Teaching Creative Writing: From Craft to Technique

As every teacher of English knows, one of the most enjoyable and also mindbogglingly difficult parts of the job is the business of teaching a type of writing that, when successful, sees children make an art of their imagination. For anyone middle aged or above, such a thing is simply learning how to write a story or poem, a memoire, a letter or a piece of literary journalism, but for our children, it is what we mean by creative writing, a teachable discipline, its genesis traceable to the University of Iowa, in as early as 1897.

I say difficult not because teaching children to write creatively is any harder when compared to that of its factually based cousin, say a balanced argument or a report. Or because, the rare late nineteenth century workshop aside, it was only properly understood as a discipline after the Second World War, and is therefore comparatively new, especially in Britain, and even more so in compulsory education. Rather, creative writing is uniquely difficult – to learn as well as to teach – because, to appropriate a Shamus Heaney distinction, there is a difference between the teachable (craft, ‘the skill of making’, the eminently learnable) and what he calls ‘technique’, which he defines as being craft and the poet’s ‘definition of his own stance towards life, a definition of his own reality.’

It’s a stretch, I know, using Heaney’s poetry-specific dictum for all creative writing, particularly for the kind made by children as young as nine, but author Mark MacGurl says something similar with regard to story in his book The Program Era, arguing that there are two ways of understanding the import of a piece of fictional writing, the first and obvious being the manner in which its constructed, the second in what it speaks – or tells us – about the hand that made it. Essentially, we’re talking here not only about the technology of writing or the understanding of language in its many written forms, but also of something unique to the writer: namely, his or her voice, the self expressed as art. No wonder, as Louise Menand notes, that the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the taught creative writer’s mecca, should advertise its program with the claim that writing ‘cannot be taught’, only writers ‘encouraged’. Teaching people to write creatively: it’s verging on the bloody impossible.

But only verging, because Iowa’s disclaimer isn’t nearly as black and white as it might seem; or Heaney’s movement – from craft to technique – nearly as tough as it first looks. Learning to write creatively begins not with a pen, a pencil, the keyboard, but with books, with learning to read creatively, which in turn originates in the joys of speech, of play, of touch, the body, of friendship, the ability to socialise creatively. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borge once said that there was nothing in language a writer could claim as his or hers, only that it was their combining of the unconsciously borrowed that was truly original. Roland Barthes said much the same in Death of the Author, claiming that the writer is actually the reader, the reader the writer. 52 Stories, a Reading Agency endorsed Cambridge based reading program initiative, perfect local example of the above, drives reading  comprehension through everyday public space activity, the extracurricular carnival of speaking, reading and understanding entwined. When Iowa speaks of encouragement in respect of its budding writers, it means encouraging them into language as well as craft, the garden of speech, a place of sound and image, of multiple meanings. It means to properly enable learning.

Which is not to ignore the directly teachable: If you take story as example, then certainly everything that constitutes the form can and will be taught, specifically through reading, through encouraging the copying of, the emulating, as Heaney might say, of writers loved and respected. Such a teaching includes, it hardly needs me saying: enjoying complex characterisation; plots that as well as employing different techniques adhere to various conflict-resolution structures; settings that play interestingly with time and space; styles covering everything from experimenting with imagery, figurative language, sound devices, allusion and symbolism; narrator perspective, that being first, second or third person; and tone, the hardest to teach craft-wise, the easiest to come by when speaking of technique. This is the story writer’s craft, the sum of which is the narrative tool-kit par excellence.

However, while being given the opportunity to know, investigate and practice one’s craft is essential, repetition the story-muscle ticket, it being a daily exercise and never for long enough for the practitioner to be driven nuts, creative writing is not, whatever the pressure of SATs, about high-stake tests. It is not about ticking boxes. It is not colouring by numbers. Teach the craft, but never forget the agent of the story, the person – not the author, but rather the extraordinary language machine that is the human. Writing is hard, sure, as is comprehension, but there’s nothing like the drama of being, of speaking – as a player, reader, writer or editor – to unblock, to free, to understand the nature of feedback, to know what to show, what not to tell. The voice is there. It just needs encouraging. Let the technique unfold.

