Saturday, January 26, 2013

Educational Readings -Marion Brady, Elwyn Richardson

By Allan Alach

As the start of the New Zealand school year approaches, its timely to restart these weekly reading lists. Bruce Hammonds ( tells me that the last 2012 edition was well received, so that’s encouraging. I hope that this and future editions also meet with readers’ approval. Feedback is always welcomed.

This may be a new year but as the articles below show, nothing much has changed. GERMs are still infecting education systems around the world and the need for the disinfection to be an international cooperation is crucial.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

West vs Asia education rankings are misleading

‘Western schoolchildren are routinely outperformed by their Asian peers, but worrying about it is pointless.’

So much for the fear mongering then.

Deeper Learning: Highlighting Student Work

The difference is that these students' teachers have helped them develop the skills and mindsets necessary to produce work of exceptional quality, and have built classroom and school cultures in which exceptional work is the norm.’

Guess that these teachers aren’t infected by GERMs, then?

Exclusive: Revealed - Tory plan for firms to run schools for profit

This is out in the open in England. We can be sure that the same strings are being pulled in New Zealand.

Our obsession with ‘natural’ talent is harming students

‘Results released from a major Victorian study on student learning show high achieving children’s performance in tests is “flat-lining”.’

Gosh, really? Who would have predicted this?

Academies report disguises the damage they are doing to British schools

Yawn. What’s new? The same will apply in New Zealand.

The Global Search for Education: What Will Finland Do Next?

Let me guess….. I know….. they will bring in national testing so they can do better in international tests of dubious relevance…….    ;)

15 Reasons Why Daydreamers are Better Learners

‘Recent research in both psychology and neuroscience clearly shows that daydreaming is an essential part of mental processing, reasoning and, yes, even learning.’

Another conflict with the educational rubbish espoused by the economists behind GERM. So much for measuring inputs and outputs then. On the other hand, one reason for Google’s success is their provision to allow employees time to dream and innovate.

Competition and Choice Fail to Produce Better Student Results

More research that debunks the neoliberal myths.

‘Another new study has refuted the case that more competition and choice between schools leads to higher student results. The paper reviewed research evidence in several countries and concluded that it is “mixed and modest”. It also found that choice and competition leads to greater social stratification between schools.’

Why schools used to be better

Another gem from Marion Brady - nothing more needs to be added.

Elwyn S Richardson 1925 -2012 Creative teacher.

For those who missed this over the break - here is Bruce Hammonds obituary for Elwyn Richardson. All holistically minded teachers, world wide, should read this.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beginning the school year - 2013

Teaching is one profession where there is no shallow end. From day one you are presented with up to thirty plus young individuals for you to shape into a learning community; and every class community will be different. Even experienced teachers have second thoughts about starting a new class as at the end of the year they will have left students who have learnt to work with each other and their teacher.
Good advice is for teachers to do fewer things well and to continually diagnose what each individual can do and, where there are gaps in skills or understanding, teaching the missing information. Positive attitudes for, or 'feelings for', the particular learning experience are the key to successful learning.
Teachers need to negotiate with their students as much as possible to ensure empowerment or a sense of ownership and then to hold students to completing what they have agreed to do to develop a sense of responsibility.
Thankfully students are easily trapped by their innate curiosity if what is put in front of them appeals. The challenge for teachers is to think up ways to tap into this sense of curiosity in all learning areas. Educationalist Jerome Bruner has written that teaching is ‘the canny art of intellectual temptation’.
Teaching students to ‘seek, use and create’.
An important phrase of the New Zealand Curriculum is for each student to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’. This requires a personalised approach helping each learner at their point of need.
The whole purpose of education is to help every learner develop a powerful learning identity, a strong sense of self, of being a valued and worthwhile person. This involves the teacher really listening to their students’ questions, ideas and concerns. With such a vision in mind teachers can slowly, as students develop skill, pass greater responsibility to their students.
Some activities to consider to begin the school year:
First impressions count and the students' parents will be waiting to hear from their children what their teacher is like so it is important not to leave it to chance.
Introducing personal narrative writing.
A learning community - diverse individuals working together.
A good idea is to begin by introducing yourself to your students with a small potted history of yourself and share one personal experience that you had over the holidays. The students can then use this model (or ‘scaffold’) to write up something similar to share with you or even, in small groups, with each other. It is a good idea for then to write a draft, or make a mind map, before they start - and this also you can model.

