An innovative Auckland primary school says it wants children to do between one and three hours of schoolwork a day while they are stuck at home due to the coronavirus.
Hobsonville Point Primary School, a decile-10 school opened in 2013 which was already well set up for "self-directed" and project-based learning, published an 18-page Distance Learning Plan today with guidelines for children, parents and "learning advisers" - its term for teachers.
It encourages parents to set aside one to two hours a day for supervised learning for children in Years 0 to 4, two and a half hours a day in Years 2-6 and three hours a day in Years 4-8.
The year levels overlap, recognising that not all children of the same age learn at the same pace, and also allow for extra time if children want to read, play board games, work on do-it-yourself or science projects or pursue their own independent projects.
Teachers will provide activities for reading, writing, maths and other subjects, including physical exercise.
But the plan also suggests that teachers and parents should "seize the moment" of this extraordinary global shutdown to help children understand what is happening around them.
"Years or decades from now, how will your students remember the emergency that resulted in school closure?" the plan asks the learning advisers (teachers).
"While we should attempt to bring some normalcy and routine to students' lives, learning advisers shouldn't ignore the opportunities resulting from school closure either.
"Personal journaling and/or other creative writing assignments can help students process their thoughts, worries, and emotions, particularly in times of crisis.
"The coronavirus also provides us with other real-life opportunities to study scientific phenomena associated with viruses, how the media is reporting the epidemic, how governments are responding, and many other opportunities to seize the moment and design new learning interdisciplinary experiences for our students."
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Hobsonville's principal Daniel Birch and deputy principal Lisa Squire developed the plan based on a similar plan by a school called Brightworks in San Francisco, which they visited two years ago.
"A week and a half to two weeks ago, we were pretty sure things were going to escalate, so we got hold of them. They had closed down and put up some really good stuff," Birch said.
Squire said she was lucky to have some "quite techie" teachers at Hobsonville, and that the children were already "quite well versed in self-directed learning".
She also talked to psychologists about how to support children while they were physically isolated from their friends.
Although the school's families are in the richest income decile, Birch said "a surprising number" still did not have internet or suitable devices for the children to learn on at home, so the school has lent devices to all families who needed them.
"We had a handful of families who came in first thing this morning and got devices. Our staff have even dropped some off at the front doors of our families," he said.
"The wi-fi at the school will still be on and we have said to families that, as long as you keep your distance from each other, if you want to come in and sit on the front steps and log in and do a Zoom meeting, that's fine."
All families have been given Zoom logins which they can access on computers or cellphones for video whole-class meetings to keep everyone connected.
"It will be different for different kids," Birch said. "Some staff are talking about three times a week for face-to-face activities, but some kids need that on a daily basis, and they will have that."
Lesson and activity plans will be shared with children and parents on the school management system LincEd Hero and by email.
The plan encourages parents to set regular hours and places for schoolwork, begin each day with a "check-in" of what the child will learn that day and what resources they will need, make time for physical exercise, monitor screen time, watch out for stress, and generally "take an active role".
"Human beings learn best when they have opportunities to process their learning with others," the plan says.
"Parents should regularly circle back and engage with their children about what they're learning. However, it's important that your child owns their work; don't complete assignments for them, even when they are struggling."
Birch said the time guidelines reflected the fact that learning at home by yourself is quite different from being at school.
"For a 5-year-old, only a very small amount of the time at school is learning by yourself. Most of their time is social time and interacting with others and learning to be at school," he said.
"If we were to suddenly give them five hours of work at home, that's very unrealistic, and it's very similar for the older kids as well."
The guidelines for each age group are:
Junior years (Years 0-4)
Time per day 1-2 hours
15 mins: Learning common (class) check-in and end of day reflection.
20 mins: Mathematics and statistics: games, practice and project integration/
20 mins: Workshops: guided tasks e.g. reading and writing.
30 mins: Project/exploration.
30 mins: Exercise and movement.
Optional avenues of engagement: Resources provided for self/family-directed engagements such as teacher-provided engagements, reading, board games, DIY, STEM activities etc.
Middle years (Years 2-6)
Time per day 2 ½ hrs
15mins: Learning common (class) check-in and end of day reflection.
25mins: Workshops: Guided activities.
60 minutes: Project and provocation learning.
30 mins: Independent learning activity.
30 mins: Movement and fitness activities.
Senior years (Years 4-8)
Time per day 3 hrs
20 mins: Learning common (class) check-in and end of day reflection.
40mins: Reading, writing and listening.
60-90 mins: Identity/interaction project and exploration.
30mins: Exercise and movement.
25 mins: Mathematics and statistics.
Flexible: Independent choice.
• For all information on the lockdown see covid19.govt.nz.