Educators NZ - Gardening with digital skills at Christchuch high school

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Gardening with digital skills at Christchuch high school

Mairehau High School in Christchurch are running a collaborative gardening project to create a digital learning experience using note-taking software and a Surface laptop.

The project aims to give students practical gardening as well as digital skills. They will get to see the fruits of their labour in an authentic context for their learning.

The school’s planning team was assisted by Tim Muir, Microsoft Teacher Ambassador of Cyclone, Arnika Macphail, professional learning manager of Cyclone, and curriculum consultant Kate Brown.

“In order for this to be successful, we needed the right balance of curriculum support and digital support. Kate helped us to come up with our big idea: ‘Communities work together to connect, nurture and grow,” says Brown.

“We’d been using Google Docs with our staff and students. However, after hearing from Tim, we felt OneNote was going to be the right tool for this project. With the help of Tim and Arnika, we set up a OneNote Class Notebook for all the teachers and students.”

“We’re also lucky enough to have our hands on the Digital Learning Experience from Cyclone, which means each one of the students and teachers involved has a Surface to work from, which definitely added hype to the project.”

The students participated for three hours a week in something called Flexible Learning Time. Among the gardening skills taught to students were how to plant potatoes, creating garden beds and skills like watering, digging and sieving.

“The students have had such a great attitude towards getting outside and it’s created a nice atmosphere to work in. They opted in and can opt out at any time but no one has.”

“They love getting into the garden and out into the community, and enjoy doing their classwork on the Surface. We have made the most out of our trips to local nurseries, Cultivate Christchurch, and Bunnings by using the devices to take pictures and notes, all in the OneNote. Students can draw diagrams, annotate work, add videos, add audio, and share their ideas more freely.”

The project has had a “massive ripple effect” through other staff members working at the school.

“On a daily basis, a person comes to the team to ask about it and how they can help. It started off as Social Sciences, English and Maths. We now have Hard Materials, the Arts and Science involved. Everyone involved is enthused,” says Kimberley Walker of the school.

“Having a shared outcome that we can physically see and touch has brought us closer together. We have things growing in our school garden. That is an achievement in itself. But thanks to the technology, we also have a detailed, up-to-date, accurate record of learning. OneNote has been fantastic. Through using the program, the students have been more forthcoming to share and articulate their understandings.”

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