Get them to ‘mind map’ the things they did over their holiday and getthem to pick the most memorable. Get them to imagine they are back in the experience and to write as if they were there – what the felt, heard at the time. If they choose a large idea like a visit to Auckland get them to focus on the best thing e.g. being stuck on the motorway.

Keep this reasonably short and ask them for their best writing - this will give you an idea of their personal best they bring with them. Think of continuing this personal narrative writing throughout the year as a weekly occurrence - completing one from idea, draft to realisation once a week in a writing journal. This is an excellent way to let students know you value their experiences and for them to develop a learning identity.
Define a powerful learner.
Another idea is to start with a discussion with your class of what makes a powerful learner. Work through the introductory pages of the NZC with them and develop with them an image of a great learner and a great class - a true learning community of inquirers 'hunting' for meaning in their tasks. Such a community requires rights and obligations (agreed behaviours) for both the teacher and the class members to hold themselves to. See ideas about the Treaty of Waitangi.
The powerful learning attributes you develop with your class ( 'merged' with the NZC 'key competencies') can then be referred to, as required, to ensure students keep them in mind so they see the point of whatever they are learning.
Revise the school Vision and Values.
You might like to have 'mini lesson' on the school vision, mission and values and what they mean if they are available. This could be developed later into a class treaty of expectations and positive behaviours and linked to a 'mini study' on the Treaty of Waitangi. If so it is a good idea to get them to draft out, or mind map, their 'prior views' about the treaty. After this done students can complete research to clarify their knowledge.  This could result in a class ‘treaty’ of agreed behaviours.
 Survey your students’ attitudes toward learning areas.
 Developing a love of learning and developing a 'feeling for' each area is vital.
Get the class to complete an informal survey of attitudes, or feelings, towards all aspects of the school curriculum. The results can be compared with another survey at the end of the year as an important assessment tool.  Ask students to show their interest using a one to five scale or sad or smiley faces.  Complete the survey in front of the class to show then your attitudes when you were their age. Also show them how you have improved over the years – the ‘message’ is that attitudes can be changed
Assess drawing skills.

To complement their personal narrative writing a small portrait of themselves couldbe completed
. If this were to be done them students may need to be taught the skills of being a ‘powerful ‘drawer. Some students will have already decided that they are not artists and, if so, this is a chance to change their minds. One idea is to get them to complete a self-portrait on a small piece of paper with without instruction (noting their 'prior' skills) and then after this has been completed guiding them (‘scaffold’ them) through the process. The ‘secret’ is to get them to ‘look –draw – look’ and not to draw from memory. This is a chance to introduce the idea of quality.

One idea to develop students drawing or illustrative skill is to base their drawing on a digital photo of themselves - possibly doing something exciting during their holidays. If so get them to focus on the dramatic aspects, or close up views, not long distance shots. Combine their portraits with some holiday action perhaps holding a fish or some food for example. Get them to include as much texture, or details, as they can.
Another idea is to get some school journals and for students to select an illustration they like and to copy it possibly into their language book. It is useful for them to copy only part of the drawing to introduce the idea of focus. When complete add the artist’s name. This is an excellent language activity and illustrates to the students’ wide range of artists styles and genres to learn there are lots of approaches to being an artist from the real to the bold. This is a fun activity to use whenever new journal arrive.
Literacy and Numeracy blocks
Observational drawing.