Ex-teacher and writer Dave Waddell writes and is part of the ReadingWise team, which jump-starts reading for struggling readers in schools, empowering TAs to work with groups of 10 at a time. ReadingWise would like to hear from schools, parents and carers interested in discovering new ways of unlocking reading potential.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/apr/07/poetry.seamusheaney

http://www.amazon.com/The-Program-Era-Postwar-Creative/dp/0674062094

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/06/08/show-or-tell

http://www.spinney.cambs.sch.uk/children/52stories.php

http://readingwise.com/

Back To BASIC

The release of the free FUZE BASIC V3 for Raspberry Pi makes learning to code easier and more accessible than ever

 

June 2015: UK based company, FUZE Technologies Ltd, has taken programming back to its roots and announced that FUZE BASIC can now be downloaded for free from www.fuze.co.uk for all Raspberry Pi users.

The launch of the Raspberry Pi and the recent addition of programming to the National Curriculum saw the most exceptional surge in the popularity of computing since the 1980s, when the popular Acorn, Commodore, Sinclair and Amstrad units first used the language of BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). This language was the inspiration for the modern computing systems, websites and applications that are taken for granted today.

FUZE BASIC is a highly advanced and modernised version of the BASIC programming language, which is widely accepted as the easiest to learn and teach. FUZE BASIC provides a more realistic introduction to text-based programming than drag and drop environments like Scratch, while being far more accessible to beginners than more complex languages like Python and Java.

Featuring a redesigned user interface and advanced graphic support including sprite and image scaling, angle and alpha controls and rotation, FUZE BASIC is fully configured to run with all models of the Raspberry Pi including the new V2. The new community website www.lair.fuze.co.uk will also host support and advice from FUZE BASIC users and FUZE Technologies Ltd.

Eben Upton, CEO of Raspberry Pi (Trading) Ltd said: “BASIC was my first language back in the late 1980s, and I owe my interest in computing to the low barrier to entry and smooth learning curve that it offers.”

David Braben, CEO of Frontier Developments, co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and co-author of Elite on the BBC Micro adds: “It is where I started a third of a century ago, and I will be forever grateful to the opportunities it created for me.”

In addition to FUZE BASIC being available as a free download, FUZE Technologies also includes a 90-page Project Workbook starting with simple commands, and progressing to robotic and electronic circuit control projects.  The 160-page FUZE BASIC Guide and a preconfigured 8GB SD boot card are available to order from www.fuze.co.uk

 

 

Start-ups invited to celebrate the future of education technology at Bett 2016

Following its success in 2015, Futures is returning to Bett 2016, providing inspirational ed-tech start-ups with the opportunity to showcase their products and services to more than 35,000 visitors.

 

As the new purpose-built home for the world’s most inspiring ed-tech start-ups, Futures was launched at Bett 2015, in collaboration with the UK’s leading education think-tank, The Education Foundation. Located right at the heart of the action of the Bett show floor, the area was introduced to celebrate brave thinking, innovative new products and education ‘game changers’.

 

Designed as a unique, three-year progression programme, Futures offers developing start-up companies an opportunity to benefit from all that Bett has to offer, but with heavily subsidised exhibition rates (choice of two packages based on market status). Exhibitors also benefit from marketing resources including digital and social media promotion, and speaking opportunities on the Futures stage.

 

In 2015, the inaugural cohort was made up of 30 companies selected by a panel of education experts, based on the relevance of their solutions to today’s classroom challenges. The Future area showcased the most innovative developments in ed-tech; from teacher-parent communication tools and 3D printing, to language learning and adaptive maths apps. The 2016 cohort will be a combination of both returning Futures start-up exhibitors and new start-up companies that have recently launched.

 

Debbie French, portfolio director of Bett comments: “There was a huge buzz around the Futures area at Bett 2015, and what it offered our visitors was completely unique. Our aim was to give those 30 companies the chance to engage with all that Bett has to offer, in a way that made was affordable to them and made them stand out from the crowd. The feedback we’ve received from those start-ups suggests that we achieved that, and judging by the crowds throughout the show, it suited our visitors’ needs to. Our panel of judges consists of teachers, entrepreneurs and industry experts, and for Bett 2016 they are again searching for the most innovative and relevant ideas that truly meet the challenges that educators and learners are faced with. We’re looking forward to what Futures 2016 will bring!”

