Sunday, 25 February 2018

Group Challenges

The first week at Quest was spent doing group challenges - getting to know others in the group, and challenging our thinking, communication and collaboration skills.

The year 3-6 groups completed a 'break-out' challenge - a series of clues that lead to finding the solution to opening a locked box. There were a variety of challenges - code cracking, maths, problem solving, puzzles, memory, a group drawing challenge. I was so impressed with the way students included their team mates and supported those who were finding this tough, and also encouraged each other and worked together to solve the clues. Everyone succeeded in opening the locks - well done!

The year 2 group completed various team challenges - a favourite being the cup stack. First we had races to see which team could stack the cups the fastest, then I challenged them to stack the cups without touching them. I gave them string tied to a rubber band to help with this. It required them to collaborate and communicate in order to pick up and drop the cups - the challenge was getting the cups in the correct position!

I have a lovely bunch of children to work with - I'm excited for the year ahead and all the learning we will do together.

This week we will be looking at the brain - learning about the name and function of different parts and what happens when we are learning.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Welcome to 2018!

I hope you had a lovely Summer - wasn't the weather amazing (if a little hot at times!)

QUEST 2018
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again this year at Quest. 

This term the whole school inquiry is looking at learning - how we learn best. I will be starting with some team building games and activities, and then looking at how the brain works, before we look at different ways of learning - learning through play, experimentation, from others, from mistakes etc etc. The aim is to build on the schoolwide inquiry and introduce more depth and complexity into learning.

This year for the year 3-6's I am going to go back to one longer session a week. I loved seeing the kids twice a week in our trial last year, but found I was losing 10 minutes each day waiting for everyone to come, so we were effectively losing 20 minutes a week. And with the shorter session I feel it was more difficult to go into any depth on anything, as we seemed to just get into something and we had to pack up and move on. So I am trialling going back to one longer session each week this term.

Kids are of course welcome to pop in to chat at morning tea or lunchtime if they want to catch up on the day they don't come to me - I love seeing them and hearing their ideas :)

Quest this year will be in room L1. The room has been refurbished over the holidays and is still not quite ready for me to move my furniture in and set up the room, so don't be alarmed if you pop into school and L1 looks empty still - I will get it set up hopefully next week when I can finally get in there!

I am still going to look at running extra learning opportunities at lunchtime or morning tea - just trying to figure out how this will work. I would like to run chess club, code club, gardening club, games club - they might not all run each week. I'm thinking of alternating chess club and gardening club on Tuesdays, and alternating code club and games club on Wednesdays - all at lunch break. And I'd like to run a little book club for avid readers some morning tea breaks. To be confirmed, watch this space! I will have notices in L1 window eventually to advertise which clubs are on each week to hopefully make it easier for kids (and me!) to remember. Just trying to fit more options in! These are great for kids who want to learn something new or to practice a skill, or simply for  something to do at lunchtime if they are uncomfortable out in the playground.


I work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and will be at school from next week, but want to give classes a little time to settle before I start pulling children out! Quest will start in week 3 this term. There may be some juggling at first for years 3-6's as it is a busy time with leisure centre swimming lessons, cricket training, and Life Education. I will be working out with teachers alternative times for children to come to Quest if they have a clash. 

The school timetable will be a little different this year, with slightly longer blocks for learning in the mornings, and slightly shorter in the afternoons. Break times will also be different - with a longer morning tea and a shorter lunch.

Here is the proposed timetable for Quest - some of the classes might change, but I am aiming to have years 5&6 in the morning blocks, years 3&4 in the middle blocks, and juniors in the afternoons. 

Block 1 (8.55 - 10.50am)
Year 5&6 (B4, M2, M3, M4)
 27 students
Year 5&6 (B7, B8, O3, O4, O1)
22 students
Block 2 (11.30am -1pm)
Year 3&4 (A5, A6, B3)
19 students
Year 3&4  (O1, O2, L3, L4, L5, B5, B6)  20 students
Block 3 1.45 - 2.45pm
Year 2  
12 students
Time for further identification / observations / parent meetings (term 1 only)
Year 1&2 growth class (from term 2)
I have the largest number of children ever at the start of the year, so unfortunately some group sizes are larger than I would ideally like. There are obviously so many bright children at Whangaparaoa! And no doubt these numbers will grow (mostly younger students) as more are identified throughout the year.


Science / arts show - Friday 16th March - I have booked 20 seats for 'Erth's Prehistoric Aquarium' - part of the Auckland Arts Festival at Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna. It is only for years 5&6, and I will need parents to help transport please. Let me know if your child is interested in this as I'll have to get paperwork organised and out in the next few weeks. It will cost $13 per child to cover costs of their ticket and parent helpers tickets. If you don't get to come, or would like to take your families, there are public showings also - a little more expensive than the schools showings. They recommend it for age 5+, but for the schools day I was only allowed to book for years 5-8 students. There are other great looking shows suitable for families as part of the Auckland Arts Festival if you like that kind of thing. Nanogirl is back with a science show too :)