Observational art as part of bush study
Observational drawing, a vital science/art skill, is a good activity to get students to do. Once again get then to draw an object (kawakawa leaves are great) without instruction to assess their 'prior skill' and then instruct them to draw carefully, to go slow, and to take their time. The two efforts can then compared .If you are planning a small environmental study to start the termthen this skill can be put to use. A 'mini study' of cicadas is one idea, or shells collected from the seashore during the holidays. Wild flowers, grasses or a flax study are all possible ‘mini studies’ studies.

Survey the gifts and talents of your class.
The future of your students will depend on the individual set of gifts and talents that they have.  All too often schools do not place enough attention focusing on each learners unique talents.  One idea is to introduce yourstudents to the eight intelligences of Howard Gardner and to get students toindicate their current strengths. List and explain the intelligences and demonstrate to the class your own profile. Also indicate area you would like to improve. Have the children complete their own profiles. This could be done at home with parental help and also be discussed during the first patent teacher meeting. This activity could be repeated at the end of the year to note changes.
For maths a good idea is to get them to research the history of number development through the ages. You could cover how different cultures have their own number system – in particular the Maori number system. Find out who developed the zero and why it is so important. It is important to humanize maths if all students are to gain a 'feeling for' the subject. Famous mathematicians can be researched. It pays to keep maths as applied as possible.
Assess their handwriting abilities by getting them get them to write out their full name and address, members of their family and pets they own. One idea to consider in the first few weeks is to research the development of writing from cave drawing to word processors. The history of writing, and the various writing media, is a fascinating one.
Exercise books as portfolios.
All students buy an expensive set of exercise books to begin the year. Some schools I know have ‘reinvented’ these books as portfolios as the year progresses they ought to show qualitative improvement (the Japanese call this continual small improvement 'kaizen'). The first few days of school are the time to introduce students to this expectation of continual improvement. It is agood idea to introduce them to some simple graphic presentation/layout/designideas. It is also a good idea to aim that, by Easter, all books ought to show improvement. In the schools that have developed their books as portfolios all books are sent home before parent interviews for their comments and later to discuss during interviews.
 Developing a programme for the class
Before you start the years map out a programme for day and week one. If you are in a proactive school your fellow team members will provide you with ideas to include.
Share your daily plan with the students at the beginning of the day. At the end of the day (and possibly after each activity) have a reflective session to clarify what has been learnt. One idea is at the end of the day to discuss with the class the three main things learnt during the day - their mothers will want to know!
The overall 'message' you want to leave with them is that you want them to do their best work - to aim for quality; that you want then to  value their own 'voice', experiences, questions and ideas; to  value their individuality and creativity. This is the essence of a learning community.
Slowing the pace of work.
Best of all by ‘slowing their pace of work’ (many students will arrive with a 'first finished is best' attitude) will help them to value perseverance and effort and to contributing to the development a concept of personal excellence.
 The value of doing fewer things well.
Even if you don't use all the above suggestions they all remain available for later use. It is important to appreciate the value of doing fewer things well in depth.
Plenty of ideas to think about – you will no doubt have many of your own to add. Remember the best sources of ideas are your fellow teachers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Elwyn S Richardson 1925 -2012 Creative teacher.

