland Department spokeswoman.

So ….. how misleading a headline can be when facts are stated out of context!  A great example of sensationalism and a perfect example of how a person – me – can be hooked into reading an article just based on its headline!

I found myself pondering the reason I was so easily hooked by the headline and concluded that it tapped into my own belief that kids today just don’t behave as they did in the past.  And if I needed any proof of that, I found it just last weekend, prior to reading this article, when my husband and I visited a newly opened cafe just around the corner from us.

Packed full of people, it was super noisy, so noisy we could hardly hear each other talk.  The concrete floor and massive bare walls were surely to blame I commented.   Yes, possibly, but this wasn’t the first cafe we’d been in which was fitted out in the current super modern minimalist trend, none of which were as noisy as this one.

Then we looked around and saw it!  There were kids, lots of them, far more than the usual number of young children we’d ever seen in other cafes at which we’ve enjoyed morning coffee.  And it wasn’t that the numbers were greater, it was how they were behaving which struck us.  Screaming, yelling, running around as if there was no one else in the cafe was the norm for these young ones.  It was only after I found myself wincing at the high pitched squeals emanating from more than a couple of tables, that I looked up and started assessing what I was seeing.

The cafe seated around 50-60 people.  Parents with children, who were kept busy by the cafe supplied crayons and stencils, were in abundance.  In between colouring in their pictures, kids were doing what they most often do – zooming around open spaces, checking on their baby brother or sister in their prams, arguing with each other, running over to waiters and then waiting impatiently for their pictures to be pinned up on the wall.  It felt like I was in a school playground rather than a cafe!

Clearly this was an atypical cafe!   Yet, why did it attract such a large number of young families?  Then it clicked, the cafe was right next door to the local primary school.   It wouldn’t surprise us if the cafe owners had marketed themselves to the school next door.

If yes, they clearly achieved their aim!  If no, they clearly have a problem!!  Either this four week old cafe will survive on a niche clientel or, sadly, they will close sooner than they anticipate.

The underlying reality of our Sunday morning coffee though was as clear as anything.  Societal expectations of how children should or should not behave in public have shifted dramatically since I was young and most certainly since my children were the same age.

Am I looking through the ‘mature’ age lens?  Or could it be as the Queensland Teachers’ Union president suggested ‘young children are ill prepared’ or are constantly exposed to ‘questionable opportunities for socialization’?

I’m left wondering whether young children today are naughtier than previous generations or whether their parents simply don’t know how to discipline their children.

Or … dare I suggest … could it be that somehow we failed to model good parenting skills to our children so that they in turn would know how best to parent their children?

Or … am I totally off track here trying to lay blame when in fact societal expectations have shifted, that the ‘me’ first mentality prevails and what we witnessed in our local cafe is today’s ‘acceptable’ public behaviour?!

Hmmm….  It seems I have many more questions than answers here!

Just a few days ago, a fascinating report was filed by Matt Connellan on SBS about a young Israeli student, Sarit Sternberg, who has made a significant scientific discovery – finding a virus that can kill anthrax.

Not bad for a 16 year old student!

Enrolled in the Alpha program for gifted high school students in Israel,  Sarit is currently visiting Australia and is talking about her discovery.

Have a listen to the SBS report aired last week and share the video with students to inspire them to greater heights.

As mentioned by Sarit, it is her generation who are more easily able to think outside the box and is perhaps a lesson for us as educators to steer students in such directions.

Inspirational!

I blogged about animated gifs a couple of years ago when I came across the inspirational work of George Redhawk.

Just now though, I’ve come across another master of animated gifs: James Eads in whose work we can simply get lost!

 

Born in Los Angeles, Eads lives and works at the Brewery Arts in Los Angeles, I came across his work on a September 2016 blogpost by Moss & Fog.  Check out his tumblr and instagram profiles for more inspirational art.

I’m super good at procrastinating!

Putting things off for tomorrow has become an ingrained habit for me.  After all ….. I’ve perfected it over very many years!!!

But finally, I bit the bullet and set aside some time over the last six weeks to complete an online course run by Future Learn of Monash University: Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance.

With the usual offering from an online course of putting in as little or as much effort as desired, I’ve probably gone down the middle road.  The course, made up of videos, meditations and an opportunity to participate in chat groups with other attendees really has been a worthwhile and satisfying way for me to explore this program.   Although, I’ve read and heard much about mindfulness over the years, I’ve concluded that it’s not until you actually try it for yourself and tie it to your own lifestyle that the benefits of being mindful are fully appreciated.

I found the videos easy to listen to.  Session three in particular really ‘spoke’ to me.  With a focus on multitasking, distraction and procrastination, I really related to the many examples being given.  The next day at work, as I did my usual of reading and replying to an email with a phone tucked under my ear and then responding to a person who walked into the office with a query, I realized how inadequate my response was to most everything I was trying to do in that stretch of time.  It’s amazing how much more aware I am of the impact of the many distractions as well as how I’ve been kidding myself that I can competently multitask!.  I’m now in the process of training myself to focus on one task at a time.

So, if like me, you have been contemplating to take time out for yourself and explore how to develop better life habits, I highly recommend this program.

And if mindfulness isn’t your thing, explore the many other course offerings from Future Learn – there are a wealth of offerings.

 

I came across this really great animated video just recently.

James Nottingham’s Learning Challenge which he refers to as the “Learning Pit” offers some really great ideas that can be easily implemented into any lesson.    Encouraging our students to ‘think’ helps them to develop a deeper understanding of concepts.

At stage one they develop surface level knowledge where they know the basics and have a reasonable understanding

At stage two they are getting into deeper thinking where they are questioning their own and others assumptions, looking at exceptions to general rules and exploring concepts in greater detail.

Take the time to watch this short video: