Paparoa Street School – An innovative approach to reimagining teaching and learning
Paparoa Street School, located in Papanui, Christchurch, caters for students from Years 1 – 6. The school is working in innovative ways with students, whānau, staff, and the community to re-vision their shared purpose for teaching and learning. Principal Pene Abbie shares the journey they have been on, which has included the use of design hacks and the launch of the Festival of the Future.
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Pene, the school’s Board of Trustees (BoT), and staff felt it was a good time to revisit and revitalise their Paparoa Street vision. They identified the following factors as a rationale for this:
- There have been changes in staff and leadership.
- They wanted clarity about why the school has a reputation as a good school in the community.
- The Education Review Office highlights the importance of an agreed purpose for teaching and learning.
- There is a need for a school vision that has ownership by the students, whānau, staff, the BoT, and the wider community.
- The Ministry of Education was simultaneously holding the Education Conversation 2018 – an opportunity for the people to have their say about education in New Zealand.
- The school is developing its education brief to inform the future development of the school site.
- A school’s vision for teaching and learning is one of nine principles outlined in the Grow Waitaha Monitoring and Evaluation framework as essential for realising a future-focused education for students.
- It is a time of immense change in both society and education.
The re-visioning process
The school engaged Andrew Tobin from Toi Rauwharangi, Massey University College for Creative Arts (a Grow Waitaha alliance organisation) to work with students, staff, and the BoT to support the re-visioning process. The key focus was to unpack views about the future of teaching and learning and how this impacts on the Paparoa Street School vision.
To achieve this, Andrew conducted separate design hacks with students, staff, and the BoT. A hack uses design thinking methodology to:
“... construct and de-construct the world, it is more than just hacking in terms of computer science. In order to hack the world, we need to tear it apart, deconstruct it and analyze its components parts and how they operate in relation to one another within various systems. This is a mental, social, emotional, and whenever possible, a physical process.”
Jackie Gerstein, Hacking the Classroom: Beyond Design Thinking
Each hack explored a different question:
- Student hack: What do you want Paparoa Street School to be famous for?
- Staff hack: What is visioning and how do you capture your "why"?
- BoT hack: What is visioning and how do you capture your "why"? How does the community get a voice in the "why"?
The student hack showed that students felt a lot of their important learning was happening outside of school as well as in it. Students were also extremely interested in and excited by ideas relating to the future of teaching and learning and the implications for them. This gave staff an important insight into their thinking.
The staff and the BoT hacks uncovered similar findings and an alignment of ideas emerged from the three hacks. The key discovery was that participants were keen to further explore possibilities for the future of teaching and learning, and they wanted to engage with whānau and the community in this regard. Overall, participants felt that engagement and consultation would inform the school’s developing vision and direction in a more inclusive and diverse way.
Opportunely, Pene had just attended the Ministry of Education’s Education Conversation 2018. This event focused on having a conversation with children, young people, parents, teachers, whānau, iwi, and employers about building a world leading education system.
The thinking, ideas, and resources from this event aligned with the hacks carried out by Andrew Tobin – identifying the need to engage more effectively with people outside of the school’s gate around the future of learning. This led to the development of an event called the Festival of the Future.
Planning the Festival of the Future
The key focus for the Festival of the Future was to engage the wider community in a conversation about the future of teaching and learning at Paparoa Street School. The festival was designed around a series of ten portals (stations) that attendees could visit which focused on different aspects of teaching and learning. These portals offered information and included activities to prompt and provoke thinking, discussion, and feedback.
A steering group was formed to plan the festival. Key responsibilities included:
- developing a communications strategy to advertise and promote the event with students, whānau, and the wider community
- organising space to make the best use of areas within the school and to create a sense of flow on the day of the festival
- sharing information to keep everybody up to date with festival news and planning
- timetabling to manage the logistics of organising teacher and student hosts for the different portals (stations) at the festival.