 

James Sutherland, director at Bett Futures 2015 start-up company, The Publishing Foundry says: “Bett Futures has helped us form some invaluable relationships; from the wealth of information, knowledge and experience that we gained from Bett we have developed our offering further and have seen our growth in business exceed 220% of forecast ytd. Without the Bett Futures offering we could not have considered being at Bett at the size of company and stage that we were at, however, thanks to Bett Futures we are now growing faster than planned and seeing the great successes, just 4 months later.”

 

Ty Goddard & Ian Fordham, Co-founders of The Education Foundation add: “We’re very pleased to be working in partnership with Bett again on this venture! The success of Futures at Bett 2015 proved that it is the ideal platform for dynamic new businesses and start-ups working in the education sector. Futures enables us to continue supporting teacher entrepreneurs and new companies, and we look forward to building on the UK’s ed-tech start-up ecosystem that Bett 2015 started. We’re excited to see more companies showcasing their new and innovative ideas in this growing sector.”

 

If you think your company has got what it takes, find out more and apply here: http://www.bettshow.com/Content/Dont-miss-your-chance-to-take-part-in-Futures-2016.

 

 

Tablet adoption continues to rise; barriers to adoption shift

BESA releases ‘Tablets and connectivity’ research

 

Tablet use in schools continues to rise as barriers to adoption shift, new research from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) has revealed.

 

The annual ‘Tablets and Connectivity’ survey of 632 UK schools (335 primary, 297 secondary), conducted in June 2015, suggests that 71 per cent of primary and 76 per cent of secondary schools (an increase from 56 per cent in 2014 in both school types) are making use of tablets in the classroom. Currently, there are estimated to be 721,000 tablets for use by pupils in classrooms across UK maintained schools and academies, and it is forecast that by the end of 2016 this number will have increased to over 946,000.

 

This upward trend appears to be continuing with 15 per cent of schools suggesting that they will have 1:1 access to tablet technology by 2016 and 44 per cent of schools having one tablet per child by 2020.

 

The research also showed that a lack of suitable bandwidth remains a significant barrier to adoption of mobile technologies.

 

Research carried out in May 2014 revealed that schools in rural areas of the UK have poor access to mobile technologies due to inadequate bandwidth.

 

Schools have noted little improvement over the past year with only three percent more primary schools, 53 per cent, feeling that they have the ideal bandwidth (up from 50 per cent last year) and 65 per cent of secondary schools feel the same (up from 62 per cent in 2014).

 

Today’s research also suggests that 88 per cent of primary schools regard the management and security of tablets as a significant barrier to adoption. In secondary schools the barriers to adoption, in order of significance, are training and support (91 per cent), funding (83 per cent) and management and security (83 per cent).

 

Caroline Wright, director, BESA said; “Today’s research shows there is an opportunity for teaching schools, school leadership organisations and industry to work with schools to help them understand how they can utilise tablet technology to its full potential, and integrate tablets as learning tools into the classroom.

 

“It is disappointing to see so many schools still struggling with Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity issues. With nearly half of schools reporting poor connectivity we run the risk of failing to equip our young people with the essential digital skills that they need for their future careers. More needs to be done to improve Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity in our schools.”

About BESA

BESA, the British Educational Suppliers Association, is the trade association representing over 300 educational suppliers in the UK, including manufacturers and distributors of equipment, materials, books, consumables, furniture, technology, ICT hardware and digital-content related services to the education market.

With 82 years of experience, BESA offers unparalleled support, research, events and advice on both UK and International markets, and the future of the education supplies industry.  BESA is focused on promoting and providing support and advice to their members, the industry and to schools.

BESA has a Code of Practice to which all members must adhere, along with a stringent membership process, both of which assure buyers of a high standard of quality in both product and customer service.

For more information, please visit www.besa.org.uk.

For further press information contact:

Sue Murray

NEW PHONICS CONTENT ADDED TO DISCOVERY EDUCATION ESPRESSO PRIMARY SERVICE IN RESPONSE TO NEEDS OF SCHOOL PARTNERS

− Discovery Education, as part of its core mission to empower teachers and engage pupils with high-quality, engaging digital content, adds more than 230 learning activities to Espresso to accommodate school partners’ needs. −

 

 

UNITED KINGDOM (25 June 2015) – Discovery Education announced today the addition of 230 learning activities based on the Department for Education’s Letters and Sounds programme to its award-winning Discovery Education Espresso service for primary schools. These new learning tools were developed in response to requests from teachers using the service who expressed a need for additional, high-quality activities supporting Foundation and Key Stage One Phonics.