Auckland Writers Festival - Tuesday 15th May (term 2) This is the year 5-10 schools day. It's always a fantastic day with several authors talking about their books and how they came to be an author or illustrator - lots of great inspiration for kids (and adults!) - perfect for those who enjoy reading and/or writing, or for those who need some inspiration. Sorry, again it is just for years 5&6. Please can I have expressions of interest for this. Usually I book 20 tickets, but with 49 year 5&6 Quest kids I might need more tickets this year if there is a lot of interest. Bookings open on 7th Feb (next week) and I need to get in early as they usually sell out quickly. It would be good to know if I will need more than 20 tickets so that I can try to get them. Costs will  be dependent on transport - I am going to apply for a transport grant that they offer, but generally I think this goes to lower decile schools, but it's worth a try! So tickets are $12 plus whatever transport costs we have - to cover parking costs if parents are kind enough to offer transport, or to cover bus / ferry costs if needed. Could be up to $20 all up I guess, depending on Transport?  The authors announced so far this year are Gavin Bishop (NZ), Chris Riddell (UK), Anne Salmond (NZ), Selina Tusitala (NZ), Alex Wheatle (UK)  - I'm not sure if they will all be at the lower schools day or the high school days. There will no doubt be a free family day at the Auckland Writers festival which is usually suitable for younger children too - I'll let you know as I find out. There are videos of the past schools day presentations - last year on the junior schools day we saw Lauren Child, Tim Tipene, Donovan Bixley and Renate Hopkins. I loved them all, but was most inspired by Tim Tipene's talk. Here is the link if you are interested.

EPro8 Engineering Challenge - 1st November (Term 4)
A fantastic opportunity for those keen on problem solving, building, creating, teamwork. Costs $33 per student - they work in teams of 4. I have booked for 3 teams at the Silverdale  regional event. Last year our school won their regional competition and went on to the semi-finals which was very exciting! Again, its only for years 5&6 - sorry! Lots to look forward to for younger children who are keen. I will ask for interest closer to the time. Here is some info if you want to know more. 

Chess Interschools - these unfortunately clash with the Auckland Writers Festival this year - so I am seeing if we can go to another area's competition on a different date. TBC

This year NZAGC (NZ Association for Gifted Children) are running a conference "Giftedness from the Inside Out",  on 17/18 March in Parnell. Unfortunately it is the same weekend as our school Gala. I have decided to go to the conference - a tough decision, but I learn a lot at these conferences and it's a good chance to network too. It's open to Educators, Parents, and students (there is a student programme with some really interesting options). Here are the details if you are interested in going.

This year I would like to invest in a pokerwork machine for engraving on wood - to help children make signs for contemplating around the school (quotes, sayings, tree labels etc), and to make some outdoor games. The one I am looking at costs $238. Before I buy it, does anyone have a second-hand one I could buy, or any contacts for a discount somewhere? Also, we would like to make a set of large dominoes that children could use in the playground. For this I need flat smooth wood - to make dominoes approx 15cm x 30cm x 1.5cm? I'm thinking old floor boards could be good to cut up for this. It doesn't need to be treated as they won't be left outside - just to take out at break times. Does anyone have anything suitable? And is anyone able to cut them up for us? 

Thank you for wading through so much information! In future I hope to send communicatiions through Linc-Ed, but I am still working my way through setting up my groups on the system, as they were not set up like classes were. I am always learning (or trying!) so here's hoping I figure it all out soon.

Looking forward to seeing you back at school.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions or comments, or want to make a time to meet. I will do my best to get back to you but if you think I've forgotten please drop me a line again as being part-time and dealing with so many children I can sometimes overlook things! Please let me know if your child does not want to attend Quest this year. 

Debbie Thompson

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Bee Mural finished

Over the last couple of days I have had my teens in at school helping to finish off the bee mural that the year 1&2 Quest kids (and a few year 5&6's) started. We have transferred the children's sketches on to the plywood base coats that the children painted. Hopefully it will be up on the PE shed wall near the bee house by the start of next year.
You need to check out the pictures - they are SO cute - we have put children's names by their one so that they will be able to identify them for years to come hopefully :)

This is a great positive action these children have taken part in - to help raise awareness of bees and their importance for our environment. Well done kids!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Helping our planet

We have been looking at ways that we can help our planet. Often it seems overwhelming when there are so many issues, but if we all do a little bit we can make a difference. This is a good illustration of that:

We looked at examples of what others have done (Severn Suzuki's speech to the UN summit in Brazil when she was 12, Young Ocean Explorers raising awareness in NZ, the 'black mambas' protecting rhino and educating people in Africa, etc). We discussed what WE could do - use less plastic, use less electricity, pick up rubbish, talk to others about issues, make posters, plant flowers, join an organisation etc. These ideas were from the students. 

The junior groups started making a sign to inform people about bees so that they look after them, as we need pollinators in our world (thanks to those who donated paint).  Senior students practiced some debate skills with a debate on Trump's ruling that trophies from game hunting are now allowed to be imported into America. Some made posters about various things, some researched topics such as looking after our ocean (check out Young Ocean for a great interactive website by Riley and Steve who came to talk at school last year), some discussed ideas with their penpals and shared what they are already doing. 

