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Māpua School

Seamless hybrid learning at school and at home with Boomerang Bags (a largely paper-based learning programme)

Māpua School

Seamless hybrid learning at school and at home with Boomerang Bags (a largely paper-based learning programme)

Māpua School developed a seamless approach to learning at school and at home. Over the January break staff in the Year 3 and 4 syndicate prepared what would become a seamless hybrid learning programme.

Māpua School is a medium sized full primary school set in the village of Māpua in the coastal Tasman region.

The school population is made up of many professional families, many of whom were working at home prior to any lockdowns. Many have moved to New Zealand as a lifestyle choice and operate their businesses around the world from their base in Māpua. The community is strong and appreciate being well connected to their school, so the disconnect during COVID-19 lockdowns was challenging for many. 

In previous lockdowns teachers managed their own classroom online learning programmes with their ākonga. On this occasion, more time was taken to adequately prepare for and discover other possible ways of working, and with strong encouragement from their principal to be creative in their approach, teams worked together and developed a shared approach to hybrid learning. In essence, the school wanted to ensure that the workload of staff was manageable and the learning of ākonga was not compromised during any future absences.

What we did

Worked collaboratively and utilised strengths to ensure quality

Teacher connectedness and sharing of expertise was a feature of this learning. There are three full-time and two part-time teachers in this teaching syndicate, and it was important for them to draw on each other’s strengths when designing and implementing the Boomerang Bag learning programme. This consistency in approach ensured that all ākonga received a quality programme, irrespective of their classroom placement. Staff worked together to develop what the critical trigger points could be and how they would manage these to minimize any disruption to learners should staff or student absences become significant.

Developed “Boomerang Bags” for seamless learning

Teachers in the Year 3 and 4 syndicate knew that they needed to start the year with a “Getting to Know You” theme and prepared a range of resources, including levelled reading materials, a generic levelled maths resource, a “Choice Grid” and online learning tasks. These learning resources were placed into zip lock bags, aptly named the Boomerang Bag and shared with students. Whether at school or working from home, the learning resources in these bags formed each ākonga’s learning programme and they proved to be the essential link to seamless home and school learning.

After four weeks, with the use of Boomerang Bags becoming embedded and with student absences increasing, the syndicate team agreed to use this approach for their next inquiry unit called “A Night at the Museum”. 

“A Night at the Museum”
Our goal is to create a poster and an interactive display for our Middle’s Museum by the end of the term. If for some reason you find yourself at home, we have created these learning steps so that you can follow this and your child can begin their research project at home.

Choosing a topic

Watch the movie.
What animal, ancient civilisation or historical figure in the movie interests them to explore further?

Practice using the 5 ‘WHYS?’ to get to a deeper and more specific topic 

  • “I want to do dinosaurs.”
  • “Why?”
  • “Because I like their skeletons.”
  • “Why do you like them?”
  • “They are huge.”
  • “Why do you think they are so huge?”
  • “Because they needed to eat and fight?”
  • “Why do you think they had to fight?” 
  • “To defend themselves and to hunt.” 
  • And there is the topic - How did dinosaurs hunt?

Writing skills 
Work through these skills to help with their report writing and presenting. Tick them off as they go.

  • I can choose a topic that interests me
  • I can choose a way to organise my ideas using the best template
  • I have found important information that I can understand
  • I have looked up words I do not know to find out their meaning
  • I used skimming and scanning to take notes I have included a title Summarising the information in my own words
  • I have included technical language
  • I use headings for the main ideas
  • I have written in the present tense
  • I have checked my punctuation
  • I have thought about how my work might appeal to an audience - visual diagrams, I can explain the new information

Topics that your child could choose if they are finding it tricky to come up with something on their own. (You will need to use the ‘WHYS? to narrow down the topic further though).

  • Ancient Egyptians
  • African animals
  • Famous people that influenced our lives
  • Dinosaurs
  • Cowboys and/or Native Americans
  • Whales or sea animals
  • Jungle birds
  • Ancient sculptures 
  • Extinct animals
Look at report articles and posters and discuss what makes them attractive to an audience?

Provided long-term unit planning to parents/whānau

Sharing the long-term unit of work from the beginning with whānau was new for the teachers. While feeling vulnerable at the time, teachers now acknowledge that, in fact, this led to greater input from some families, while for others it did take the stress out of learning at home.

One parent commented, “My daughter was already engaged in the learning topic, and she just kept going with it - I didn’t need to ‘invent’ something new (and random) or work out what to do/how to do it (and whether it would be relevant or not!). She just kept rolling with her research project and using resources she was familiar with to keep going.”

And another said, “I appreciate that it was extra work for the teachers to organise in advance but also meant I didn’t need to add to their workload by asking for additional work.”

“Great that the kids could carry on with the same work at home and not be ‘left behind’ when they got back to school.”

At the end of term one, when ākonga were asked about what they thought of the Boomerang Bag approach to learning, they said that they really enjoyed having more time for their inquiry. They had time to “think, plan and do a good job!” Teachers in this syndicate see this as good learning for them when planning future learning experiences.

An underlying philosophy of ensuring that, where possible, staff would work with the same group of learners was well supported by the Boomerang Bag approach.

Explicitly taught students IT skills, empowered students

For the Boomerang Bags to be a success teachers realised that students needed to be explicitly taught IT skills, including login names, passwords, apps training, creating QR codes and how to link to the Internet from home. Staff noted that in previous lockdowns parents often took responsibility for their child’s online learning access and this time round staff wanted students to be empowered to take responsibility for this themselves. Explicit teaching of these skills was an important foundation in the success of the programme.

