Blue Mountains + Street Art

Welcome to the Down Under from Betsy and Stephanie. Today, we hiked the Blue Mountains, which took about between 1-2 hours in total to hike. Before we even got to the  trail, we made a mesmerizing, magical and amazing detour. We went to a national park where there were wild Kangaroos!!!! Can you believe that?!!!! All of us were extremely excited when we spotted an adult kangaroo and baby roos. We smiled and watched with glee as these wonderful animals ate grass and hopped around. Myself and others were awestruck, hence the multitude of photos. In the wise words of Kevin, “they are basically deer.” As much as we were sad to leave the kangaroos, we had an even more exciting place to explore.

Meet Kangaroo Jack

This little fella is Kangaroo Jack’s son.

Our hike wouldn’t have been what is was without our eccentric, wild, extreme sports, funny guide named Smokey!

The Blue Mountain hike was equally wonderful and arduous. The waterfalls were outstanding in addition to the caves and indigenous artwork, which really signifies information. A good chunk of our group hiked down these steep steps in order to look at the waterfall from the bottom up. It was stunning and completely worth to be one with nature and surrounded by the chill mountain air. However, on the way back up, we had to hike the stairway to hell. The stairway to hell was dreadful, but we did it!

Nearing the stairway to hell

mystical magic

Isn’t she a beauty?!

Hakuna Matata!
What a wonderful phrase
Hakuna Matata!
Ain’t no passing craze
It means no worries
For the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy
Hakuna Matata!

After the hike, we ate lunch and made our way to an area that gave us an amazing view of the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters are an interesting rock formation that have many stories surrounding their creation. Smokey told us that with the names of these rocks are Meehni, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo, and the Aborignial story that explains their creation. According to the Aboriginals, these rocks were once sisters who were turned to stone because they were disobedient.

Our last stop in the Blue Mountains was at a section of the town called the Street Art Walk. Over the years, artists have painted along the side of buildings to create a gallery of artwork that is viewable to the public. Each painting was interesting, unique and full of colors. After we looked at the various paintings, we hopped back on the bus for a two hour ride back to the hotel.

Street art at its finest.


May 30 – Cranbrook and Plunkett Street School Visits

G’day mates, Katie Kendall and Safiya Mulla here reporting from the land down under!

We began our morning bright and early to catch the bus to our first school visit of the day at Cranbrook Junior School. We met the school’s principal and several other administrative executives in the beautiful library where three year-6 boys greeted us and told us what they loved about being a student at Cranbrook. The principal led us through a powerpoint that informed us about many aspects of their school. Cranbrook is an all boys, K-12 independent school, with two coed preschools, none of which are academically selective — meaning that no one is turned away based on academic ranking, creating a balanced cohort among students. The principal emphasized the school’s commitment to their vision and values, which are to honor individuality, model respect, inspire excellence, embrace global mindedness, and contribute through service. Next, we broke off into smaller groups for a tour of the grounds and classrooms across campus. In addition to core classes, the school emphasized art, music, sports, and wellbeing. After the tour, we all reconvened and enjoyed morning tea, which we have now become quite accustomed to (and plan to bring back to “The States!”), in the library before heading out to catch our next bus.

The bus dropped us off at King’s Cross, known to many as Sydney’s “Red Light District” but that now shuts down by midnight as they have begun trying to rehabilitate the area. We all split up and enjoyed delicious lunches of Greek, Mexican, American, and some traditional Australian food before joining back up to continue with our busy day.