On December the 24th Elwyn Richardson, New Zealand pioneer creative teacher died. Richardson was born July 8, 1925.
Elwyn was an inspiration to teachers who were interested in a creative approach to learning. I first learnt about Elwyn in the early 60s, first by reputation, and then through his book ‘In the Early World’ published by the NZCER in 1964.
In the sixties there were a number of NZ teachers experimenting along the same lines as Elwyn. In the UK, there were also teachers interested in freeing up the traditional curriculum. In 1969, in the UK, the Plowden Report was published which gave ‘child centred’ education official approval. In the late 60s I worked with local teachers whowere integrating their programmes placing first hand experiences and thecreative arts central. At this time I made my first contact with Elwyn - the beginning of a long association.
A little background about Elwyn. He applied for the remote country position at Oruaiti School in 1949 largely because of its distinct fauna of sea life, but also because the sole-charge posting offered him the opportunity to work out his own ideas about teaching and learning alone. .
Elwyn’s educational philosophy was based on the belief that all real learning must be anchored in personal experience. It was this conviction that provided the foundation for his developmental approach to education. Central to this was his theory of integration, a personalised process whereby children moved from one expressive medium to another, between all subject areas. Richardson’s theory of integration was informed by his conception of artistic ability as a universal human attribute, his well-developed ideas about the nature of artistic development in children and a firm belief in the learning potential of every child.
 At Oruaiti School Elwyn discarded the official syllabus and turned to the children’s lives and immediate environment for the basis of his curriculum. Using the children’s natural curiosity and interest, he taught them how to observe closely the world around them and to record their new discoveries and their own responses to these. From here, he developed a school programme that was anchored in the children’s surroundings and real lives. Through environmental studies the children learned the basis of scientific method, and brought these skills to bear on studies that spanned all subjects. His method was a revolt away from science as a separate subject to an integrated programme of arts and science.
Elwyn’s book ‘In the Early World’ was published by The New Zealand Council for Educational Research NZCER in 1964. The book tells the story of how his students became increasingly aware of their own capacity for personal expression, while collectively establishing a shared understanding of aesthetic values.

The book was well received by the New Zealand educational establishment and widely taken up as a text by teacher training colleges in New Zealand in the 1960s and 1970s. Joseph Featherstone former professor of education emeritus at Michigan State University, reviewed the book and stated, 'it may be the best book about teaching ever written.' Following Featherstone’s review Pantheon Books published a Canadian and an American edition simultaneously in 1969. The book was praised by international reviewers. British writer and musician R. W. B. Lewis wrote, 'Not only does this book point to a new direction in education, its very existence is a landmark in the recognition of human potential and dignity.' Over the next decade Richardson and his school became an international symbol of progressive education in New Zealand with a particular focus on arts and crafts.
 A third edition witha new foreword and a twenty page appendix of children's art work has beenpublished by NZCER  June 2012.

The new edition of Elwyn's book.
I was invited to attend the opening in Auckland – it was to be my last contact with Elwyn.  

In the forward to the first edition of Elwyn’s book John Melser wrote that the book, ‘gives a vivid picture of a school full of vitality in the pursuit of values deeply rooted in the children’s lives and capable of serving them lifelong’. ‘Oruaiti School’, Melser continues, ‘functioned as a community of artists and scientists who turned a frank and searching gaze on all that came within their gambit. Curiosity and emotional force led them to explore the natural world and the world of their feelings…..Studies and activities grew out of what preceded them. New techniques were discovered and skills practiced as each achievement set new standards.’
Elwyn’s role in achieving personal and artistic excellence was a delicate and encouraging one, always humbly ready to learn from the children. Elwyn has written elsewhere that ‘the children were his teachers as much as he was theirs’. The results were certainly not the standardization of product that one sees today. Believing in high standards  Elwyn  believed  each new creative product mattered as much as the process.
Elwyn, along with all the other creative teachers I have had the privilege of working with, responded to all children’s efforts and achievements with sincere interest and pride. His book is a testament to his love of children’s ideas and imagery and, the respect he gave their work, respect that was returned in kind to Elwyn. Elwyn gave his students Melser writes, ‘an opportunity to reach their full heights as artists, as craftsmen, as scientists, and as students’ in a ‘community of mutual respect’.
Unfortunately since 1986 the winds of change worldwide have sent school off in another direction towards standardised education -an approach that undermines the very creativity and diversity that New Zealand educators had gained world-wide respect for.  Unfortunately, in recent decades, 'experts' from outside the classroom have become the sources of ‘official’ knowledge and this has led to a reduction in the importance of those creative teachers. This is a shame.
It is time for schools to return to believing in the importance of creative teachers as the source of lasting change.  Teachers will need to work together (they now have the technology to do so) to articulate a set of beliefs for the new century - one thing that they could do is get behind the almost side tracked 2007 New Zealand National Curriculum.
The new edition has a hard hitting forward written by educationalist.  Gwenneth Phillips.
Gwenneth writes  that the book comes at an opportune time as the current government is finally showing its true 'market forces' neo liberal competitive ideology with its intention to introduce 'League Tables' based on National Standards data to encourage competitionn through students and school comparison.
 Schools she believes now have a moral dilemma - to comply to such impositions that will narrow the curriculum and encourage teachers to teach to the tests and the side lining of the creative arts, or  to be creative. Ironically countries that have imposed such approaches are well behind New Zealand in international testing!
'Times have changed,’ Gwenneth writes,’ educational decision making has shifted from such innovative educators to non-teaching politicians and policy makers; and in the classroom from practicing teachers to academics.'
‘This new guard of decision makers' Gwenneth writes, ‘juggle political, fiscal and/or research agendas’. ‘Teachers’, she writes, 'have long struggled with the conflicting particular the demands for accountability- based on the precise articulation of outcomes as well as their measurement. As a result, the basic tenants of our unique child-centred approach...have been compromised.....the child's creative power has been strangled and the child marginalised'.
One might add so has the creative power of teachers and creative schools.

