Monday, March 23, 2009

Ferny Creek Primary School

Believe it or not, we are almost finished the first term of school. Autumn is on its way, but it's odd for our northern bodies to accustom themselves to the southern hemisphere's switch on the seasons... we think it should be spring, what with the end of March approaching. Yet the non-native, European trees are starting to shed leaves and are turning the lovely reds and yellows of autumn. In a bizarre twist, some plants are now flowering, having received reasonable amounts of rain in the last 10 days or so... there's a bleeding heart bush on the way to school, on one of the yards we pass, that has produced some gorgeous red blooms. And the days are getting shorter, the nights getting longer. Sunrise is later in the morning, and Tom is leaving in the grey of dawn succumbing to the sun.

The school terms here are 10 weeks in length, with 2 week breaks in between each term. This makes for great vacation opportunities for us, as we will be able to explore some of this amazing country. I think it could be a nightmare for working families, especially if both parents are working and not in the school system, but for theWiebeRoberts crew, we will be able to use these times to our advantage! The teachers coming from Canada think of their 20 week first terms, and are enjoying the luxury of ending sooner, with the panic of doing some major marking as the term winds down.

The kids are wrapping up their first term in their 2nd new school in one year. I must say they have handled it very well... there has been a bit of a learning curve, especially when it comes to new expressions (and understanding fractions, a new concept for our 3). But we are starting to use some of the terminology ourselves -- we "reckon", instead of "think". We use "look" to start something we want someone to notice. We are "crook" when we don't feel well. You put a "full stop" at the end of a sentence, not a "period". Teachers actually call their students "darling" and I've seen everyone, including the principal, hug a student -- give them a "cuddle". It's quite sweet, and I know we are in a great location, up here in the hills, with many interested and concerned parents and families who are all working together to make this a great school. They have been very keen to meet the "Canadians" who are with them, and to make us feel welcome. I really like the opportunity we are having, and I know Nicole, Gabriel and Kai feel at home in their new school.

Matthew Coyle, the principal, is a warm and generous person. He is always available to students, staff and parents. I attended a few assemblies, especially since Nicole is working as a library captain this year, and Kai and Gabriel are working as environmental captains in the school. These are positions of responsibility for which senior students may apply ... they have to convince their teachers and the principal that they can participate to create a better atmosphere for all.

Nicole's teacher is Heather, and the guys have Hayley as their teacher. Hayley is also doubling as the cross-country running coach, and Gabe and Kai have embraced cross-country running with a zeal that makes up for their lack of experience of running in very hilly situations... as two flatlanders, they are doing some great stuff! Both boys participated in the local Interschools meet on Friday, with Kai coming in 3rd and Gabe 10th in their age category -- this makes them eligible for the zone meet in June! Nicole participated in the vortex event... no shot putts for these kids, but rather a rocket-shaped device that you throw to the best of your ability!

Some other differences include the study of Japanese as a second language... there is truly more information and interest in Asia here than we experience in Winnipeg (even though our Winnipeg schools are more multi-cultural in makeup). Public schools are not funded as thoroughly as what we have seen in Winnipeg... I think this current Labour government has promised an increase in funding, but there is also some real competition between the public and private school sector in terms of attracting students. Parents have told us that they will do the public school in primary, but will send their kids to private for senior school years. Costs for private range from $6,000 AUS to $21,000/year AUS for each child. This is above the taxes people pay. I am leary of a trend I was reading about in the Winnipeg Free Press as the School Divisions were preparing their 2009-2010 budgets, with some new potential trustees eagerly promoting a private/public interface. It can create a huge division between what some receive and others don't. There is money coming to FCPS via the federal stimulus budget to upgrade and build new facilities. It is tied to the school using local contractors and workers, so there are more improvements coming to the school.

The kids at Ferny Creek have great opportunities to develop their skills to prepare for higher grades. The school is using Tony Ryan's Thinkers Keys as a way to twist thinking in different directions... there's a great website which was recommended to me when I commented on the kind of work they are doing. It's fascinating and there's a lot of free information there that can be used in our everyday lives. As an aside, we've been happily playing the DS program Brain Age 2 to improve our brains (more like to have fun and to relax!), but this does the same thing and adults and kids alike can incorporate more creative thinking in their lives.!/display.html

"Creative thinking assumes even greater importance when we consider the potential of artificial intelligence. The world is now well into the Information Age, and computers continue to rapidly overtake many of the analytical thinking functions that we formerly entrusted to our brains. ... Where does this leave today’s students? There is no point in radically altering the present curriculum, because rapid change has never worked anywhere, particularly in the education system. Keeping this point in mind, however, it is important that we integrate creative activities into our present structures, and provide children with strong coping mechanisms for their uncertain future."

The school also provides the grade 5 and 6 students with public speaking training and presentation opportunities, and all 3 Roberts kids have presented 2 speeches each -- one about themselves, and one about something they are passionate about. Monday evening is the speech graduation night, and they will all play roles in presenting to parents and introducing classmates. Kai talked about numbers, Gabe about books, and Nicole about the Titanic.

I don't want you to think that it's all work and no play... we played hooky one day last week and tried out a new beach in a town called Seaford. There we jumped in the cool ocean water, and found... starfish, squid (quickly named Simpkin and Delilah), and multitudes of jellyfish egg cases left behind as the tide went out. A rescue operation ensued, and the creatures were located in the closest sandbar, in buckets of water. Close observation was fun ... more stuff we have to explore, including the squid's use of a feeding or water purgin tube ... will have to read up on it. Then we met a Canadian family, who are enjoying a holiday in Australia, visiting a family member. Of all places, they are from Winnipeg. That was a surprise to us all and we had a good visit.

We are still without a telephone line that works, so I still have not posted the promised pictures. My plan is to do it next week, hopefully before we leave on our next adventure!

1 comment:

Ed Wiebe said...


Your blog entries are great. Laura and I always look forward to the next one.