Saturday, 7 March 2015

Weeds, Reflection & Immersion

"That's not all we're learning here".

Words that brought a smile to my eye after a journey into the learning pit or in professional kitchen terms "the weeds" on the Wednesday previous. My thinking aloud throughout this Friday's immersion session hopefully helped the students think about their own personal learning pit experiences.

This week in LC4 we have been working on our reflections as the students have been focussing on the nice, fluffy stuff. Things like "Drama was fun because we..." or "I liked using the robots because..." and while it is important that we celebrate, the purpose for our reflections is to help us improve our learning. With this in mind we spent part of our Learning Advisory time on Monday focussing on reflective writing, reinforcing the purpose of reflection, unpacking what learning is and getting them to draw their learning journey. We also introduced them to and quickly explained the learning pit and a common success graphic (as shown).
Source: Student's blog post

Wednesday, Amy and I planned two different immersion activities. Both were designed to provoke wondering's and introduce the students to a world they might not know about, Amy was taking a robotics workshop and I a food tech workshop in one of the great facilities we have at HPPS. Our learning at HPPS is based on 3 key themes across the year, Inventive Thinking, Digital Age Literacy and Effective Communication as discussed in the NCREL research. These themes are integrated throughout the curriculum and the students all undertake projects in an area they're exposed to during the immersion phase for each theme. Previous to running the food tech workshop I'd established a list of food dislikes that the students have been adding to all week. For the first workshop, I planned a quick tasting session and kebabs.
I'd had a quick tour through the kitchen and knew it was well stocked with equipment and thought that I'd be fine, I enjoy cooking at home and some judicious use of class management should see me though great learning experience for the group. I recognised that there were a number of hazards to mitigate, minimise or eliminate and I would think aloud about the Risk Taking that I was modelling for the children. Daniel popped in just before the session and gave me some sage advice that he uses when running food tech workshops also but I think liked the idea that I was giving this a go.

Getting the class into the kitchen took longer than I thought.The tasting session went fine, but took a little longer than I thought, there were lots of grimaces, smiles, laughs and chatter as they tried chorizo, courgette, whole grain mustard, japanese barbeque sauce and a soy butter sauce. Because they were enjoying the tasting I allowed them to continue but looking at my watch could sense that we would have to work quickly to be finished by morning tea at 11am. As we handed out the ingredients and the children started working I realised that I was in jam. The children's knife skills meant a slower preparation time and that my supervision skills were on high alert, I was constantly bombarded with questions and I didn't know the kitchen as well as I thought. I could hear Gordon Ramsay screaming in my ears, countless reading and viewing of cooking material confirmed in my mind, I was in the weeds and the customers would be waiting for their meals a while. After far longer than I'd planned the children were starting to eat their kebabs, smiles were everywhere as well as a few going in the bin as they found bits they didn't like but this is about risk taking. We were still a mile away from being cleaned up though!

Time for spanner in the works. My phone went, it was my daughter's daycare, she'd had an accident and might need to see a GP or the hospital, they couldn't reach my wife! When I'm deep in a project, event or problem I know that hard work can get me out, I pull out the hard yards and reach the end. It was frustrating to think that this wasn't going to work. Amy had arrived in the kitchen (she'd finished as it was 11am) and told me to go, she'd supervise the clean up. I couldn't even stay to solve my own problem. DAMN!

When I returned to school, Thursday, I learnt that the children still had a great time and I'd had reflection time to figure out what went wrong and how this could be remedied. I knew that I was the cause of this situation, there was no one else to blame. I knew before hand that the kitchen skills and speed of most would be slower, I should have planned accordingly. The questions I could have solved with the use of recipes! A more analytical tour of the kitchen and prepping some of the items before hand all would have helped too. I spoke with Daniel and quizzed him about embedding the literacy and numeracy into food tech and suggested that visuals illustrating chopping/dicing might be helpful.

Friday arrived, time for session 2. Time to do battle again. Ingredients were put on each table, along with a recipe for 3 of the four components for our burritos (one shown, the other two Mexican Rice and chicken with a Mexican rub). I'd thought far more analytically about the time management and decided that the tasting session would be for children when they had a free moment or completed jobs. One recipe I'd written myself based on something my wife and I love, I'd included some visuals of what each part looked like to assist the children. 

I outlined what we were going to do, how I'd changed the format of the workshop based on my reflections and that I was confident the changes would make it a better experience for everyone.

The children dived into the work and I was able to facilitate their immersion far more ably. The questions that were arising could be answered quickly and prevented problems from spiralling, we were being efficient with our use of time and working relatively cleanly. This meant that I was able to spend some time helping some with knife skills, some talking about the meaning and process of simmering, some we talked about fractions and there were some excellent little moments where the recipe wasn't followed but the right outcome was reached. I noticed late in the piece that 1 group had used a medium sized tumbler for their cup measures, on Monday I plan to try a little comparing exercise with them. All in all, I never once felt like I was in the learning pit or the weeds. 

So when some visitors popped their heads into the kitchen and the children wanted to share their learning, I was super proud. "Learning to cook?" the visitors questioned.

"That's not all we're all learning here," one wise student replied.

Preparing burritos (Clockwise from top left): Ingredients & recipes on tables,
students working independently chopping meat and vegetables, reading our recipes,
cooking and cleaning up as we go.