'An old challenge has re-emerged. How can we put the lives of children and our trust in their creative power back into classroom practice?' And how can we develop trust in teachers to be creative in our present risk averse surveillance culture!
Gwenneth believes this new edition of Elwyn's book is both timely and important, for this challenge is at the heart of present debate. It presents a backdrop to current issues in education and to teachers' concerns - the narrowing of the curriculum, the setting of externally prescribed adult motivated progressions and outputs that neglect the developmental nature of learning'.
Elwyn's student's success was sustained by the knowledge and professional artistry of a caring teacher who esteemed the voice and thinking of the children. As Elwyn himself wrote, ' they were my teachers as I was theirs, and the basis was sincerity, without which, I am convinced, there can be no creative education.'
The ways of working captured in Elwyn’s book are 'in stark contrast to that have emerged in the last decades. Current ways are based clearly articulated and predetermined pathways. The children are forced to state goals and are evaluated through criteria and standards that conform not to their own understandings of themselves in the world, but by expectations dissected from the forms and structures of adult thinking.' These approaches, Gwenneth writes, 'are the antithesis of child centred approaches. They marginalise children and show little respect for their creative power to develop their own life-learning pathways'
The choice for schools is clear: Standardisation of learning or personalization that celebrates every student’s unique gift and talents.
Unfortunately many schools are well down this imposed formulaic 'best practices' approaches. Gwenneth writes, 'for many teachers, especially primary teachers, the knowledge and professional artistry of their child-centred practice has been usurped; the courage and tenacity of the pioneering spirit stifled; and the recognition and trust of the child's creative power has been undermined.'
'In The Early World, together with the stories of other early pioneers, tempered with new insights...has the power to inspire a '"new" guard of educational pioneers'. It is a book that 'celebrates the pioneering spirit of New Zealand teachers'
Creative teaching is not new it has just been side-tracked.
Elwyn remains as an inspiration of what can be achieved if we want to develop the talents and gifts of all students.
I recommend that all schools acquire a copy of the latest edition if only to show what could have been.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The End of Education

I came across this article and it resonated so much with my thoughts I have posted it as a blog

(Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 06, 2012)