After lunch we all walked a couple of blocks to Plunkett Street Public School, our final school visit of the trip. While walking there, it was obvious that this school was located in a lower socio-economic neighborhood. As we arrived we were greeted generously with cookies, tea, and coffee. We had an introduction to the school along with a brief welcome to country conducted by an Aboriginal student. A ‘Welcome to Country’ is important for the Aboriginal people to acknowledge the traditional origin of their land and pay respect to their past and present elders of the land. It is a way to share, recognize, and respect their culture as they are acknowledging the traditional origin of their land. After our introduction we joined the kids outside at recess to play basketball. When it was time for them to go back to class, we all split into groups to spend an hour inside a classroom. Katie and I joined a combined class of year 2, 3, and 4 students who were studying a famous Aboriginal rights movement leader, Eddie Mabo. The class introduced themselves, stating their names and their heritages. One aspect that stood out to us during our visit here was how diverse the student population is and how passionate each student was about their culture. They were very proud to tell us where they came from. The student body represents over 22 countries!

For the second half of this class, we went outside to play a friendly soccer match against the students. It was truly a tough game, but team America came out victorious 2-1!

After returning to the hotel via subway, some of us went to visit the art gallery in downtown Sydney, while others returned to hotel rooms for some R&R, and spent time working on upcoming assignments. Tonight, we will all find some tasty places to eat dinner in Sydney and get to bed before our early start for hiking in the Blue Mountains tomorrow!


Katie and Saf

May 29th – Bondi Beach, Daceyvivle Primary, and Sydney Harbor

Views of Bondi Beach

We began our morning with a two hour hike down the coast of Bondi Beach to take in the beautiful scenery. We were able to see Sydney’s naturally occurring pools and very clean ocean water and beach, despite being a heavily populated area. Afterwards, we got lunch. Some had Mexican food while others got smoothie bowls nearby. Overall, the group enjoyed the hike.


Next we headed to Daceyville Primary School. Throughout the day, we have become pros (almost) at the bus and subway system in Sydney as the city is too big to walk. Although we have had to learn that the people of Sydney prefer to travel in silence or quiet whispers. The school we visited focuses on project based-learning and is community centered. An intentional way the community is prioritized is shown through the principle choosing to focus on in-zone students rather than accepting large amounts of out of zone students. The theme for the school year is history and geography where students focus on their community place and culture. This is especially important as over forty eight different languages are represented at Daceyville, reflecting the large immigrant and international population in Sydney. The school is having a themed museum night where each child can present their product relating to the theme of history and geography.

One insight the principle gave to the Australian teaching environment is the difficulty the teachers have in finding job permanency and job placement. Every other job the principle gets to advertise, but the others are handled by a central office which places teachers based off of a complex ranking system. This creates difficulties as a principal does not get to always pick a teacher that fits the school culture. The intention of this system is to create ways to incentivize teachers to teach in harder positions like rural and aboriginal populations. For instance, if a teacher works in a rural population for a few years they will receive points which can place them on top of the transfer lists, which is desirable. An issue created is that the top need schools then face a high turn over rate of teachers rather than teachers who invest in the community and form roots.
After the great school visit and time spent with the Australian primary kids, we had time to rest and then headed to a group dinner. We went to a nice restaurant called Black Bird Cafe where we were able to eat kangaroo. One interesting thing we learned about today is Kangatarians. Kangatarians are a type of vegetarian who only eat kangaroo meat because they are ethically hunted in the wild in order to prevent over population which harms the kangaroos. After dinner, we boarded a cruise around the Sydney harbor and took many pictures of the vivid festival. Many of the buildings and popular landmarks in the city were lit in bright colors. It was beautiful and many interactive displays were also available.

Views from the Sydney harbor cruise

May 28, Champagnat Catholic College and University of New South Wales

Hey all!  Carter and Lee here.

Yeah we are!

Today was our first full day in Sydney, and man what a day it was!  We had an early start to the day after a restful night in our top notch hotel rooms.  We took a bus over to Champagnat Catholic College, an all boys high school. We were greeted by Mr. Michael Blake, the principal at Champagnat.  He gave us a quick overview of how their school functioned, and talked about some cool plans the school had to remodel their staff offices and add new classrooms as well as an updated library.  Champagnat was an engaging and inclusive school, as the principal discussed how despite being a catholic school, students from a wide variety of religious backgrounds attend, even including Muslims and Hindus.   One of the most interesting things I learned during the presentation was that each staff member in Australia has a professional growth plan so they can improve from year to year. For all the avid readers out there, Champagnat had the sweet feature of being divided into houses, all named after former important faculty members.  After the presentation, we got a short tour of the school, in which we got to see the interesting classes Champagnat offered like wood shop, automotive technology, and even cooking. We even got to visit a couple classes in full swing and watch kids discuss the formula for BAC and work on Picasso based art projects.

