Learning In Nature with Cape to City and Enviroschools


This post is written by Regan Hughes, a Year 3 Candidate Teacher enrolled in the BTP degree. The post reflects on his learning during our recent BTP Whānau morning focused on building connection across our cohort and with our local education providers.

WD Kete
Cape to City, Enviroschools and DOC combine their kete for our learning


As a teacher, igniting passion and inspiring children to love learning is the foundation for which I exist. Experiencing Cape to City and Enviroschools facilitators speak about nature connectedness and how to utilise the outside resources around us in our teaching, has made me question my own teaching practice, and provided me diverse ideas for my teaching kete.

The big ‘take-aways’ for my kete:

  1. Bonding the ‘Ako’ community.

By extending the learning beyond the confining walls of a classroom, learners and teachers alike are provided with opportunities to share their knowledge of the outdoors. A teacher with little outdoor experience (such as myself) may have some students in their class who are regularly involved in hunting, hiking and other outdoor interests. The idea of a level playing field allows students to share their own knowledge or experiences of learning in nature and step up as leaders.

WD Bugs in Art 2
Should insect bodies be used for art? Let’s interview some bugs!
  1. Developing a sense of wellbeing – how nature captures children.

As mindfulness and meditation increasingly become an important aspect of a number of classroom timetables, finding ways to capture that sense of wellbeing can often positively impact children’s mental health and help to alleviate the stresses of a school environment. To demonstrate how nature captures children’s interests, we were taken through a mindfulness activity in which we were given the opportunity to simply experience nature and think of words that describe our personal experience. Focusing on my plant, I noticed a sense of holistic connection between the plant, spider webs and creatures.

At one with nature
  1. Promoting kotahitanga (unity/one-ness)

Cooperation and community share a governing role in creating a strong sense of unity. By providing opportunities to work collaboratively and share ideas about nature, everybody is inspired to work towards a common goal. We were assigned a task in which each group had to replicate the life cycle of the case moth using only the materials provided. While the interpretations of the life cycle varied from visual art to drama and all sorts of other ideas, kotahitanga was an active necessity in achieving the desired outcome without descending into chaos.

WD Life Cycle 1
Enacting the life cycle of a Case Moth

A strong theme I have noticed throughout writing this blog post is opportunity. I believe that this encompasses the kaupapa of fostering a generation of people who know how to think and act in nature. The opportunities that nature provides for educational inspiration and teaching opportunities are immense, and by inspiring children to care and igniting a passion to be advocates for nature, the opportunities will continue to be endless. By utilising Kotahitanga, developing a sense of wellbeing and bonding the ako community, “small things in nature can lead to big learning opportunities.”

Building a Case Moth cocoon with found materials

Naku te rourou,
nau te rourou,
ka ora ai te iwi

With your basket and my basket the people will live.

Collaborating while maintaining unique identity

Kirsty Jones

Teacher Educators in the Eastern Institute of Technology’s (EIT) practice-based Bachelor of Teaching Primary (BTP) programme regularly visit their partnership schools to support Candidate Teachers to make connections between their learning on campus and their learning in schools.  Our recent visits focused on understanding more deeply the unique innovations and the key developments our partners are engaged in, and using that learning to strengthen our programme.

On my school visits I was inspired by the wide range of innovative, and successful practice offered in response to learner’s needs. There were many different approaches to teaching and learning within, and across schools taking place, all of which empowered teachers and enabled them to act with agency. Diversity in school philosophy and strategic direction, and vision was embraced and celebrated too.

The schools also recognised the value of working with each other though, and through communities of learning and other clustering models they had a common commitment to improving student learning.

I noticed that teachers were implementing their unique style within the individual school context while maintaining strong practices of collaboration among their colleagues, and with other schools.

These collaborative practices common across schools in communities of learning and school clusters were carefully defined through the use of boundary objects. These are ‘treaty’ agreements, achievement challenge statements and other information that enable agreement about the fundamentals that underpin effective teaching and learning, allowing for individual school agency and autonomy as well as guiding collective decision making, and the implementation of developmental actions.

