Treasury of online resources

Issue: Volume 99, Number 6

Posted: 7 May 2020
Reference #: 1HA7Ke

From Zumba to a book club to a design competition, many organisations have come up with innovative programmes, resources or competitions to help teachers and parents with at-home learning.

Eastern Hutt School teacher Angela Gee found the perfect icebreaker for her bubble of students at school: Zumba with a te reo Māori twist.

“Yesterday I taught a bubble of four seven-year-olds. They came from different classes and were a bit shy. After Zumba for Kids they were much more relaxed and were eager to submit some shark pictures for Ani’s competition. They spent the next half-hour drawing and chatting about their shark pictures and when would be doing Zumba again!”

Ani Prasad is director of KaniKani Productions, which has been live-streaming(external link) free 30-minute Zumba Kids classes every weekday at 10.30am on the Kanikani Kids Channel.

“At this stressful time, children all over our nation are vulnerable. We are providing this service free because we believe every Kiwi family has the right to be well, happy and together,” says Ani. 

“We aim to improve overall health and wellbeing using the te whare tapa wha (four walls of the whare) model, which focuses on spirit, mind, body and connectedness. These are all things everyone needs right now.”

Angela has also encouraged her Year 1 class to use the resource from their homes.  

“Ani is easy to follow, easily engages with her target audience with her excitement and energy and everybody has fun. Ani uses familiar te reo Māori and also takes the kids around the world and introduces music and dances from other cultures.”

The great outdoors

Many organisations are keen to support teachers at this time. While we can’t get out and about as much as we would like to, many teachers are encouraging their students and their families to explore nature and the great outdoors through the Department of Conservation’s Learning from Home(external link) resource.

Among them is Nic Kibblewhite, a teacher at Discovery School in Porirua.

“I think this is a fabulous resource! The videos are useful to be able to use in class as a starter for either a conservation or biodiversity focus. I am intending to set these as a task to watch next week and allow the students to choose one or more of the follow-up activities to do while they are learning from home.”

The resource includes activities such as growing seeds (earn a medal), tracking the moon and making a star wheel, as well as taking photographs of nature, making art, creating a journal, and doing a conservation quiz. This complements Department of Conservation’s existing range of resources(external link) and material which support conservation teaching and learning in Aotearoa.   

Also on offer is New Zealand Geographic’s new Together at Home resource. Every day photographs, videos, articles and activities for children on different themes and topics are posted. For example, Day 14 features a documentary video about Whakaari / White Island from Our Big Backyard Series; Day 8 features humpback whales and includes an article and activities which include learning about buoyancy using raisins, vinegar and baking soda. 

Teachers and students can access the Together at Home activities and archived articles through their school’s EPIC(external link) (Electronic Purchasing In Collaboration) login(external link) or a $1 trial subscription, accessed through the website.

Teachers are also encouraging their students to make the most of what their own homes and gardens have to offer.  

Anne Kata-Makahili from East Tamaki School has been encouraging her students to make the most of the Garden to Table Trust’s(external link) expertise with recipes and ideas for gardening activities.

“During the Covid-19 lockdown, students have enjoyed creating dishes with the G2T recipes I have sent. It has allowed for parents and children to spend a lot of time together - more than usual. The resources also foster the students’ reading, writing and maths learning and they are able to use their learning in a practical way,” says Anne.

Online reading challenge

Many children and their families are also taking part in the Stay at Home Book Club, a new online reading challenge from Read New Zealand Te Pou Muramura (formerly NZ Book Council). The challenge is for primary and intermediate students who can choose an avatar – a native bird – and log the stories they read or listen to, along with a star rating and short review. 

At the time of writing, Team Pīwakawaka is at the top of the leader board. In recognition of the fact that it’s difficult to buy or borrow a new book, Read New Zealand includes links to audio and video e-stories, along with Writer in Schools sessions and author activities.

Craig Sisterson, a New Zealander living in London, has enjoyed seeing his children take part in the Stay at Home Book Club(external link) and revisiting some Kiwi classics.

“We were stoked to sign up for the Stay Home Book Club – go Team Kākāpō! – as it helps us feeling connected to the wider Kiwi community, even if we’re on the other side of the world. A great initiative. It’s also been really cool to take part in some of the online story sessions, to mix up our physical book reading.”

STEM at home

Dr Michelle Dickinson – better known as Nanogirl – is also keen to support teachers at this time. 

“We approached teachers to understand how we could help, and it was clear they wanted curriculum-based learning with a hands-on live experiment component,” she says.

So the team at Nanogirl Labs joined forces with the Ministry of Education and TVNZ’s Home Learning TV channel to create Breaking It Down, a series of six 30-minute STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) lessons aimed at Year 4–8 students.

In Breaking It Down, Michelle will be presenting STEM lessons that will involve experiments and activities that will be fun, interactive, and educational. Each programme is accompanied by a set of notes to help teachers plan lessons in advance and prepare their students for the topics to be covered. Teachers can sign up(external link) to participate.

Another STEM initiative capturing the imagination of Kiwi families is Genesis School-gen Mind Lab Kids, a partnership between Genesis School-gen and Mind Lab to provide free, safe access(external link) to hundreds of STEM online resources, challenges and activities that can be done at home. These include tips on building a website to working out what is recyclable and – hot topic at the moment – what is sourdough and how does it work?

“Science is my daughter’s absolute favourite subject, so the idea of making her own lava lamp blew her mind!” says Toni Street from Coast Breakfast.

Virtual museum visits

School visits to the museum may be off for a while, but Auckland Museum (Tāmaki Paenga Hira) has launched a free online hub, Your Museum at Home(external link), filled with stories, activities, videos and puzzles for all ages to enjoy. The museum has collated a broad range of stories that reflect the past, current and future work of Auckland Museum, including collection objects and stories, sneaky peaks behind the scenes and quirky facts.

Children can explore 3D models of the collection, take an interactive quiz about marine life, see inside a whale, or explore life in the ocean. A series of animated short films transport viewers back in time to stories from when HMB Endeavour arrived in Aotearoa in 1769.

Creativity and comedy

Massey University’s College of Creative Arts has partnered with Weta Workshop to launch a new concept design competition called Earth Guardians to celebrate the launch of the university’s new Concept Design Major. There are two age categories – one for students aged 15 to 19(external link), and another for students aged 12 to 14(external link).  

The Earth Guardians competition calls for entrants to create a character to defend the earth, using nature and the elements to inspire their designs including details about where the character lives, its special powers and links to specific places, myths, legends, customary Māori narratives and deities.

‘Earthger’ by Saint Kentigern’s College student Leticia was one entry that caught the judges’ attention. Saint Kentigern’s head of visual arts Rodney Stratton says other students have been inspired by Leticia’s success.

“This competition was great to be able to share with my students during the lockdown and with Leticia’s success we are now really excited to get even more students involved next year.”

And for the comedians in your class, for the past three and a half years, Dean Watson from has been paying school kids to write hilarious jokes(external link) about high school and the competition is now featured on the Ministry’s TKI website for gifted learners.

“Having a sense of humour about life is fantastic for students’ mental health. The comedy comp is a safe space and students are encouraged to take things too far so that they can learn where the edge of the cliff is,” says Dean.

Supporting learning from home

A wealth of online learning resources can also be found on the Ministry of Education’s Learning from home website(external link) and the Ki te Ao Mārama website(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:30 am, 7 May 2020

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