I wonder which one is the good guys?

After that we made our way on a public bus to the University of New South Wales where we first broke for lunch. A group of us decided to check out CocoCubano and treated ourselves to some scrumptious cuban sandwiches. Once we had all eaten we made our way to an international student dormitory where we were given a briefing on Australian culture by our friends at TEAN, as well as an overview on how Australia’s education system is structured. After our Q&A period we finished off the presentation by learning some rad Aussie slang in hopes of alleviating our culture shock.

Apparently milkshake doesn’t mean quite the same thing here…

We caught another public bus back to the hotel where some of us broke away to check out Sydney with Jenn, and others—including ourselves—took some much needed relaxation time in preparation for our own romp of Sydney. Once the sun went down and the evening rolled around, we caught a train downtown and got to check out the gorgeous lights illuminating the city and the opera house. Thanks to the efforts of the people running the Vivid light show we also got to school ourselves on tons of environmental issues, as well as witness some stunning art and music.

We couldn’t find P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney, but this was pretty cool.

Green Party anyone?

We ended our first full day in Sydney with dinner at Hive Cafe, and with our last public transport ride of the day we made our way back to the hotel in order to get up bright and early for tomorrow morning.

Cheers everyone!

Day: 9 – Traveling to Sydney, Australia

G’day mate!

Today was our last day in Queenstown.  We all woke up in our bunkbeds in the Pinewood Lodge and quickly packed our suitcases before our 10:00 check out.  Since we did not have to leave for the airport until 12:00, the Pinewood Lodge was nice enough to store our things until we had to leave.  While our personal items were stored away, we explored downtown Queenstown for the last time! Many of us ate delicious breakfasts in various restaurants downtown.  Libby and I, along with a few others, ate at Vudo Cafe where we enjoyed a nice plate of pancakes, fried eggs, and lemon bread. After breakfast we shopped for New Zealand souvenirs and last minute gifts.

Us excited to leave our tight space in Pinewood Lodge

Breakfast at Vudo Cafe

Once we met back up at the Pinewood Lodge, our group traveled to the airport to leave New Zealand.  Since the airport did not let us enter the gates until closer to our 3:30 departure, we waited in the lobby for a few hours.  After getting through security, it was finally time board the plane.  Once on the plane, we had another long wait of airport delays, but then we were finally en route to Sydney. The flight itself was uneventfully eventful.  We enjoyed a nice meal and ice cream bars provided by the Quantas Airlines staff.  During the flight many of us caught up on our readings, watched movies, and took well deserved naps.  However, everyone’s full attention was captivated during the plane landing. Because of Sydney’s windy weather, our landing was quite bumpy and gave us all a scare.  However, it all turned out fine (even though I still have a red spot where Devon tightly gripped my arm during the landing).  We then exited the plane, went through customs, and met Jenn and Rebecca in the Airport lobby to transition to the hotel.

Sunset on plane to Sydney

Passport pic 🙂

Once arriving at our VERY nice hotel room, we unloaded our bags, showered, and ordered complimentary slippers to our room.  The generous people at TEAN ordered us pizza, and we enjoyed a nice meal with our roommates in our apartments. This has been a long, yet exciting day.  We are sure to sleep well tonight and are excited to start fresh in Sydney tomorrow.

Australians welcoming us the best way they know how!

Our room in Sydney! Definitely a step up from the Pinewood lodge

Devon, Katie T, Libby and Kate enjoying our complimentary slippers

Day 8: Milford Sound

Morning sunrise!

