Introducing Genius Hour

As mentioned during the Meet the Teacher sessions and described to students on day one of term, Year Six will be embarking on a 'Genius Hour' project in 2015. This project will replace the ‘Personal Passion Project’ which students have undertaken in Term Four in the past. Genius Hour will retain the aspects that allow students to engage with a passion through an extended project while allowing us to scaffold the skills required to manage this style of project based personalised learning. By spreading this project across the year we retain the ability to have students engage with learning in Science and HSIE topics throughout each term of year.

The Year Six teachers have been very busy over the past weeks planning this programme and researching best practice in the area. Having completed this style of project for eight years now we have a great deal of expertise within the year group to draw upon and have found that in many areas our experience is more substantial than the experts. Regardless we have found ways to tweak the processes and better prepare our students for the exciting  journey that lies ahead.

One element we are excited about involves drawing on the expertise of our parent community and we have arranged for a number of parents with expertise in project management and design thinking to share their knowledge with the students. Initially this will for an introduction to the skills and dispositions required and show that the skills being developed have true relevance beyond the classroom. This begins on Monday 2nd March with a visit from Project Manager Charlotte Malycon who has prepared an excellent presentation to share with the students. Later in the year we may have opportunities to call on parents, grandparents or friends of the school to act as expert mentors for students exploring areas outside of the expertise of their teachers.

On Monday 16th March we will visit Powerhouse Museum as an opportunity for students to explore a wide variety of designs, engineered products and inventions as inspiration for their projects. It is hoped that this visit will encourage students to consider what makes a product stand out from the crowd and how they may create something similarly innovative.


Welcome to Term Three

It seems like only days ago that the year started and a group of children entered Year Six 2014. Now we are half way through the year and can see the first signs of a new level of maturity. It will not be long now before Senior School beckons and the excitement of new challenges draws this group of students away.

For now though we have the challenge of ensuring they are ready for the transition to Senior School, that they will be able to make the most of the opportunities available and have the skills required to manage new routines. To that end the next two terms will include opportunities to build these essential skills, to become organised and self-motivated learners.

The first obvious consequence of this step is that the students will return to school and be kicked out of the classroom. This might sound harsh but the reality is that the little piece of personal space that was called 'my underdesk' will be packed away and all students will begin to live like a Year Seven student, that is to say 'out of their lockers'. The result is they will need to start planning ahead, looking at their timetable and bringing to class what they need for the next two lessons. We do this now so when they forget soemething, and they will, it is just a quick trip out the door to retrieve it. Not being able to plan ahead in Year Seven might mean a trip across the school and a large slab of wasted time.

Moving out of the classroom and into lockers is just the first step. To help families with the process of preparing for Year Seven this site includes a section dedicated to the transition to Year Seven. It includes many helpful hints including suggestions from students and parents who have survived the transition. One of the first tips to implement is the purchase of a couple of Magazine Holders. These simple devices will convert a disorganised locker into a book-preserving bastion of calm serenitiy and ensure late arrivals to class are a thing of the past.


Canberra 2014

Thursday 12th June 2014

Year Six recently spent a week of learning and adventure in Canberra. Our annual Camp combined visits to key National venues including Parliament House, Australian War Memorial, Museum of Democracy and Questacon. Students also had opportunity to view some of Australia's cultural herritage at the National Gallery and explore how our elite athletes hone thier skills at the Australian Institute of Sport. These visits are important parts of our study of Civics and Citizenship and is made possible in part through funding made available by the Parliament and Civics Education Rebate (PACER).

The Australian Government recognises the importance of all young Australians being able to visit the national capital as part of their Civics and Citizenship education. To assist families in meeting the cost of the excursion the Australian Government is contributing funding of $20 per student under the Parliament and Civics Education Rebate program towards those costs. The rebate is paid directly to the school upon completion of the excursion. 

In addition to the Civics element students enjoyed a rich variety of Outdoor Education activites centred around the natural beuty of our National Capital. Based at Camp Cottermouth students participated in Canoeing, Camp Craft, Rock Climbing, Hiking, Mountain Biking and two nights in tents. Despite very cold mornings children arose each day ready for a fresh challenge. Thanks to our Outdoor Education Group Leaders for an excellent week in the Australian bush.

This was the first year where the Canberra Civics Programme was meshed with our Outdoor Education Programme. Students enjoyed the mix of activites and the change of scenery and pace that came from a session in the bush followed by a visit to a Gallery or Museum. 

Most impressive was the positive attitude the students took with them to every activity and the quality of learning that resulted.

Below is a small selection of reports written by the students on their return. Others will be published on the 'Our Work' page of this site.

Camp Recount by Sam of 6C

Canberra is greener since I last saw it.