Two current educational frameworks are alive as boundary frameworks across schools in our BTP partnership.

  1. The 7 Principles of Learning (OCED, The Nature of Learning, 2016)
  2. The Effective Teaching Profile (Bishop et al., 2003)

The ‘overarching ideals’ in these frameworks enable respect for different approaches as well as the ability to collaborate successfully. These frameworks are alive within the curriculum and the partnership practices between schools and EIT, further building coherence for our preservice teachers when they work within multiple, diverse but connected schools. These boundary frameworks enable a shared language between Teacher Educators and school personnel that collectively supports Candidate Teachers to successfully navigate their understanding of effective teaching and learning, and identify their own teaching dispositions.

With the increasing need to share the responsibility for meeting learner needs, at all levels of our education system balancing individual agency and school autonomy can be embraced within deep collaboration, through effective frameworks, structure and systems.

HB partner princ MTs

EIT’s Bachelor of Teaching Primary Teacher Educators and Partnership School Principals and Mentor Teachers – 2018


Bishop, R. Berryman, M., Tiakiwai, S., & Richardson, C. (2003). Te Kotahitanga: The experiences of year 9 and 10 Māori students in mainstream classrooms. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.

The Nature of Learning (2016). http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/50300814.pdf


TKI – Te Kete Ipurangi (2018).



Wikipedia Foundation Inc (2018). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_object

BTP Bearing Quality Fruit

Mā te wā ka kite te pai o te hua.

Given time you will see the quality of the fruit.

We continue to see the success of our graduates in the Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne communities. It is becoming a more common treat that our current Candidate Teachers get to spend time in the classrooms of teachers who graduated from our programme, as part of their school-based learning experiences. Our first graduates are even becoming Associate Teachers!

Our current Candidate Teachers report that they love to spend time in the classes of our graduates during their school-based learning experiences. This is a new source of support for our CTs alongside their Mentor Teachers and colleagues in their partnership schools. The inspiration they gain from these colleagues who recently graduated from our programme cannot be underestimated.

Part of growing quality fruit is providing the right conditions for growth.

As part of the wider BTP programme we collaborate with external educational agencies, educators and other valued guests. Conrad Waitoa from Inspire In Education visited the BTP on our recent Whānau morning and inspired our Candidate Teachers with the aspiration of teaching to promote Māori student success.


Source: HB Today

Inspire In Education is a new initiative committed to promoting Māori student success in Hawke’s Bay (http://www.inspireineducation.co.nz/) .

Founder Conrad Waitoa describes the aims of the charitable trust:

“The Key Outcomes we are seeking from the Inspire in Education program is assisting with communities of learning and facilitating teacher capability in Maori language, culture & identity by providing effective research & policy advice so that schools can access the most up to date information on what works for Maori students which will promote healthy relationships with your students, parents, whanau, hapu, iwi, communities, businesses and schools.” (Conrad Waitoa, CEO Inspire In Education Trust)

One of Conrad’s key messages was that supporting Māori student success includes responding to Māori students as Māori. He suggested teachers:

  • Show genuine interest in connecting with a student’s whānau and family protocols, including how their name is pronounced
  • Integrate tikanga into their classroom by e.g. starting the week with a whakatauki and waiata
  • Mentor students in ways that take account of Māori knowledge and pedagogies
  • Take every opportunity to enhance a student’s mana and identity.

Growing Quality Fruit through Diversity

In 2018 growing quality fruit has involved welcoming new teacher educators to the BTP team. We have been thrilled to welcome Fiona Howard to the team in Gisborne. Fiona comes to us from Gisborne Central School, one of our long-standing partnership schools. Fiona is contributing her expertise in literacy and her passion for inquiry learning to our programme as well as teaching on the New Zealand Certificate in Study and Career Preparation Level 3 and Level 4 that many EIT students complete as their initial move into tertiary study. This qualification has provided a pathway to teaching for a number of our BTP graduates also.