 

Literacy consultant, Gill Budgell, well known for her work in phonics and early literacy, provided additional expertise in the creation of the new resources and the accompanying teacher guides.

 

“We are continuously updating our services, because we want to support teachers in delivering great teaching and learning. In our conversations with our school partners about areas of need in curriculum resourcing, greater understanding and reinforcement of phonics teaching was identified as a strong requirement,” explains Lewis Bronze MBE, Director of Content at Discovery Education UK.

 

The innovative activities have been developed and designed to be highly engaging for four to six year olds, providing pupils with the opportunity to practice the foundational phonics skills, such as blending and segmenting letter sounds, which is the groundwork for reading and spelling. Lessons include high-frequency or “common exception” words; questions encouraging pupils to read the words in context in order to give a response; and alien words, where students use their phonemic awareness to distinguish real words from nonsense words, practising the skills required for the Phonics reading check. Audio support is provided in the early phases to model the blending of sounds, and is reduced in the later phases.

 

The engaging activities accompany videos, hosted by student-friendly presenters Cat and Radzi, which give pupils the opportunity to practise and consolidate learning. These videos can be used as stand-alone activities with the whole class, in groups, or with individual students.

 

All of these resources are available within the schools’ Discovery Education Espresso subscription.

 

Discovery Education Espresso is an award-winning, video-rich, cross-curricular service that supports the National Curriculum and the successful integration of digital media into teaching and learning. With these updated activities, the service also supports the collaborative and growing partnership between Discovery Education and its schools.

 

For more information about Discovery Education Espresso and the new phonics resources, please visit http://www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/phonics.

 

It’s not all bad news….the kids at St Scholastica’s, Hackney, show the way.

It’s been a sobering few days for those who thought  we were turning the tide of childhood fitness and overall  participation in sport.

 

As Richard Williams in the Guardian writes:’ The first came on Monday, when Sport England’s half-yearly survey revealed a fall of 220,000 in the number of people of all ages taking part in sport of any kind for at least half an hour a week, compared with the previous six months.Then on Friday came a survey from a group of researchers at Essex University indicating a dramatic worsening in the fitness of Britain’s schoolchildren. Don’t blame obesity caused by massive amounts of sugar-saturated food and drink. Children with perfectly normal levels of body fat are now showing themselves to be less fit than those of earlier generations, and the blame is placed on a sedentary lifestyle – in other words, a lack of exercise.’

 

This Tuesday sees Kate Percy and Go Faster Food ambassador, GB pole vaulter and winner of this Sunday’s National U23 competition, Lucy Bryan running an ‘eating for energy’ workshop at St Scholastica’s Primary School in Hackney

 

St Scholastica’s are winners of the competition organised around the Vitality Hackney half-marathon. Kate was asked by the organisers of the Vitality Run series Go 2 Events in an initiative funded by Hackney Council to put together a way of highlighting the inextricable link between what we eat and how we perform. Go Faster Food produced 1000 booklets (pictured right) – entitled ‘a taste of Go Faster Food for Kids’ for the 30 schools that participated. A spokesman from Hackney council said:

 

‘Using Kate’s Nutrition Tool Kit and Superfuel recipes the programme will provide active kids and their families with hands on and practical advice that will enable children to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle, fostering habits that will stay with them as they grow and develop into young adults.’

 

As part of the initiative a competition was run where the children wrote about why they were running. The winner, Regina Clement, a Year 6 pupil at St Scholastica’s says:

 

‘I like running because it’s healthy for your body. You can do it anywhere. Park, garden or gym…I like running because it’s for everyone.’

 

Kate said:

 

‘I’m really looking forward to spending the morning at St Scholastica’s. I’ve been up and down the country since launching the schools’ programme in November seeing how kids of all ages really ‘get’ it when I talk about eating the right foods to help them ‘Go Faster’ and feel better rather than drone on about ‘healthy eating’. Having Lucy accompany me tomorrow is a real bonus. The kids are just going to love making energy balls and power shakes with her!’

