Student ambassadors host visitors from afar

Stonefields School students enjoy sharing how and what they are learning in their flexible teaching spaces.

Hosting groups of visitors to her Auckland school and showing them around the learning hubs initially made 13-year-old Mia Des Forges a bit nervous, but now it’s a breeze. 

Stonefields School student Mia Des Forges, 13, presenting during a school tour.

Mia and her fellow students are old hands, having regularly hosted visitor groups, including from overseas, showing them around the learning areas and explaining what is going on and why.

Stonefields School has had flexible teaching spaces and shared learning areas since it opened in 2011. The year 1–8 school is happy to share its knowledge and innovations, so it hosts over 800 visitors on tours each year, and bookings need to be made well in advance. 

YouTube videos made by the school confirm the students’ impressive understanding and knowledge of their learning process.

Mia says the nerves didn’t last. “After a while, doing it so regularly, I got used to it, and I’m very relaxed now and it’s fun.” She does it every few weeks.

“It increases my communications skills, which I think are going to be essential for the rest of my life. I love sharing how we learn and what we are learning.”

The tours, which can take up to two hours, are conducted by children from a wider group of 20 students who share the hosting. Visitors have written to the school saying how impressed they were.

Principal Sarah Martin says, “Collaboration underpins our success; collaboration both by teachers and students”.

The leadership team of Sarah and associate principal Chris Bradbeer have no doubts about the benefits of collaboration on teaching practice and learning outcomes.

Each team of three teachers works with about 75 children collaboratively, making up a hub. They teach the students about dispositions of learning, and about the learning process.

Sarah says there has been a lot of research about how to generate this type of teamwork and her leadership team has used that as a resource. Evidence-based practices rigorously shape their decision making, as ERO’s report on the school in 2015 noted.

“Collaboration is an ongoing evolution. Our teachers now couldn’t imagine working another way. Everyone speaks the same language and is on the same page,” she says.

The four key educational principles are building learning capacity, collaborating, making meaning, and breaking through.

The roll has grown from 48 students in 2011 to 601 now, and with capacity for 1,000. Around half speak another language as well as English, and their cultural backgrounds are diverse.

The school has an app called Schooltalk, which gives real time feedback on each student’s achievement. This keeps both students and parents updated about results, and helps students self-manage their learning.

Sarah says the app is able to give clear snapshots of where the learner is at, and the next steps they need to take. Other schools are welcome to use it as a resource.

 

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