Fruitful Harvest – 2018 Graduation

We were absolutely delighted to celebrate our first BTP graduation in Gisborne in May.

U69-605 EIT Tairawhiti

This graduation represented the first graduating cohort of our Tairāwhiti programme after three years of the BTP programme in Gisborne. We would like to thank our Gisborne partnership schools for their combined commitment to our programme.

We also celebrated graduation in Napier with our 17 Candidate Teachers in March at the Education & Social Sciences Ceremony. It was a stunning Hawke’s Bay day and the graduates and Faculty looked equally stunning in their garb! We were inspired by Judge Becroft, the Children’s Commissioner, to strive for social justice in our work, especially in our work with children and whānau. It is a wonderful privilege to share in the celebration of our graduates’ success along with their friends and family, as well as Mentor Teachers and Principals from our partnership schools.

Fruitful Futures

We welcome Evo to our team! As the Digital Technologies Curriculum rolls out, the BTP looked for a small addition to our team so that we could develop our Candidate Teachers’ computational thinking across the NZC. We have purchased pods of Ozobot Evos to integrate across the three years of our degree.


Extending the fruitful futures theme – we are currently considering the new requirements for Initial Teacher Education programmes that EDUCANZ have released. We are pleased to note that many of the shifts the Council is promoting are already integral to our programme:

  • Developing authentic partnerships with schools
  • Supporting Candidate Teachers to make defensible decisions
  • Candidate Teachers engaging in collaborative and reflective practice
  • Positioning new graduates to be ready to teach effectively immediately

Our Candidate Teachers are advantaged by the depth of experience they gain through regular school-based learning experiences in your schools. The reflective conversation, the cumulative learning about inhabiting the teaching role, deepened understanding of curriculum and pedagogy through the coaching and mentoring of their experienced Mentor Teachers are all experiences that set our graduates up to demonstrate the shifts the Council identifies are essential to meet the complexity involved in our rapidly changing context of work as teachers.

Producing quality fruit in the form of great beginning teachers ready to teach takes the combined commitments of us all. Thank you for the role you play in this process.

He waka eke noa!

A canoe we are all in without exception!

Dr Emily Nelson

BTP Programme Coordinator

What does maths engagement look like?

In December 2017, I attended the Maths Association of Victoria conference at La Trobe University, Melbourne, which provided an opportunity to learn more about engagement in maths. The topic of student engagement in mathematics (or lack of) is a cause for concern among maths educators. A lack of maths engagement can “limit one’s capacity to understand life experiences through a mathematical perspective” (Attard, 2012a, p. 9).

I gained inspiration particularly from sessions led by Catherine Attard (an Australian researcher and maths educator), and Dan Finkel (a researcher and maths educator from Seattle, USA). In this blog post, I share with you some key insights and tasks from those sessions.

Catherine Attard

Attard immediately captivated us, as we got busy (and totally engaged!) folding a paper circle in many ways. The task involved us in rich discussion of the mathematical language associated with geometry and the attributes of 2D and 3D shapes, and engaged us in some deep thinking and mathematical reasoning. Take a look at this great task (and others) located in Attard’s excellent website: http://www.engagingmaths.com   https://engagingmaths.com/teaching-resources/

Attard cautions us, however, that although we might think students are engaged when they appear to be busy working and are on task, ‘it is only when students are experiencing cognitive challenge, are actively involved and are enjoying and appreciating mathematics, that they are truly engaged’ (Attard, 2012, p.23).