Less busy, too. The War Memorial is typically busy even on a weekday. We drove past it and I got a glimpse - virtually deserted.

I snap back from my musings and into reality. We are coming into a carpark of red gravel on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

What!? I thought we were going to our camp and the dorms - the one just outside of Canberra! This is an outrage! A scam! A...a…

Oh well. Can’t always win.

Maybe the dorms at the camp aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be, anyway.

Exhausted from an afternoon of canoeing, I get to Camp Cottermouth. Then, I hear the dreaded voice in my head.

“Uh, Sam, you’re not sleeping in there tonight,”

That awful voice that tells you, no, you will not be sleeping in the dorms. You’ll be sleeping, for the first few nights, in tents. In Canberra. In the bitter cold. With two other people. Without sleeping mats. I can imagine the people in cabins that night, all warm and snug, enjoying a peaceful slumber.

Dinner was surprisingly hearty. After all, you can never go wrong with creamy bacon carbonara.

In the tent, I try to get comfortable.

“Settle in, Sam. It’s gonna be a looooong night,”

And it was.

Groggy, I try to ask myself how much sleep i got. Three, four hours, perhaps?

It was cold. Oh my, was it cold. The word itself is an understatement. So cold that my fingers were burning as I poured bitter milk on my Corn Flakes. So cold that, when we were washing up from breakfast, I deliberately washed my hands in tap water because the water was pleasantly warm.

At this point I would have a novel-length rant about how gloves, or at least my gloves, are the worst possible insulators against cold, but I’m afraid time restricts me.

Parliament House was good. Though, as a Canberra elder, I’d seen it numerous times, so it was a bit “been there, done that”-ish. However, as we were walking out of Parliament House, guess who we saw? Yes - that guy from Channel Nine, Ross Greenwood! And he was incredibly pleasant, too. Not snooty, not afraid to share his opinions with children and adults alike. After a few rather challenging questions, he swiftly departed.

Now I can say that I have met journalist royalty.

We continue the scene the next day, after a much improved sleep, seconds from when I’ll be walking down a sheer vertical cliff, a few centimetres of rope and metal between me and me plummeting down to certain death.

They call it “abseiling”. I call it “an insane and insanely dangerous sport that is an invitation for death.”  That being said, at the moment when you take your first step over the edge of the cliff, your pulse racing and your adrenaline surging, it became - dare I say it - hugely enjoyable.

All that being said, the thing I was looking forward most to this camp was the National Art Gallery, where we went on Thursday. I’d probably been there, what, 8...9 times? And yet it never gets old. From the moment we walked into the clinical concrete interior, to the walk through of the Impressionism and Cubism galleries to the viewing of the splendorous and awe-inspiring Aboriginal monument, it was pure, unbridled art buff heaven.

Mountain biking. The final challenge. And, as I saw the mountain biking course for the first time, I must say that I wasn’t particularly thinking,

“Ooooh! That looks like a fun, safe undertaking!”

And, as I was only halfway through the course, my fingers feeling arthritic and every rise and dip pulsating through my spine, I was thinking,

“Wow! This is so much fun! Mountain biking is one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life!”

No. Scratch that. Whatever I was feeling at that moment, it… wasn’t that.

Lying in my pleasantly heated cabin on the last night of my Canberra camp, I started to reflect. Reflect on what had been an amazing camp. I have lived in Canberra for ten whole years. And yet… canoeing through Lake Burley Griffin, hiking beside a river, walking down a perilous cliff, camping out amongst a sky full of stars… I saw an entirely different side of this city - an incredible one. Though, at times, I had to step out of my comfort zone, I always came out-

Oops. Lights out. It’s time to go to sleep.

It’s the next day. This might come as a shock - until Camp, I had never  been to the AIS in Canberra - not once. And for that reason, I was actually looking forward to it and, when the time came, I hugely enjoyed it. Seeing the sports stars training and the amazing Sportech zone was very interesting and very fun.

However, by the time we were about to go on the bus back to Sydney, I realized that I actually looking forward to going home.

As the white bus left the AIS car park, the destination: Sydney, I say one last goodbye.

Farewell, Canberra. Thank you for an amazing camp.


My Experience of Year Six Camp - Charlotte 6C


“Is it just me, or is it really warm?”

I was sitting in the bus on the way to Canberra in my warm clothes.

I had heard it is freezing cold so I expected that when I stepped out of the bus, the cold wind would blow in my face; but no guess what, it was warm.


In Old Parliament House we had to listen to a women talk. Rachel was next to me unfortunately she was so close to falling asleep, but just in time we got told to leave. I thought to myself either Rachel was really tired or she was just bored. If she nearly fell asleep on the first day of camp she will sleep through the whole camp.

