I recently blogged about 'Why Schools Need to Employ the 'F' Word More' and by 'F' word, I was referring to FUN. In my last post I discussed the importance of authentic learning opportunities and engaging students in the learning process. At the end of that post I made mention that we had a SNOW DAY.
Today was SNOW DAY.
Now, if you are unfamiliar with New Zealand, you may be wondering why on earth a school would go to the trouble of shipping in SNOW! For those of you who experience snow as a regular winter occurrence, in countries (or parts of New Zealand) where snow is less novelty and more nuisance, then you may not appreciate just how exciting and amazing an opportunity to experience something as simple as snow, is. However, here in Auckland, it does not snow. There was a report once that downtown Auckland had a flurry back in 2011, but I don't believe that for a moment - we had moved here by then and that particular day was cold and wet only. I am guessing that people mistook a shower of sleety hail as snow. Auckland is too far north and too warm for snow. We barely get frosts!
Living in a city that does not experience snow, and with no real mountains close by, our students do not get to play in snow, and snow is fun. As an educator originally from the South Island of New Zealand, I am well versed in the fun opportunities snow presents - and I have blogged about how exciting snow is which you can read about here. In that post I was gobsmacked that a school overseas had basically banned children from looking at and experiencing snow. It defied logic to me. I do not come from that 'school of thinking' at all - in fact, the more engaging the learning the more likely the learning will resonate with the student. Once again, it does not seem like rocket science to me.
So, we shipped in a truck load of SNOW!! It arrived in the early hours of the morning (our property manager is an absolute treasure, and snapped pictures of it as they unloaded) and sat there waiting for the magic to begin.
I can not even begin to describe how amazing it was. Big, small and in-between, the students were mesmerised by the mound of snow. The majority had never seen it, felt it or understood the reality of how cold snow is. It was noisy but it was the noise of excitement and the squeals were squeals of delight!
The language the students have been using to describe the cold, the ice, the slushy mess snow makes, have been the oral language experiences that teachers dream of. For our English as Second Language students who are from tropical Pacific countries, who choose to wear bare feet, the experience was more powerful than reading it in a book or seeing it on the computer. I am sure they will never forget the feeling of the cold seeping into their fingers and toes! (they were told to wear shoes but at our place, shoes are optional unless we are going on a school trip or needed for a specific duty or sport)
I have spent all day traipsing back and forth from our makeshift ski field. I have managed to see the faces of all our students and it has been a real privilege and opportunity to live the world of SNOW through them. However, as a result of spending so much of the day watching children play and explore, the paperwork on my desk is giving me sly looks that are making me feel guilty!!. You know what? It was worth it because it has been the best day I have had as a leader in a long time. It was FUN. Every single child was engaged and every single child was learning through play and exploration. I can't wait to see what they write about!
It is kind of ironic, in that the lower part of the country has had snow forecast and the children in the South Island will get to play in the real snow, and we've had to ship it in! Whilst they are dealing with the realities of blanketed snow, here we are playing with shipped in snow as we bask in the mid winter sun. However, real snow that falls softly from above or snow that is shipped in on the back of truck, it is all about the experience.
I leave you with a wondering. What are you doing to make learning fun and engaging? What opportunities are you providing to extend your children's language and learning in an authentic way? I am sure you are all doing amazing things, and I would love to hear them - sometimes sharing a story helps us all think of ways to engage and enthuse our learners!