Engagement with mathematics (Attard, 2012b, p.23)

Attard also reminds us how important it is that we as teachers of mathematics are engaged if students are to be truly engaged. In her view, engaged teachers are ‘fully invested in teaching mathematics, work collaboratively with colleagues to design meaningful and relevant tasks, go beyond the minimum requirements of delivering curriculum, and genuinely enjoy teaching mathematics in a way that makes a difference to students’ (Attard, 2017, para. 5). In other words, teacher engagement in mathematics is critical for student engagement in mathematics!

number grid

In her session, Attard also challenged us to promote ‘substantive discussion’ in our classrooms, as a strategy for engagement. One suggestion for doing this was to use images for ‘Which One Doesn’t Belong?’ Discussing one of these images would make a great maths starter in a classroom, offering students the opportunity to think mathematically and to articulate and justify their thinking to classmates.

Dan Finkel

Dan Finkel’s session, ‘Playful Explorations to Deep Questions’, also captivated and engaged us. Finkel’s goal is ‘to give everyone the chance to fall in love with mathematics’. His website https://mathforlove.com/ is well worth a look – or better still, sign up to regularly receive informative emails and great maths teaching ideas.

You might also like to spend a very valuable 14 minutes watching Dan’s inspirational TED talk ‘Five Principles of Extraordinary Maths Teaching’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytVneQUA5-cI

He promotes these five principles to engage students in mathematics:

  • Start with a question
  • Students need time to struggle
  • Teachers are not the answer key!
  • Say yes to students’ ideas and questions
  • The willingness to play

Finkel suggests that the first job of teachers is to provide a rich environment for students to play, as often that play has deep mathematical thinking attached. Challenging play produces a state of ‘productive struggle’.

Like Attard, Finkel recognises the importance of student dialogue and building numerical conversations with students. Two questions in particular Finkel loves to use for promoting deeper discussion and thinking are ‘What if…?’ and “How many?’ Images such as the one below are particularly useful for discussing ‘How many?’


Follow this link for more ‘unit chat’ images (with teaching explanations) that make for great discussion based on the ‘How many?’ question in particular. Try some in your classes and enjoy the numerical conversations that result. https://www.dropbox.com/s/81ju3nei20543zv/Unit%20Chat%20Images%20by%20Dan%20Finkel%20-%20Math%20for%20Love.pdf?dl=0%3Cbr%20/%3E

Some final questions to consider:

  1. How might you enhance your own engagement with the teaching of mathematics?
    2. How might you adapt your own maths teaching practices to ensure that mathematics in your classroom is engaging for your students?
    3. How might you foster productive mathematical conversation in your classroom?

Lynn Davies
May 2018


Attard, C. (2012a). Engagement with mathematics: What does it mean and what does it look like? Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom 17(1), 9-13.

Attard, C. (2012b). Applying a framework for engagement in the primary mathematics classroom. Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom 17(4), 22-27.

Attard, C. (2017). Are you an engaged teacher? (Blog Post). Retrieved from https://engagingmaths.com/2017/05/23/are-you-an-engaged-teacher/

Maths – there’s a problem!

I’ve been reading two reports (Caygill, Hanlar, & Singh, 2016; Caygill, Singh, & Hanlar, 2016), that share information in relation to Aotearoa New Zealand and the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). I was excited to read that our Year 5 and Year 9 teachers are engaging in professional development around maths – more so than teachers in many other countries who completed the survey. This excitement morphed into melancholy when I found that our teachers, in comparison with teachers from numerous other participating countries, have less confidence in maths teaching activities.

With greater engagement in professional development, I’m left to wonder why confidence levels are not also greater. From informal discussions with teachers, it’s evident that maths does not appear to be a popular part of the teaching day for some (or many?). What is it about maths that creates this reduced teaching confidence? In amongst my wonderings, I thought about the beliefs and attitudes that teachers may hold around maths, and the twelve mathematical myths (Smith, 2009) came to mind:

  1. Men are better than women in maths.
  2. Maths requires logic, not intuition.
  3. You must always know how you got the answer.
  4. Maths is not creative.
  5. There is a best way to do a maths problem.
  6. It’s always important to get the answer exactly right.
  7. It’s bad to count on your fingers.
  8. Mathematicians do problems quickly, in their heads.
  9. Maths requires a good memory.
  10. Maths is done by working intensely until the problem is solved.
  11. Some people have a “maths mind” and some don’t.
  12. There is a magic key to doing maths.