Hello family and friends, just checking back into our blog! Yesterday, we made our way to the South Island via plane to arrive in Queenstown. Queenstown, a little “adventure town” as the locals call it, sits on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, set against the dramatic Southern Alps.

This morning, we had an early start at about 6 o’clock where we walked from our hostel to the Real Journeys bus in the little town of Queenstown. To get to Milford Sound, it takes 4-4.5 hours by bus. We drove through the foothills of the Southern Alps in which we made several stops along the way. First, we stopped in Te Anau at a local cafe for tea and coffee. Second, we stopped in the Fiordland National Park a couple times to see different sights. Along the route, there were herds of sheep, deer, and cows, dairy farms, rivers, and so on and we even got to see the beautiful and colorful sunrise. Further on, we crossed an area that was exactly halfway between the equator and South Pole. Other stops consisted of Monkey creek and mirror lake as shown below.

Scenic stop in Fiordland National Park

During the drive, the bus driver told us some history and facts about this area of New Zealand. One specific landmark we got to see was Lake Te Anau which has 3 arms reaching deep into Fiorland National Park. From there, we passed by the Murchison Mountains which habitats the flightless blue bird called Takahē and glowworm caves. Did you know that the sheep population in New Zealand is roughly 25 million and the cow population is 6 million compared to only about 5 million humans? Also, the deer market makes over a billion dollars for New Zealand each year and that’s because they are able to farm the deer just like they do with the sheep and cows. Originally, the Europeans brought over deer for gaming (hunting) but the deer began to take over the land by eating the indigenous plants. To fix the problem, after many years and experiments, they finally figured out that deer can be farmed because they do not cause a threat to the sheep or cows. Now, the deer problem is tamed.

Fiordland national rainforest is a temporate rainforest that gets 8-9 meters of rain per year. Inside the rainforest, there are beech trees that are roughly 200-300 years old. Did you know the national bird for New Zealand is the kiwi? Sadly, there are only 68,000 kiwi birds left leaving them highly endangered due to stokes and possums that are not native eating them. The new prime minister Jacenda Ardern has implemented ways to help preserve the nations kiwi bird and eliminate predators. To do so, a poison is being dropped from helicopters into forests to kill off the possums as well as other measures are being implemented to protect the land and its indigenous species. As a whole, we learned that it is not smart to introduce new species into New Zealand’s ecosystem as it could become a disaster.

Once we reached sea level, we arrived at the port around 12:45 pm where our boat was waiting. The Milford Sound boat ride lasted 2 hours. We sailed through Milford Sound all the way to the Tasman Sea.
Milford Sound is a fiord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s known for towering Mitre Peak, plus rainforests and waterfalls like Stirling and Bowen falls, which plummet down the cliff sides. We got close enough to the cliffside waterfalls which sprayed water on us at the front of the boat. Upon reaching the Tasman Sea, the wake was large enough to splash over the front of the boat spraying everyone who was standing there. The majority of the ride consisted of rain; however, that made for amazing views of numerous waterfalls falling from every cliff side. The views were breathtaking and amazing despite the weather conditions.

After the boat ride on the Milford Sound we had a 4.5 hour bus ride back to Queenstown. We finally arrived in Queenstown around 7 pm where we all dispersed for the rest of the evening to enjoy dinner in town.

Tomorrow is a free day to get out and explore this adventurous, unique, and beautiful mountain town! 🙂

Day Six: Summerland Primary School

Hi everyone!

Today we visited Summerland Primary School in Aukland, NZ. We had the opportunity to speak with co-principals, Barb and Blair, and visit classrooms to experience their philosophy. Summerland is an 18-year-old composite primary school in a decile 5 community. This school, unlike others that we have visited, does not run on an ILE (integrated learning experience) program. Instead, the learners are instructed on a high trust model in which they all work together on an even platform. This model, as introduced by Frances Frey from California, includes an even amount of logic, authenticity, and empathy which is the backbone of Summerland. Although the school is a decile 5, we were surprised to discover that teachers are fighting alongside lower decile schools for an improvement in salary, number of teachers and specialists, workload relief, and an increase in teacher aids.