The event was promoted in the following ways:
- school newsletter
- wristbands that students took home
- personal invitations
- flier drops
- school gate interactions
- countdown (“...” days until the festival!)
Ten portals were developed for the Festival of the Future. Eight portals were designed around key areas that students felt Paparoa Street School should be famous for (generated from the student hack):
- Powerful learning experiences
- Wellbeing and kindness
- Success in sport
- Leadership and philanthropy
Two additional portals were developed using ideas from the staff and the BoT. They were Wish list Popore tūtira and BoT big questions.
A parent with event management expertise supported a school steering group to develop the festival around the ten portals. Teacher teams were assigned a portal to design and plan, creating exciting experiences to prompt and provoke thinking and discussion. A template was provided as a basis for this.
Paparoa Street School has shared their planning notes and images for the Festival of the Future. This resource can be used to guide your own consultation event, as an inspiration tool and to support thinking about your own context.
On the day
The Festival of the Future was held at Paparoa Street School on 1 August 2018, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Approximately 300 attendees visited the portals and engaged with students, teachers, and BoT members around key questions and challenges. Attendees included parents, grandparents, and people from ECE and cluster schools. A range of food trucks were at the event so that families could enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner together at the school.
Each attendee received a ‘Think Forward, Think Future’ passport. This had a map of the portals with a space to have stamped after visiting a portal. There was also room on the passports for comments and feedback. On completion, attendees could enter their passports into a range of prize draws.
Students were assigned to different portals of interest. Teachers were also present at each portal to support the student hosts. The students’ role was to:
- share information with attendees
- guide attendees through the portal
- answer questions
- stamp event passports
- join in activities alongside attendees.
Parents commented on the involvement of the students in the event and the effective organisation:
“It was great to see the kids so involved. I was amazed at their confidence.”
“There was such a wide range of areas to give feedback about. The set up was excellent and the students guided us through really well.”
Where to next?
The Festival of the Future has provided the school with a wide range of community feedback about the purpose of teaching and learning for the future. The school is now at the stage of sorting the feedback and pulling out themes to help inform their vision and drive practice in each of the key areas. The themes from the BoT big questions and the wish list give the school a sense of what is most important for the community and will help to inform strategic planning.
“This event was successful in generating opportunities for conversation about the future of learning at Paparoa school. We were seeking feedback and input from our whānau and community in order to develop our vision for teaching and learning. Our next step is to look at the emerging themes from this consultation and synthesise this with the visioning process that staff, students, and the BOT have been involved in.”
Pene Abbie, principal of Paparoa Street School
Advice to other schools
Pene offers advice to other schools who are interested in developing their own community engagement event:
- If you want to consult with your community it is important that you avoid creating a demonstration, display, or performance. Provide a provocation or a series of conversation starters instead.
- Make sure you set aside sufficient time for the organisation of your event.
- Establish a steering group to plan your event and provide release time for teachers who are involved in this group.
- Develop a marketing strategy to promote your event so that everyone in your local community knows it is going on.
- Timetabling of the event is crucial. Create a comprehensive timetable that details who is where and when.
- Invite your BoT to be part of your event. Having our BoT run a portal was very important for both them and our community.
Grow Waitaha videos – Perspectives and partnerships
A suite of videos exploring the following: communicating with parents; developing new spaces with whānau; valuing partnerships and perspectives; keeping whānau informed and engaged with change, and informing school vision with different perspectives.
Involving students in design
Stephen Heppell explains the difference between asking kids their opinions and expecting them to do research and becoming fully involved in learning design. This talk is full of ideas and inspiration for rethinking learning environments.
Partnering with parents, whānau, and communities
This Inclusive Education guide provides stories, resources, and research to support schools to develop and strengthen effective partnerships with parents, whānau, and communities.
Partners in Learning
Strong connections between schools and parents and whānau are essential to accelerating the achievement of students. This booklet helps parents, families, and whānau to form effective relationships and educationally powerful connections.