 

Go Faster Food launched its schools programme last November and is already in regular touch with over 4000 teachers around the country. An email campaign directed at the leadership teams, Design and Technology and PE departments went out to 24,000+ schools and the message is being helped by delivering delicious recipes direct to teachers in boxes every Friday in an initiative which is proving extremely popular.

 

If you would like to experience #GoFasterFridays yourself please just fill in your details at www.gofasterfoodforschools.com

 

 

To find out more information about Go Faster Food, visit www.gofasterfood.com or contact Mark Bolton-Jones on 07956 858852 or at markbj@gofasterfood.com.

EdStart Fitness App for Schools – Powered By iPEGS Technology = Healthy Living For Children Across The North West June 2015

iPEGS Ltd is delighted to announce an exciting new partnership with EdStart.

iPEGS is a mobile app development company who specialise in form building solutions designed to reduce paper usage and increase efficiency via digital data collection.

As part of EdStart’s innovative new health and fitness programme for schools the iPEGS Form Builder App was used to record data and monitor childrens progress throughout the programme.

After a successful pilot using this technology EdStart decided to work with iPEGS on a customised version of the iPEGS App and web based system specifically designed for the EdStart fitness programme.

EdStart support schools by offering curriculum based PE provision and afterschool clubs as well as an innovative new health and fitness programme specifically targeted to suit young people. EdStart’s aim is to improve the skills of children in every area of PE and develop life-long positive attitudes to sport, physical activity and healthy living. EdStart’s approach is designed to make sessions fun and accessible to each individual child.

 

The App has 4 key features:

  1. Forms – Ability to record the fitness test results of each child undertaking the fitness programme.
  2. Reports – Ability to run reports on the overall improvements of each fitness test for each child, class, year and school.
  3. Resources – Session plans with a comprehensive suite of step-by-step videos enabling non specialist PE teachers to deliver the fitness programme effectively.
  4. Additional resources and worksheets used to educate children and families about the importance of leading healthy lifestyles based around; nutrition, sleep, exercise and suppleness.

Schools will be able to monitor the progress made by the PE department throughout the year and will be able to run a final report showing the improvements made by school as a whole as well as each class individually.

Data
The EdStart App will enable schools to record real time data based on the fitness of their pupils. This data will be useful in a variety of scenarios from identifying the ‘fittest’ schools to those that need more support. The data will also help PE teachers monitor the effectiveness of the activities being undertaken by the school.

Identifying extremely talented individuals as well as pupils who need to address their fitness levels from a much younger age will be made possible.

 

Adam Leese – iPEGS CEO said:
“We are delighted to be working on such a ground-breaking project alongside EdStart. Their programme will change the way that children and schools approach physical education. By specifically developing a customised version of the iPEGS system for EdStart we are able to not only record the results of the fitness tests electronically but we are also able to produce reports on the improvements and progress of individuals, years groups and the school overall.”

Chris Irwin – EdStart Managing Director said:
“The EdStart Fitness App is just the start of a longer-term strategy to utilise mobile technology and fitness within schools and for pupils and parents alike. This will allow us to implement our programme into numerous schools across the North West and UK whilst giving non specialist PE teachers the confidence to deliver and assess the various sessions. Our aim is to engage pupils and parents in developing life-long positive attitudes to sport, physical activity and healthy living.”

The EdStart Fitness App will be available for both iOS and Android tablets and will be launched in July 2015.

 

Contact

For more information about iPEGS please contact:
Lowri Thomas Tel: 07792274411
lowri@ipegs.co.uk
www.ipegs.co.uk

For more information on EdStart please contact:
Chris Irwin Tel: 07940 097364
chris@edstart.org.uk
www.edstart.org.uk

Clevertouch Adds to the Range Of Award Winning Educational Apps on Cleverstore

10 June 2015
Clevertouch Plus, the market leading interactive touchscreen from Sahara, which launched a ‘first of its kind’ educational App store called Cleverstore at the end of 2014, has added a range of new educational apps to the store.

Available on all Clevertouch Plus touchscreens, the Cleverstore now boasts over 50 apps from leading app developers including Dolphin (browser), StoryToys, MindMeister, Daydream Education and Allcancode Inc to name but a few, which support the national curriculum and have been specifically formatted for use with large interactive screens.