A big philosophy of the school is in regards to incorporating nature and the environment within learning. The classroom and nature are intertwined in a way that makes both the students and teachers connected to the environment to promote sustainable living. Within the classroom, many plants and succulents are present and students are given many opportunities to be outside. The learners are not limited to doing work simply within the classroom but are again respected under the high trust model and allowed opportunities to do work in whatever atmosphere is best suited for them. The students are taught during science how to be eco-friendly and are currently planting trees in order to make a forest-like environment. They have a goal of extending the wildlife by eliminating predators within the school’s atmosphere. Every year, the teachers shift pods in order to form new connections with other teachers and students. An example of this that we saw today was a year one (kindergarten) teacher moving to a year five (4th grade) classroom to encourage and promote the idea of not staying where you feel comfortable.  This being said, Summerland is an enthusiast for taking risks along with not being afraid to do so by the thought of failure.  An aspect of the school that we found to be particularly interesting is the emphasis on art and allowing the learners to express themselves in ways that are suitable for them rather than the school system.  As many of you have read in previous blog posts the area in which we are studying has an emphasis on the Maori culture which has become a powerful way for the learners to express themselves whether it be through dance, singing, body ink, and art of all kinds.

Overall, our experience while visiting Summerland was an encouraging end to our time in Auckland and provided us with great resources to incorporate in our classrooms someday!

Day Five: Finlayson Park and Weymouth Primary School

Hello everyone!

Today, we visited two amazing schools and learned a variety of things that we can bring back to our own future classrooms in the states. To start off our morning, we visited Finlayson Park, a Decile 1 school made up of about 970 students that represent numerous cultural groups. To welcome us, a quarter of the students performed a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony called a Powhiri. We heard speeches in Maori, traditional songs, and watched the students perform a Kapa Haka. After the performances, the welcoming was finished with a Hongi, or the ceremonial touching of noses. Each of us went down the line touching our noses to those of the men of the school. This signified the end of our formal welcoming by the Maori people. The Kapa Haka was a perfect example of how Finlayson Park values the culture of each of their students. At this school, students are encouraged to speak, write, and explore in their mother tongue. English is learned through the child’s first language rather than ignoring that child’s mother tongue. Because this school has a large population of Maori students and students from the Pacific Island, Finlayson Park has worked to create bilingual units and total immersion classrooms to continue the child’s development of their first language. In the Samoan bilingual unit, the first three years of the child’s schooling is taught completely in the Samoan language while the second half is taught 50% in English and 50% in Samoan. In the Tongan and Maori bilingual units, the mother tongue is taught 50% of the time while English is taught the other 50% of the time. The Maori immersion unit is taught only in Maori with English introduced later on in small bits. Going into the bilingual units, we were able to see firsthand how valued the individual cultures of the students are. In the Tongan bilingual unit, students were found outside playing traditional Tongan songs on the guitar while others were sewing traditional dresses or making medicine with natural ingredients like it is done back in Tonga. One teacher explained how last week students made medicine out of ginger that can be used to treat sores in the mouth. The point is to let students know that the traditions and the beliefs of their home country should not be forgotten. The students in immersion and bilingual classrooms are there by parental choice, and some parents move to the area to give their students these options. Some parents choose to send their students to the mainstream classrooms taught only in English, but the school strongly encourages parents to embrace their first language and allow their students to learn in that language.

Another important factor of this school is the value of going outside. Students were often found running around in the courtyards, playing in sandboxes, or simply working at tables outside of the classroom. Students knew to stay on task if they were to be working outside, and it seemed that students enjoyed this opportunity. As the principal mentioned, students should not be confined within the walls of the classroom. Shoes were not worn inside or outside, and students walked around the school grounds freely, interacting with each other and their teachers. Each classroom also has a garden box, and that class is responsible for the upkeep of that box and the harvesting of the plants when they are ready. After touring classrooms, enjoying morning tea, touring more classrooms, and having a wonderful lunch, it was time for us to leave. We thoroughly enjoyed our time, and visiting Finlayson Park really gave us a wonderful understanding of the value behind the culture of each individual student!