Hopefully the kids have ideas for making a difference so that their children can enjoy a healthy clean planet.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Moving on - Year 6 leavers

Here is an open letter to the year 6's who are moving on to Intermediate and College next year.

To the year 6 ‘Quest’ students of 2017

You have been identified at some stage as gifted and talented - that does not mean that you are perfect! You have the ability to think and learn well and strengths in some areas. You may learn some things faster than others. You may have intensities in different areas - imaginational, intellectual, emotional, psychomotor(movement), sensual (senses). You are all amazing in your own unique way.

As you move on in life here are some things to remember that you have hopefully learnt at Quest.

PUZZLES / PROBLEMS TO SOLVE - just like the quizzles we have at quest, sometimes there are challenges in life. Some are easy to solve, some take time and thought.

MISTAKES /FAILURE do not mean that you are no longer gifted. They are a natural part of learning. Thomas Edison (the guy who invented the light bulb and many other things) said “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that did not work.” If you make a mistake or don’t do as well at something as you hoped, pick yourself up and try again, and eventually you’ll get somewhere.

STRUGGLE and EFFORT are also part of learning. Remember the learning pit - if you have to struggle to get out of the pit you will eventually be able to climb out the other side. You may need help along the way - don’t be afraid to ask for help (or to help someone else). If you just lie at the bottom of the pit and give up then you will never get out the other side. It may feel difficult at times, but struggle is worth it.

DIFFERENCES - everyone is different. Respect others’ opinions. You do not have to agree with them, and you can respectfully debate, but ultimately they are allowed to have their own opinion. Often there is no right or wrong opinion, just different points of view. Everyone has different personality types too - so don’t forget to listen so that you hear the views of the extroverts, and ask questions so that you hear the views of the introverts.

BOREDOM - Believe it or not, it is good for you to be ‘bored’ (that is, not amused / stimulated) at times. Rather than sit and wallow in the feeling of being ‘bored’,  use that time to notice the world around you, think about life, create new ideas, ask questions, communicate with someone, try something new. There is no need to feel bored - it is up to you to do something to change those feelings.

CURIOSITY - never lose that amazing curiosity that helps you learn. Ask questions, listen to others, read, research, experiment, wonder and think. Notice the world and the people around you. Share your amazing observations and ideas.

CARING - you all have something that you care about. People, a cause, a passion. Carry on caring - it makes the world a better place :)

DON’T FORGET YOUR ROOTS - Stop every now and then to look back to where you came from. It will help you to see the amazing changes that have happened in your life as you learn and grow, to remember moments that helped along the way, to reconnect with people and ideas that you may have forgotten about.

I have loved working with all of you. You are amazing interesting people - I love our conversations, your ideas, knowledge, personalities. Don’t stop being YOU!

I would love to hear how you are going if you ever feel like popping in or emailing to say hi. I may not recognise you as you grow and change, so if I look blank please remind me who you are! I have taught hundreds of children over the years, but I still remember students even from my first classes. You are all important to me and I wish you all the best as you move on to your next journey through college.
From Debbie (Mrs Thompson)

P.S: Here’s a good website if you ever want to know more about being gifted and talented…

Monday, 27 November 2017

How can WE help our planet?

This week we continue to look at how we can help the planet.
We will discuss concerns and ideas to help.

Last week we looked at the work of one young students and her Dad - Riley and Steve Hathaway, They have set up 'Young Ocean Explorers'. Many of the students met Riley and Steve when they came to speak at our school last year.
They now have an interactive website, along with their TV series and book, to help children learn about and love the ocean. It is hoped that by inspring others to love the ocean they will also learn to respect it and look after the health of our sea and the creatures in it.
The website is

This week we will be looking at another young girl who worked hard to raise awareness and help our planet - Severn Suzuki. There are many other children who are working to help our planet - Charlotte Thomas came to talk to our school a couple of years ago to tell us about her work helping Orangutans and raising awareness of how palm oil production harms their habitat.

I hope students will get an understanding of something they could do to help - from simple things like walking to school, using less electricity, recycling, to acts that help raise awareness like posters, speeches, letters, joining organisations etc.

This is my last week with the year 5&6 Quest kids as they are away on camp / EOTC activities next week. Years 1-4 students have another week before we finish Quest for the year (no Quest in the final week of school due to assemblies, class moves etc)

The EPro8 Team are going to the semi-finals this week - good luck team!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

People who help the environment

There are many people around the world who are doing their bit to raise awareness of issues and to help the environment.
Last week we looked at the 'Black Mambas' - a female anti-poaching unit in the Kruger National Park who protect Rhinos. Why are Rhinos endangered? Why are they being poached?

This week we will look at Sylvia Earle and others who champion the ocean and encourage others to love and protect it.

Older students will debate Trump's recent trophy-hunting rule reversal - looking at possible positive and negatives.

When looking at sustainability it is important to help students find ways they can help to give them hope for the future. By looking at others who are helping we can get ideas for how we can help.
Image result for ways kids can help the earth

Group Challenges

The first week at Quest was spent doing group challenges - getting to know others in the group, and challenging our thinking, communication ...