Apps on the Cleverstore have been rigorously tested to ensure they are appropriate for the classroom and they have been stripped of ads and in-app purchases, enabling teachers to download subject or key stage apps for free that will inject fun and interactivity into lessons.  More apps are scheduled to drop into the store in the coming weeks including GCSE Revision Buddies and a significant number from Nuiteq, details of which will be released later in the year.

Shaun Marklew, Sales and Marketing Director at Clevertouch commentsUsing touch devices and apps is second nature to children and teenagers. We are thrilled to be able to offer Clevertouch users leading apps from respected developers such as StoryToys, Daydream Education and MindMeister.   Cleverstore has been designed to give teachers instant access to a library of interactive tools they can trust to help bring lessons to life and improve the learning experience for their pupils. 

As a company, we’re committed to working in partnership with developers and educators to create a suite of apps for interactive screens as well as teaching resources, which can be used with the Clevertouch range making it an even more effective and intuitive solution for our end-users.”

Cleverstore apps are suitable for both primary and secondary age groups and engaging pupils across a wide range of subjects and activities. The full suite of apps in the Cleverstore can be found at www.clevertouch.co.uk/cleverstore.
App Partner Quotes
 “Clevertouch interactive touchscreens offer an amazingly easy input technology that turns every MindMeister mind mapping session into a fun experience for learners of all ages”, says Raphaela Bradner from MeisterLabs, the company behind the intuitive mind mapping app MindMeister.

Craig Moss, Marketing Manager at BETT Award winning Daydream Education says, “Cleverstore provides teachers with instant access to a wide variety of ground-breaking apps like our mathstutor suite of apps, which help improve creativity, innovation and engagement in the classroom. The fantastic teaching and learning resources available in the Cleverstore adds significant value to the Clevertouch Plus and we’re proud to be a part of that.”  

Barry O’Neill, CEO of StoryToys says, “We are delighted to have partnered with Sahara to put StoryToys apps, including the hugely successful Hungry Caterpillar interactive book, in the Cleverstore to benefit students across the UK and beyond. In Sahara we have found a market-leading partner that shares our focus on innovation, quality and customer satisfaction. I believe this deal represents the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship, and we look forward to working with Sahara Clevertouch to develop a broad suite of apps that can meet the emerging needs of educators.”

Harry Van Der Veen, CEO of Nuiteq, says of his continuing collaboration with Clevertouch “Snowflake applications have been so successful on the Clevertouch range of products that it was a natural step to offer a wide selection of our Android supported Entertainment applications on the Cleverstore. We are pleased to extend our partnership with Sahara to the Android platform, as it shows the flexibility of Snowflake, as a true multi-platform solution. The game based applications will provide users with an engaging and fun multi-user experience, bringing the Clevertouch to life.” 

Julia Webb, Co-Founder of Revision Buddies, says of the new partnership “We are delighted to have joined forces with the forward thinking team at Sahara. Revision Buddies’ high quality, syllabus based apps are written by passionate teachers, examiners and academics with a key focus on making GCSE revision more accessible, fun and interactive, and this partnership provides just that. Through the Clevertouch Plus high definition screens, teachers are given a fuss free way to use our apps in the classroom, the opportunity to play a more collaborative role in revision and ultimately the provision for students to improve their results.”

Ends

Seriously, what if you’re wrong? – Words by David Didau The Learning Spy

Seriously, what if you’re wrong?

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If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.

Bertrand Russell

If there’s one tip I might offer on how to think better it would this: try to explore rather than confirm your biases.

I have spent a lot of time actively seeking out evidence which disconfirms my biases and then having a really good think about why I’m resistant. As a case in point, when I visited Michaela School there were a number of aspects of their work which surprised me. Instinctively it ‘felt wrong’. I wrote today about their decision not to display students’ work after spending the week looking for evidence that countered my instincts and thinking about why I might be wrong. I could have spent the week looking for evidence for why my instinct was correct and I have no doubt I would have found it.

I’m not saying I’m right. God knows I’m often and spectacularly wrong. But not more than anyone else. And I do think I’m pretty good at acknowledging errors, admitting mistakes and thinking about what else might be true.