Strengthened home-school partnerships

Teachers initially felt some vulnerability in sharing their planning and learning resources with whānau. However, it was well received and led to whānau being more involved in the learning of their ākonga. Parents/whānau were also able to share their own experiences and resources. This also resulted in a feedback loop between whānau and teachers as parents would also email to seek clarification and provide comment. Teachers say that this sharing has strengthened their home-school partnership at a time when parents were not able to be physically present at school.

Communication and connection were key

Communication with home was a key feature of this hybrid learning programme. It was important that there was consistency across the syndicate, subsequently the leader took responsibility for connecting in with all ākonga isolating at home. As the learning packs (Boomerang Bags) were the same for all, this communication was easy to manage. Whānau felt valued by this approach and acknowledge that, at the same time, they were encouraged to maintain contact with the classroom teacher. The syndicate leader was able to support with questions and queries on a daily basis, and ākonga and whānau felt included and cared for by this approach.

As a result, community engagement for this group of learners was high. Parents had been feeling a loss of connection with their school during previous lockdowns and this method of hybrid learning allowed them, once again, to feel involved even though they were not able to be on site. In previous lockdowns there had been a lot of communication with whānau, however, this time it had a strong academic as well as pastoral care focus. This was appreciated by the community.

Staff organised an evening where ākonga could share their learning in the classroom with their whānau. This was a huge success despite the difficulties of organising around COVID-19 regulations. Whānau, including siblings, parents and extended members all attended and showed a high level of interest in the learning shared by their child. It was a highly engaging evening with a lot of buzz and participation in all three classrooms.

Supported different approaches to hybrid learning

At Māpua School each team was empowered to develop their own approach to hybrid learning, including the intermediate team who used Google Classroom as their platform. The planning was shared and teachers stayed connected with ākonga who were isolating regularly. Google Classroom was not a new concept for these ākonga and their learning at home continued to be a part of their regular classroom programme.

Achieved successful outcomes

Examples of success of the hybrid learning programme include:

  • Students saying how proud they were that they could share their learning with their whānau. One student who was not enjoying maths reported that doing maths at home and sharing this with his dad made him feel proud. His teacher reports that he is now an avid learner in this subject.
  • The seamlessness of learning between home and school.
  • Students having choice in their learning activities. One student said that they also “learnt new information and sometimes mum showed me sites she liked that had more information.”
  • The responsibility students showed in the care and use of the Boomerang Bags.
  • Ākonga continuing their learning at home, having experienced previous lockdowns, had access to the resources and expectations in advance. This was seen as a key factor in igniting learning for these ākonga, and often when present at school all day, students would continue their learning at home.
  •  Teacher strengths being used in all classes, not just, as in previous years, the one class that they would work in.
  • The principal being highly involved in encouraging staff to be creative and showing belief that the staff could do this. This was motivating and gave the staff licence to give new approaches a go. The principal’s perspective is seen as a game changer in ensuring the seamless learning approach.

Reflections, observations, and learnings

  • Teachers noticed that when they put value on something most ākonga did the same. This was evident when teachers placed high value on taking the Boomerang Bags home each night and returning them the next day. Students were initially rewarded for this; however intrinsic motivation soon took over and there was no need to continue making a fuss!
  • A great success of this initiative was that whānau could maintain engagement with their child’s learning, with the class teacher and with the syndicate leader – the regular, synchronised contact was beneficial for all involved.
  • Parents say that they felt well connected, could easily support their child’s learning and knew what the expectations were. They could contribute ideas and could relate to the learning by bringing in their own interests and ideas.
  • Students still felt connected to their classroom and syndicate while they were isolating, they said:
    • I know you were missing me because you sent emails to my mum and she read them to me.
    • The kids were so happy to see me when I came back from isolation.
    • I didn’t feel worried about being behind.
    • Even though I was away for a whole week before the museum opened I caught up in two days. My mum and dad are really proud of me!
  • Some parent feedback included:
    • We were very impressed with this project.
    • I’m so pleased he is finally finding his feet and we knew how to support him. We are very proud of him.
  • Often time can be a barrier for building a unit of learning with all staff, however, at this time staff could see the possibilities of high student absences and the need to engage ākonga with high interest learning. Their motivation to succeed in this approach really mitigated any perceived barriers. Putting all of the resources into Boomerang Bags did take time and a considerable amount of photocopying, however the success of the programme outweighed this.
  • Teachers were highly engaged and had a manageable workload while participating in this form of hybrid learning. Their success was encouraged by parent feedback, principal’s enthusiasm and without a doubt by the children themselves. When ākonga were asked if they would like to continue Boomerang Bag learning there was a resounding YES from all.

Where to next?

  • This team of teachers will strongly consider how they can incorporate the aspects of Boomerang Bag learning, such as giving ākonga time to explore their learning and addressing timetable constraints and demands of the curriculum, along with school events and outings, into their classroom programmes when Covid and student absences are not so present and impactful.
  • Teachers want to give more opportunities for students to develop their own success criteria for their learning. During the Night at the Museum, students were able to articulate the success criteria for their poster due to the explicit teaching they had received prior to the activity. Students stated that their poster had to have:
    • a standout title, it should “pop out” to the audience
    • a good number of facts, but not too many that people would get bored
    • an exciting look so people would want to read it; and
    • neat writing.
  • Sharing unit planning with whānau is also up for consideration. Should this be a regular occurrence? Staff plan to ask whānau if this would help them to participate in their child’s learning outside of periods of isolation. Also, to consider is this a key component of a successful home-school partnership?
  • The Boomerang Bag project, along with other forms of hybrid Learning will be shared with the wider Māpua staff, giving them an opportunity to reflect on the work of their team and other teams at their school. Sharing effective practice is a key to successful initiatives.