Island Bay School

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Today I had the pleasure of visiting Island Bay School, an inquiry-based school in a suburb of Wellington, NZ. Thank you Ximena and Amy for hosting me so warmly!

A typical school day at Island Bay provides clear models of engaged learning. Doing school in this context means that students were active and involved, spread out in different spaces, grouped in whatever ways made the most sense to them. Rooms have multiple work areas and students can be seen working as they sit, stand, or lie down. I think the best way to describe the environment is naturally productive.

Some of the specific things I heard today exemplified a complex vision of learning:

An inquiring classroom

Ximena and Amy were clear about the idea that inquiry isn’t just something students do and then turn off. Rather, inquiry, for students and teachers alike, is a way of being and a way of thinking. Teachers at Island Bay use different language to describe inquiry to their classes but there is a common emphasis on learning as a process.

Every teacher brings their own flavour

Schools like Island Bay affirm the fact that meaningful education experiences are created by teachers who are passionate about their craft. Passion is bred from autonomy and collaboration but not from hierarchies that impose tedious or irrelevant requirements. The teachers at Island Bay seem to do quite well designing their own curriculum while meeting the competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum.

Schools are often unnatural places for learning

I love this thought from Ximena. It’s a good baseline and reminder that so much of what we inherited in education does not lead to meaningful learning experiences. Educators can use inquiry to interrogate their own practices and then create learning experiences that inspire and challenge.

In the spirit of inquiry, my visit to Island Bay leaves me with some questions. It is a mostly homogenous school in an affluent community. I wonder about the ways that NZ educators structure inquiry with students from a diverse range of education and home backgrounds. Also, I wonder about the ways educators work to integrate different cultures and a range of ideas into the learning environment.


Note: This is a personal blog. All views and information presented herein are my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program or the US Department of State.   


2 comments on “Island Bay School

  1. Island Bay School sounds like my sort of school. I love the inquiry approach, and P4C is a great place to start. I’m sure Ximena and Amy are thrilled that you have left with some wonderings and inquiries of your own. The process of learning in action. I look forward to your visiting another school with a more diverse population and sharing with us how it’s done!

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