Monday 10th October 2016
Lessons can be fun!!
Blue skies, white sand, myriad fish of every colour, sparkling rivers and deep rainforest; this was the setting for last week’s Cycle 4 Marine Encounters curriculum camp. As a Montessori school, we introduce concepts and extend students much younger than they do in mainstream schools and so we were met with constant surprise from our guides when they discovered that our students were only in Years 7 and 8. Our units this term will cover the ecology, sustainability and the role of the sea in Australia’s future. So it was with lots of enthusiasm that we accompanied a range of extremely knowledgeable guides to explore and find out more about the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
We began to explore some Biology through a detailed lecture about the fish and coral on the Great Barrier Reef, followed the next day by three hours swimming and snorkelling in two different locations on a cay and on the reef; the students even helped in a citizen science-based data collection of species on the reef itself, with pencils which would write under water! We were fascinated by talks with cassowary and crocodile experts, and also visited a tropical fruit orchard where they made their own exotic ice-creams. The Humanities subjects we began to explore started with an excellent tour by an aboriginal guide who showed and explained many indigenous aspects of living in the Daintree at Mossman Gorge; and we visited the hydro-electric dam in the rainforest and a self sufficient sugar mill at Mossman and saw tea being grown as well.
Civics and Citizenship topics were investigated through the ethical and moral issues surrounding the development of the area, farming of crocodiles, sugar cane, bananas etc . These were constantly discussed and, to enhance both analysis of these topics and their English debating skills, the students worked up and performed a debate where they took on the role of different interest groups in the proposed Aquis multi-billion casino and resort in the Daintree. Our guides were particularly impressed by the depth of understanding and the proposed alternatives our students suggested. We also enjoyed a trip to the Kuranda markets where the students were able to see first hand the products of Micro Economy projects in their community.
Wherever we went, adults commented on the unusually high level of engagement of our students and of the deep and interesting questions they asked. Guides commented on the deep level of care shown by our teachers and their efforts for the wellbeing and complete education of their students.
As always, our learning is embedded in a natural way, with subjects interweaving with other subjects. This makes them engaging and complex as things are in the real world, and it prepares our students for the cooperative and collaborative real world learning expected in the 21st century.
So I was not entirely surprised to receive an email this morning from an entirely unknown passenger on our plane from Saturday who wrote to compliment us on the exemplary behaviour and attitude of our very young secondary students who are seen as so mature, friendly and knowledgeable.
I am also thrilled to report that Melbourne Montessori School has now purchased 25 sq metres of land in the Daintree so that it can be kept in perpetuity as rainforest for the benefit of all Australians and the local cassowaries and quolls!
A huge thank you to Dominic, Chris and Sarah who so cheerfully spent six days with our wonderful Cycle 4 students!