Dear math

I have difficulty with most of the myths above, though it was concerning for me to find my head nodding just a tad at a couple! On reading them, was your head nodding as you read?  Or did you have difficulty with any, or all, of them? From my difficulty in believing, along with my head nodding, I moved to thinking what the potential impact on both teaching and learning might be if teachers do carry a belief in these myths, and I came up with a whirlwind of thoughts and questions as I reread the myths one-by-one, so I quickly jotted them down.

  1. Men are better than women in maths. Are males really better at maths than females, or is it the belief of that myth which leads to higher expectations of males by teachers, which may then become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or is it the social norms that lead individuals to believe that maths is a ‘male’ domain in learning and employment? Or are males actually better at maths than females?
  2. Maths requires logic, not intuition. Does intuition play a part in the first attack of a problem that needs solving … or does it always come down to logic?
  3. You must always know how you got the answer. What happens if you just don’t know how you got the answer … does that make you wrong?
  4. Maths is not creative. Are a variety of patterns and relationships that are inherent within maths discussed with learners, or with other teachers? Is the wondrous use of fingers when multiplying by nine shared and discussed? Or is the way to check for correctness by adding together the digits of those ‘times 9’ answers explored? Here’s a video link that might provide a dose of mathematical wonder. 
  5. There is a best way to do a maths problem. If variety is the spice of life, then might it also be the spice of maths?
  6. It’s always important to get the answer exactly right. We round numbers and ‘play’ with them in everyday life, so if we’re wanting students to gain an understanding of everyday maths, is it okay to be less exact in the classroom at times?
  7. It’s bad to count on your fingers. How many of us had our hands smacked with a ruler when using our fingers to work with numbers? Should finger counting only be used by students learning at lower levels of the New Zealand curriculum? You might like to access this resource for some interesting information.
  8. Mathematicians do problems quickly, in their heads. How many classes in our schools have the weekly speed test? Does any learning occur for the learners from these tests? Can individual teachers justify why these tests are used, or not, in the classroom?
  9. Maths requires a good memory. If a good memory is essential for maths, then is understanding of maths needed? Is it memory that’s required, or is it our positive attitude, energy, effort, and learning from our mistakes that’s required?
  10. Maths is done by working intensely until the problem is solved. Can any of us describe/explain other areas of life where we’re given a problem and are expected to work at it until we find a solution? If not, then why might we expect this with maths work?
  11. Some people have a “maths mind” and some don’t. How would you describe a maths mind? What makes you think that there is or isn’t such a thing?
  12. There is a magic key to doing maths. A magic key? Does that unlock all the information, or, again, does our energy, effort, and learning from mistakes enable us to do maths?

Maths Rockx

I’m hoping the questions I’ve asked prompt you to consider your own beliefs around maths and the teaching and learning that surrounds maths in your classroom. I thought I’d leave you with a challenge … provide one or more of the questions above to teachers to consider prior to a team, syndicate, or staff meeting. They’ll then (hopefully) be prepared and encouraged to discuss, reflect and consider their own, and others’, beliefs around maths and maths teaching. If we give time to consider the maths myths that we, as teachers, carry, then perhaps there’s an opportunity to bust those myths and build confidence with maths teaching activities.

Julie Whyte



Caygill, R., Singh, S., & Hanlar, V. (2016). Mathematics: Year 5: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS: Findings from TIMSS 2014/15.  Wellington: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/180388/TIMSS-2014-Maths-Y5-Report.pdf

Caygill, R., Hanlar, V. & Singh, S. (2016). Mathematics: Year 9: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS: Findings from TIMSS 2014/15.  Wellington: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/180342/TIMSS-2014-15-Mathematics-Year-9-Trends-Over-20-Years-in-TIMSS.pdf

Smith, K.J. (2009). Mathematics: Its power and utility (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.