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lake mungo.jpegInstead of sitting in the playground at lunch on Wednesday this week, Mrs Hurwitz and a representative group of Year 7 History students, crossed via video conference to Lake Mungo. The discussion, also attended by multiple other schools around Australia, allowed them to chat with an archaeologist and two Aboriginal elders from the area.

The girls heard that the desert landscape of Lake Mungo is a meeting place for three traditional tribal groups and ‘Mungo’ is also an archaeological site of world importance. The dunes and dry lake beds of the Mungo area have offered up evidence of human ceremonial burials dating back 42,000 years.

The girls discussed and asked questions about skeletal remains of Mungo Man and Mungo Woman as well as of mega fauna such as the Genyornis (a giant flightless bird). They also learned about shell fragments from the (now extinct) Genyornis eggs (that looked like a giant emu but was actually a goose) that litter the dunes today. For the students, the interactivity of the questions was most enjoyable, as one student said, ‘It was a very interesting experience and I am so glad that I gave up some of my lunchtime to listen to the fascinating questions that school children asked’.

The discoveries changed our understanding of how long Australia had been inhabited as they proved that Aboriginal people had lived there 60,000 years ago, as opposed to 12,000 years as previously thought. The session also provided a real world link to the studies Year 7 have been doing about archaeology and digs and what we can learn from the evidence.

 

This year we are currently in the Yan Chai Hospital Wong Wha San Secondary School.jpgprocess of setting up the Mandarin language and cultural exchange via video conferencing for students that we began last year. Last year we ran a few successful video conferences with Hong Kong for cultural and language exchange with our Year 8 and Year 9 students. We worked through the Asia ConneXions programme based at the University of New England and ended up being paired with Yan Chai Hospital Wong Wha San Secondary School. It was an excellent match for our students and it was interesting for them to speak with students from Hong Kong. This year we are currently in the process of setting up the Mandarin language and cultural exchange via video conferencing for students that we began last year. Last year we ran a few successful video conferences with Hong Kong for cultural and language exchange with our Year 8 and Year 9 students. We worked through the Asia ConneXions programme based at the University of New England and ended up being paired with Yan Chai Hospital Wong Wha San Secondary School. It was an excellent match for our students and it was interesting for them to speak with students from Hong Kong.
 
Prior to the sessions the girls created an introductory video spoken in Mandarin with English subtitles. This was to give the students in Hong Kong an idea of what it was like at school here at Abbotsleigh. Each girl was allocated a task to each girl so they had something relevant to present and discuss with the students in Hong Kong. This also ensured that the video conference would be more interactive as each student had something to present and discuss.
 
Embarking on this this video conferencing project has created an authentic and enriching student activity that has deepened their understanding of Chinese culture and language. We are looking forward to continuing it in 2014.
 

IMG_2269.JPGYear 7 mathematics students had an unexpected and surprising lesson on Tuesday morning this week. Though they came to their normal mathematics classroom in Wahroonga, they were actually working with Roxanne from Whirlidurb, a teacher based in Dallas, Texas. They participated in Whirlidurb’s ArtSmart program as part of their studies of volume with their teacher Kim Allan.

The smiles on the faces of the girls as they participated in this interactive session confirmed the aptness of Whirlidurb’s motto, Be creative; Be engaged; Be connected. The video conference involved a drawing lesson that developed their fine motor skills and creative and critical thinking while expanding their geometry vocabulary. The students started with a warm up session and learned valuable tips for drawing and shading to trick the eye into seeing three-dimensional shapes.

While the students were drawing, they identified the basic elements of three-dimensional shapes, located a light source, and created shadows using various shading and textural styles. They composed drawings incorporating rectangular prisms, cubes and spheres in overlapping designs in different placements and sizes. Flat shapes suddenly leapt off the page; straight lines were transformed into curved lines and lifeless buildings suddenly had chimneys, windows and hidden doorways.

The picture shows one student’s cartoon masterpiece. According to their teacher, Kim Allan, 'They all said they enjoyed it and would recommend it to other students. They have come up with some great drawings and I am sure they will benefit from it in many ways… not just in maths'.

IMG_2318.JPGYear 8 mathematics students were treated to the wonders of mathematics as they participated in a live workshop organised by Questacon in Canberra.

They were amazed by the skills of the presenter who was able to guess their number using a simple mathematical process and divisibility tests. The students will be exploring this further in class by using their algebra skills.

Patterns featured in the presentation and they learned how to create their own imaginative designs by cutting out unusual shapes and moving them around an otherwise ordinary two dimensional figure.

The students were surprised by the practical applications of probability for predicting outcomes. The students tossed coins of the same denomination and counted the number of times they landed inside and outside a square grid. The presenter guessed, correctly, that they were all using 10 cent coins using probability and the diameter of the coins.

Finally, the girls learned a very quick way of doing multiplication using numbers from six to 10 without using a calculator.

The girls had a lot of fun creating, solving problems and applying mathematics to the real world. They all agreed that it was a worthwhile experience and one they would love to do again.

IMG_20130904_160618.jpgYear 9 girls were connected as global citizens in a very real way in the Reverend’s Year 9 class this week. A Year 9 student contacted Frank Retief in Cape Town a couple of weeks ago regarding having a video conference style ‘lesson’ with her class and he said Yes! Frank Retief is a minister in the Church of England of South Africa who lives in Cape Town. His church was attacked 20 years ago and he has an amazing story of ‘faith under fire’. Year 9 have been studying this topic and are learning how people have coped when facing difficulties that have challenged their faith. This ‘fire’ maybe illness, injury, loss, persecution, doubt, death or any number of things that cause people to doubt and reject faith in Christ.

They talked with Frank and asked questions including What happened to your church and why? How did the massacre impact people’s faith and trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God? How did you and the congregation not only cope but grow through the experience? What advice would you give to a young person struggling with faith in Christ? It was a very moving experience for this story to be told and discussed so intimately with a person who was central to the incident at the time. !In the words of one of the students, 'It was a really insightful and interesting to hear about your experiences with the St James massacre and the way that your church dealt with the aftermath of it. We were all inspired by your churches faith and trust in God and forgiveness you had for the perpetrators of the crime.'

It was a real world experience where Abbotsleigh girls stayed in their classroom while making contact with someone in their studies who lived across the globe and was made possible by a students initiative, with the support of her teacher and the IT Department.