You see, generally we use our ability to reason to confirm our biases. We look for evidence we are right and By Jingo! we find it. QED. This is remarkably easy to do. Much harder to look for flaws and blind spots in our thinking and explore them vigorously.

So whilst I’ve come to expect it, I’m always a little bit disappointed when the response to a blog post is for readers to take the ‘Yeah, but’ approach and assemble easy to find evidence that what they always thought to be true is in fact true. C’mon; try harder. Make an effort to explore rather than confirm.

Because seriously, what if you’re wrong?

See more from David at www.learningspy.co.uk

 

10 Ways to Green Your School – Words By J.H. Fearless

10 Ways to Green Your School

10 Ways to Green Your School

A Guide for Students and Parents

Twenty percent of Americans go to school every day. That’s 60 million students, teachers, faculty, and staff who work and learn on our nation’s campuses. And while many schools struggle with funding, standards, and behavior, the issues of the environment and good health sometimes fall through the cracks. That’s a mistake that we need to stop making.

School buildings are the third biggest energy users. A mid-size school district may spend $1 million yearly on energy, a number that is increasing by around 19 percent each year. Meanwhile, poor indoor air quality negatively affects students’ performance, and schools remain a huge source of pollutionand waste that degrades the environment.

As a student or parent, big changes at your school may be unpopular, or seem impossible. The reality could not be further from the truth. For example, did you know that Earth Day is the largest civic observance in the world, with more than one billion participants each year? That’s one in every seven people. Even if you think your school administration may be opposed to your ideas, you shouldn’t let that stop you from getting involved. You’re likely to find more support than resistance.

It’s your school (or your kids’ school) and your life. Take action to protect not just the environment, but the health and future of yourself and your kids.

Bring Back Fresh Air & Daylight

Going to school can actually harm your health. Nearly half of all schools (43 percent) have unsatisfactory indoor environmental conditions, and 20 percent have unsatisfactory air quality. That’s partly due to aging school buildings, but also related to an overall decrease in indoor air qualitythanks to reduced air circulation and more synthetic substances in our daily lives. One in ten school-age kids now suffer from asthma, so poor air quality isn’t just an annoyance—it can be life threatening.

Without a doubt, the majority of public schools could use upgrades to help combat these dangers. You can help your school take action to improve indoor air quality and reduce exposure to toxic substances for all teachers and students. Here are some ideas to try:

1. Organize classroom cleanup days.

Some of the biggest health concerns lurking in your classroom exists under all your stuff. Cluttered surfaces, cupboards, and corners harbor dust and mold. Organize some classmates or fellow parents to stay after school once a month to declutter. You’ll help reduce asthma triggers, and your teachers and custodians will thank you.

2. Ask your school to implement green cleaning, pest control, and maintenance policies.

Toxic cleaning supplies, pest poisons, paints, furnishing finishes, and even chemical fertilizers and ice melt threaten kids’ health. They’re also toxic to cleaning and maintenance staff. Ask your school administration to seek out green solutions to various issues, including sidewalk weed control, ice melt in the winter months, and cleaning products.

Toning Down Toxic Schools

3. Raise funds for air quality meters.

Want to get a clearer idea of what you’re really breathing? Work with students and parents to raise funds for or ask the school to invest in air quality meters, which will help students manage asthma. Additionally, the meters notify the school of any serious air quality issues, such as high CO2 levels, or elevated moisture that could cause mold.

Encourage Healthy & Sustainable Living

The kids of today will be the architects and thought leaders of tomorrow. And schools aren’t just a place for math drills. Schools allow young people to share life experiences and lessons, and to learn the values they’ll carry with them for a lifetime. Unfortunately, American kids are in the midst of a well-documented obesity epidemic, which threatens their longevity. At the same time, climate changeis threatening the planet.

The years ahead are full of challenges for today’s kids. By sharing skills for healthy, sustainable living, you can help give them (and their own children) better chances for a long, happy life.

4. Organize a Local Food Day.

Consider teaming up with local restaurants, farms, or even food trucks to bring fresh, local food to school once a month or once every few months. Kids will get a chance to learn the benefits of local food, and you’ll be supporting the small businesses in your community.