Finlayson Park pictures!

The next school we visited was Weymouth Primary School, just down the road from Finlayson Park. This school is over 125 years old and at the moment has about 550 students, 24 classrooms, and 50 staff members. Student population is 40% Maori, 40% Pacifica, 10% Asian, 5% Paheka, and 5% other. The school is Year 1 through Year 6 with the Year 6 students going on to intermediate school before heading to college. Students at this school are part of four team houses with two team captains (both Year 6 students) in charge of each house. Sometimes there are house competitions, and points are kept track of throughout the school year. Tokens are given every week to students if they are good, and those can be added to the points for the house. The four houses are Te Raki (blue), Te Whiti (yellow), Te Uru (red), and Te Tonga (green). The concept behind the houses is the idea that the older students should look after the younger students and set a strong example for them. Unlike Finlayson Park, there are only two bilingual classrooms for Maori  available, one Year 1, 2, and 3 class with 26 students and one Year 4, 5, and 6 class with 24 students. However, there is a push to encourage more parents to select to send their students to the bilingual classroom. The main goal of the school this year is to improve student writing because there have been low achievement levels in writing for these students, especially boys. The school administration have come together to find ways to improve writing and exposing teachers to professional development workshops that show ways to teach effective writing in the classroom.

A unique part about this school, and a place where we had a ton of fun, is the garden. Here, students learn about sustainability and are exposed to caring for animals, gardening, and composting. The garden grows a variety of plants and also has a composting area. It is also home to two pigs (Trixie and Kawa), six chickens, and three bunnies. Students are able to see how food can be grown, picked, cooked, and eaten, and the pigs help to eat the waste of the school, reducing the carbon footprint. We watched as Year 1 students explored the garden looking for different creatures that lived within it. Following this exploration, students went back to the classroom where they made a list of vertebrates and invertebrates that they saw with the help of their teacher. This hands-on experience allowed students the opportunity to see for themselves what types of insects, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds are living right in their school. After hanging out at the garden for quite some time, we all went into different classrooms throughout the school, looking at the ways students learned and interacted with their environment. Our visit with Weymouth Primary School was short, but we really loved interacting with the students and holding a few bunnies as well.

We look forward to the many other adventures we will encounter on the days to come!

Weymouth Primary Pictures!

tēnā koe (Thank you in Maori)

Delaney and Addie

Day Four:

Hi everyone!

Today we had a busy day visiting three different schools! We started the day off early heading to Pt England Primary School. We were welcomed by some year eight students, which are students around 13 years old, and the principal who led us to morning tea. We learned that Pt. England was a decile one primary school with about 600 students. Decile one schools are similar to our Title I schools in America, therefore receiving the most funding from the government. Year six students presented to use on the school’s use of digital technology. The school, with a small payment from the parents, provides each student with an iPad or Chrome book, depending on their age, allowing them to always have access to learning. Pt. England created Wi-Fi not only for the school, but also for the community, as many of the students do not have access to Wi-Fi at their homes. Something about this that stood out to us was that this benefitted not only students, but parents as well. They could use the children’s devices and the Wi-Fi to take online classes and further their own education. Another thing the students shared was their blogs that they kept. This allowed the students to stay connected to their teachers over the holidays, preventing them from having a learning deficit while not in school. We saw data on how the knowledge of the students that participated in these blogs was higher than those that did not. The presentation also showed us that most students came in years behind where they should be in learning, primarily in reading levels, but graduated on par with where they should be, showing the achievement that comes from the school’s hard work. Furthermore, we learned about the community aspect of the school. One part of this was that many teachers had been there for a long time. For instance, the principal had been in the community for over 30 years. They talked about how the faculty was committed to being there for a long time and therefore being able to make a large impact. An additional part of the community was that there were weekly assemblies that the school had to celebrate the successes of its community throughout the week. The motto of the school was “strive to succeed”. A major way the school tried to present this was they did not want the students to “leave themselves at the gate”. They wanted the students to bring their culture into the classroom and that way they would be the most successful.