Our current test orientated system

by Russell Hvolbek — February 06, 2012

I argue that as we absorb the socio-economic values of our age, an age ruled by business, we have drifted away from what we in the educational community should be doing: teaching students to think, to see, to read, and to write.
Education as a dwelling in the human experience of reality is ending. As with the Roman Empire, it is ending with a whimper, not a bang.
The root of the problem is that we have absorbed the socio-economic and intellectual values of our age, an age ruled by business and science. The pragmatic values of business and science have become the values of our educational practices.
 Within these two orientations there is little understanding of and no place for the life enhancing studies of philosophy, history, literature, and the arts. Today we train students. A practical utility determines our thinking.
Pragmatic and useful things, of course, are easy to evaluate and quantify, but when the useful is quantified it precipitates a judgment: 5,500 square foot houses are superior to 1,500 square foot houses. An “A” is superior to a “B” and an “A” student is superior to a “B” student. Measurements. Judgments. The accountant’s truths are what are now deemed important.
That the accountant’s truths seem clear and distinct to us is a statement about the seriousness of the problem. For such ideas have become our common sense. The objectifications we now deem as truths are merely the dominating judgments our age. We have forgotten that they are all based upon ingrained and unanalyzed prejudices, and that every judgment is a statement about the values of the person making the judgment. Today we have fallen in love with objectively quantifying reality and see it as a solution to our problems. Today students are judged and judge themselves based upon such pitiful scales, the scales of measurement.
Moreover, the goals of business humans are to make money and do it as efficiently and quickly as possible. They desire exact facts and data to help them make money. Business humans live for a goal.
We have created educational institutions that do the same. We have reduced education into a goal, a goal that is antithetical to education itself. Our educational practices are ruled by haste, guided by the belief that acquiring information is important, but simultaneously and contradictorily that the information serves a higher end, viz., getting a good grade; which in turn serves a higher end: getting into college; which in turn serves a higher end: getting a good job; which in turn serves a higher end: getting a house on Mullholand.

The trouble with targets you don't notice the ones you miss.


This prevents students from entering into the process of learning itself. They are taught to learn information for a reason ulterior to learning itself: a grade. This alienates them from the simple joy of learning, an activity that is a process and cannot be quantified. Examinations are reduced to the recollection of data and facts as though disparate data can fascinate anyone, much less be retained.
Learning for an objectively determined social goal has serious consequences: It justifies cheating and lying and deceptions of all kinds. Why not cheat if the only concern is the grade?
There are personal consequences to this orientation. Since we all become what we do, when we cheat, lie, and deceive for our goal, we become cheaters, liars, and deceivers in quest of our goals. Barry Bonds ended up playing baseball for the record books, not for the love of the sport. Cheating the system was justified and rewarded with fame and the money that our social and business values dictate as our ultimate success.
The reduction of things to the quantifiable and to an end makes shallow a world that is deep; it makes dull a species that should be complex; it makes unthinking, uninvolved humans; it reduces human life to quantities: more money, more fame; more things, higher test scores. We aren’t interested in education; we are interested in getting things out of what passes for education.
Strangely, even in educational institutions the word education is not analyzed. It is a word that everyone believes they clearly understand. Like the words love, spirit, evil, justice, the word education fits easily into each and every culture’s biases, into each and every human’s prejudices. Thus it flits between being used by anyone and everyone for their own benefit.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, responding to what he saw as the dismal state of education in Germany after Bismarck unified the Reich, writes that an education is learning to see, to think, to read, and to write.
These are fundamental and powerful words, and they can be applied to any subject in the educational curriculum. In every subject students need to learn how to see, to think, to read, and to write.
Let us think about these words. They are all verbs. They are not like our goal-oriented cultural assumptions about education that posit goals as the point of education. Verbs are not closed, exact words. They are not facts, and they are not mere information. Verbs designate activities. This means that education is an activity, a process, and an ongoing involvement done for the sake of the involvement itself. When one applies oneself to this task, this thinking and seeing what thinking and seeing might be, one is in the process of being a student. One begins to get an education when one initiates the process of seeing and thinking.