5. Set up a green student club.

Take environmental education into your own hands. A student club can take real action on campus issues. Your club may create a campus-wide recycling or composting program; learn about growing your own food with a school garden; organize cleanup and planting days; raise funds for green initiatives; and even take part in statewide and national green schools competitions. Through all this, students will learn leadership, teamwork, and how great feels to make a positive difference.

6. Form a carpooling, cycling, or walking group.

Save time for busy parents, conserve energy, and make friends with a community carpool or other transportation group. By getting together with your neighbors, you can find new, more efficient ways to get to and from school. Carpools are the time-tested solution, but if you live close enough to your school, think about organizing a group to ride bikes or walk together. As a bonus, parent chaperones will get their daily exercise, too.

7. Ask the school to install energy meters.

It’s a lot easier to understand energy use when you can see it in action. Energy meters that are visible to any student and teacher aren’t just great learning tools— they can also encourage everyone to conserve energy and water throughout the day. Many schools have started sharing their energy use in this way. Monitoring not only creates savings for the school’s power, heat, and water budgets, but can also be incorporated into friendly school-wide competitions and classroom sustainability lessons.

Save Money, Save the Environment

If you asked your school administration, they’d probably be the first to tell you that they would love to upgrade your school with more modern, sustainable, and healthy features. Unfortunately, most schools have tight budgets, and they have to make tough choices about how to allocate funds.

That said, it shouldn’t be surprising that environmentally sustainable schools—with increased efficiency and health benefits—are also more financially sustainable. For example:

  • Test scores and learning ability improve by three to five percent when a school incorporates natural daylight—equating to an annual earning increase of $532 per student.
  • Building a green school costs less than 2 percent more than a conventional school (about $3 per square foot) but provides 20 times the financial benefits.
  • A green school saves an average of $100,000 annually—enough to hire two new teachers, buy 250 new computers, or purchase 5000 new textbooks.
  • Green schools utilize 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than traditional schools.
  • On average, a green school produces:
    • 1,200 fewer pounds of nitrogen oxides (a principal component of smog)
    • 1,300 fewer pounds of sulfur dioxide (a principal cause of acid rain)
    • 585,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas)
    • 150 fewer pounds of coarse particulate matter (a principal cause of respiratory illness)
    • 74 percent less waste

How can you help your school go green? Start by reducing energy use, water use, waste, and pollution in everyday action. Calculate the savings your actions are creating, and lobby the school district to set aside that money for upgrades and improvements to facilities.

Benefits of a Green School

8. Post conservation reminders everywhere.

Simple signs really do make a difference. In every room, bathroom, hallway, and lunchroom, post reminders to students and teachers to turn off lights when they’re not using them; save water while washing their hands; unplug energy-sucking devices; and adjust thermostats when leaving for the day. Be efficient if using paper signs: Paper is a precious resource, too, so be certain your signage will result in a real reduction in your school’s water and power use. Clear your campaign with the administration first. Notify the maintenance staff as well so your hard work doesn’t end up in the waste stream.

9. Start a water bottle campaign.

One of the biggest ways to reduce waste at your school is to get students and teachers to stop using disposable water bottles and other single-use containers. Most schools have plenty of drinking fountains. Organize an education campaign featuring refillable, durable water bottles that everyone can use to cut down on trash and recycling at your school. (Make sure bottles fit your drinking fountains first.)

Ditch Disposable Bottles

10. Volunteer as a xeriscaper.

Schools often use a huge amount of water to maintain lawns and landscaping. While a lush, green field may be perfect for running and playing, many traditional landscaping schemes are costly both in water use and maintenance. Offer the school your time to design and install native plants that don’t require a lot of water. A gardening day is also a great outdoor activity for clubs or parent groups.

Green Living is a Learning Process

None of us were born knowing how to live healthily and sustainably. So don’t expect your friends, neighbors, or family members to have the same passion and knowledge about environmental issues that you may have acquired.

That applies to your school in particular. As institutions of learning, schools have recently been challenged with changing standards and expectations, all to be addressed with stagnant budgets. When it comes to going green, most schools are struggling. That’s why it’s a perfect opportunity for parents and students to get involved, get hands-on, and make change happen from the ground up.

If this article has you interested in becoming greener, take a look through these reclaimed wooden desks for your home.—http://www.custommade.com/gallery/custom-desks/

Words by JH Fearless.

See More at http://www.custommade.com/blog/green-your-school/