Next, we went to Stonefields Primary School, a fairly new decile nine school with 700 students. While touring the school we quickly observed large classrooms with open areas for group work and collaboration amongst the students. Many classrooms contained a large number of students broken up into many smaller groups with around four teachers in each classroom. Coteaching was commonly used to serve the individualized needs of every student. We listened to a presentation from the principal and two students. Here we learned about the school’s learning processes and how they followed the idea of “the Pit”, when they are confused and/or uncomfortable, and how students can use the learning processes to collaborate and move out of “the Pit”. They also spoke about how they teach the students how to learn in addition to content, helping them in their later schooling and life. Also, the school included time for passion-based learning. This allowed the students to have unique leadership opportunities where they could work on projects that interested them. Recently, some of the older students designed the school’s new 24 classroom building allowing them to be involved.

Lastly, we went to Tamaki College, a decile 1 secondary school with about 625 students. Students gave us a tour and we got to see the learning in action. Similar to the earlier schools, we saw some small group work. However, on the whole we noticed that the classrooms were more the teacher teaching to the students as a whole group. Something unique about this school was that there was a mental health class along with doctors, nurses, dentists, and counselors available to the students. In the mental health class, students were taught positive thinking and how to handle their difficulties, something that is especially important when one realizes all the struggles these students face. After the tour we went to the library where the principal presented to us. We learned about graduation and what students do after secondary school.

Overall, we found it interesting comparing all the different types of schools to each other and to American schools and how there was a lot more student leadership than in the United States. After the school visits, we all had some chill time in the hotel before we went out to dinner and recharged for our next day!

Day 3: University of Auckland

Hi everyone!

Furman students arriving at the University of Auckland.

We started off the day with our first school visit to the University of Auckland. We bused over to their Faculty of Education and Social Work location where we were greeted by a team of their staff who welcomed us to the University. They gave a brief presentation on the framework of the University of Auckland, along with a general difference between New Zealand and the United States terminology within each school system. We learned that the University has about 42,000 students, with a school year lasting from March to November, so that they can enjoy the beautiful summer weather!

Introduction to NZ education system

Next, Maxine who helps with international enrollment gave us a tour of the campus which included a visit to the library and then a Marae. The fact that the University had their own Marae was very important and meaningful to the campus as it represented the Maori culture on campus. We were able to walk inside the communal sacred place if we removed our shoes to keep from tracking in dirt and out of respect. The University provided lunch for us as we listened to two separate presentations. The first speaker gave a New Zealand perspective on the importance of education and integrating technology in their learning with augmentation and games to improve critical literacy. The second presentation was given by our very own Dr. Kelly and Dr. Lipscomb who presented on “Exploring Multiple Perspectives Through Children’s Literature.” They touched on how technology can improve and bring in different backgrounds as a way of educating students to get more involved in their studies.

Students learning more about Marae

Our final stop was a classroom visit where we sat in on a 300-level education course where two former students, who are now first year educators shared their personal experiences about the transition from student teaching to becoming a full-time teacher. It was interesting to note the differences on how their classes are taught compared to the United States, but also how similar it was in some respects. Both were year 4 teachers who discussed their different classroom set-ups, lesson plans, along with the importance of mentorship and confidence within the classroom. We discussed their own personal experiences within the classroom and about the school system.

Classroom presentations

After our school visit we headed over to Mt. Eden, where we walked up the dormant volcano to a beautiful view of the Auckland skyline! Of course this was the perfect opportunity to snap some great pictures of the entire city.

Students climb Mt.Eden

With our first school visit complete, we can’t wait to see what the next few days of visits will bring!