( Seeing learning as a verb, a 'doing word', is in line with an important phrase from the currently almost sidelined  2007 New Zealand Curriculum  - students should 'seek, use and create their own knowledge'.) 
Nietzsche elaborates by writing: “to see” means “accustoming the eye to calmness, to patience, to letting things come up to it postponing judgment, learning to go around and grasp each individual case from all sides … not to react at once to a stimulus, but to gain control of all the inhabiting, excluding instincts. Learning to see, as I understand it, is . . . called a strong will: the essential feature is precisely not to ‘will’—to be able to suspend decision.” In education, haste is not the path.
Thus education in all matters demands openness to the other and not imposing a knee-jerk opinion upon the subject matter. The subject must be allowed to teach the student.
When one learns to see one will have become altogether “slow, mistrustful, recalcitrant. One will let strange, new things of every kind come up to oneself.” Seeing is to lie “servilely on one’s stomach before every little fact, always prepared for the leap of putting oneself into the place of, or of plunging into others and other things.”
Seeing allows oneself to be struck by the seen, the other, the flowers, the poem.
In this sense, seeing requires that we forget the name of the thing being seen.
All objectivity is bad taste, merely a symptom of one or another prejudice. The businessman may want objectivity. The student wants nuance.
Thinking, writing and reading are separate but similar skills that must be learned. “Thinking wants to be learned like dancing, as a kind of dancing.” “One must be able to dance with one’s feet, with concepts, with words.” Writing is learning to dance with a pen, a brush, a basketball, on a wrestling mat or on a soccer field. Reading is learning to dance with a text, a mathematical formula, a technique, a physics equation, an atom.
What a strange point! Dancing? Reading, writing, and sports are a type of dance? Yes. Dancing is relating, it is being moved by the other and moving with the other. Dancing is a relationship of movement, a relationship of evolving steps and meanings. Education is an evolving dance with intellectual ideas.
Learning like dance unfolds with experience
In conclusion, the fact that students are not getting educated is not their fault. They were weaned into these socio-cultural values. Students are not participating in their education. Students are being trained to live for goals and new electronic devices. Goals have become a narcotic that society accepts as education, which they are not.
Education is not chasing a grade. It is not chasing a college or a job. If you do that you may get what you want, an “A” or a “B,” but you will never be educated. An education is a process. It has a beginning but no end. It continues throughout life. It is learning to see and think.
Ultimately an education is a deep unfolding involvement with life here on earth. The deeper the involvement in seeing and thinking, the more complex is the dance in which you participate.

( ID Number: 16686, Date Accessed: 12/28/2012 3:42:07 PM)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New bush track - all but finished!

Adding finishing touches.

Plant life will grow back to walkway
Looking out over parataniwha swamp.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

New Bush Track - half completed!

Bridge across stream

Two or three years ago I arranged for my cousin Hillary's husband Rodney ( a hard working farmer) to continue  a bush track that finished in a dead end. To use this track you had to be wearing gumboots to get through patches of swamp! Due to difficulty few people made the effort to enjoy the experience.

Bridge over  swampy area
When I first bought my bush valley home the previous owner ( a landscape gardener) told me it was a 'wilderness' garden. Years later I realized that I took him far to literally and over the years have had to remove a number of trees to let the light in.

Wood ready to make walkway
Hostas in early Spring
Now that I have past my 'use by date' as an educator I have become focused on developing my garden as well as taking up painting - but that's another story.

When visiting friends in the UK last year we visited Charles Darwin's house in Kent where I was impressed with a walk he established for contemplation - he placed 20  flint stones and kicked then off one a time until all finished then he went inside to write,

In my garden close to the house I have established hosta planting - plants that really enjoy the shady situation and there are a wide range of introduced trees and shrubs but it was the bush that originally attracted my attention.

The first track we completed runs along the side of a steep hill and features large puriri, tawa  , mangeo and pukatea. Rodney ( with the help of Hillary) cut a new track down to the stream and Rodney built two bridges to cross the stream and two  duckwalks through  swampy areas.  Now the track is a reasonably easy walk.

Duckwalk through swamp
The track,  now under construction, makes a loop walk through the best bush  and swamp on the property. The original owner had planted a wonderful range of native trees to complement the original pukatea, kohekohe, rewarewa  and mature mamaku tree ferns. The planted natives  include rimu, kauri,totara, tanekaha, kowhai and maire. Para ( or king or horseshoe fern) and silver tree ferns are also a feature.

When completed the two tracks will join together to make a figure eight walk.

View across parataniwha and hydrangea in swamp
If all goes well  I will celebrate my next birthday with a bush track opening.