The next morning I woke up after hearing Anna scream “Wake up everyone it is 06;30 am you have to get up now” I can't thank her more because if she hadn't woken us up we would have been late.

So that day we took the bus and headed to the mountains to do “Mountain Biking”

I think mountain biking was my favorite activity. I really liked it because I used to ride a bike in Denmark so it wasn't  that hard for me.

We were riding through the woods and suddenly I started to see some creatures in the middle of the bush. I couldn't believe my eyes I saw kangaroos. It was so cool to see so many kangaroos, and I was only about 3m away from them.

There also was a seesaw. I was pretty scared in the beginning because I was the first girl to do it. When I did it I was really proud of myself in total I did it four times (and just to mention I didn't die and that is always a bonus, don't you think?)

That night I slept really well because I had a good and long day.

We started  the morning of by eating breakfast. Of course I had to make lunch for Mr. Coutts, and he thought it was really good.

I was sitting in a canoe the colour of a red rose, and I started shaking the canoe I did it calmly but of course Rachel started to freak out.

Suddenly when we were going pretty fast around a little island, I said to Rachel, "Is that just me or does that look like a snake”?

We started to paddle fast but then other people came past us and said ”that is not as snake it is wood” so after that I felt a little stupid but to be honest I thought it was pretty funny.

I am just happy I have a good imagination. The following day we went “abseiling”. I really liked it because it was something  I hadn't tried it before.


We had a tour led by a man at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport).

I loved getting the tour because I love playing sports so it was cool to see.

That night I slept in a tent. I started to put woolen socks on, scarf, beanie, gloves and more. I thought to myself that I had survived the night before so I could do it this night.

I woke up in the middle of the night and thought my face was frozen, but luckily it wasn't .

In the morning I felt like my fingers and toes were frozen.

The last day of camp a group of people went to the “War memorial’

I have a lot of respect for the people who were fighting for Australia. They left everything behind, their family, friends and home, so that was really nice to see the people who have given a red puppy to the people who died fighting.

I sat in the bus on the way back to Sydney. I was looking forward to go home but one part of me wanted to stay at camp.

In conclusion I loved camp it was so cool to be on camp with my friends and doing awesome activities. Thank you for an awesome Year Six Camp.





Backup Plans - What's your plan?

Our digital lives are great and offer all sorts of new opportunities. Digital cameras have made it possible for us to take photos of all manner of things without a cost per image and a trip to the photo lab. With our smartphones we can capture and even edit video or record sounds. Our music collections are no longer a dust collecting assortment of CDs stacked in a corner but are a library of computer files available on many devices. Our working life is documented in files from Word and Excel and we have countless other files that are important to us. You get the idea, we have a whole heap of stuff stored on computers and all of this is why IBM calculates that we are producing 2.2 million terabytes of data everyday. That would be a line of 1Tb hard drives 323 km long.

All this digital living brings with it one BIG problem, what happens to all that data that is of personal value to us when the computer it is stored on stops working, is lost, stolen or destroyed by fire or flood. These digital files represent not just countless hours of work but are the repository for our valued memories. Photos of our children and loved ones that can never be replaced. We would once keep wedding albums in a safe now these images are on hard drives. So what is you plan for when it all goes wrong? and at some point it will.

Sadly the experience of a drive failure is what prompts most people to develop a backup plan which is a little like realising you need home insurance the day after a house fire. Typically the victim turns on their computer to do some mundane task and instead of seeing their files load happily across their desktop are greeted with an error message. At this point the many stages of digital grief kick in beginning with panicked attempts to restart the device, a sinking feeling that all is not good, anger at how this could have happened, a sense of loss as you realise all that was on that device and finally an acceptance of what has occurred and a resolve to not let it happen again.

I had this experience quite recently when the hard drive that stores my music collection failed. I should have seen its icon on the desktop but it wasn't there. I re-started the computer but the result was the same, it was becoming clear that something had happened to that drive. I must admit that a sense of dread was felt at this point but for me this was short lived. I have backups, multiple backups. Within twenty minutes I had swapped out the drive, replaced a few tracks downloaded since my last backup from iTunes and I was back in business. For me the cost of this drive failure was the price of replacing the drive to ensure I still had multiple backups.

How likely is it that a drive will fail? Manufacturers measure this as Mean Time Before Failure. For consumer drives this is often 300,000 hours, which means that across that time span half the drives of that age will have failed. Google undertook a study of some 100,000 drives and found the actual failure rate was up to 50% higher than this and that 3 year old drives present a significant failure risk. What consumers need to take into account with these figures is that there is nothing in any of this to suggest that your drive will last 300,000 hours, it could fail after one hour or anywhere in between, you could be lucky and have it last twice as long.

Alex Lindsay of the Pixel Corps, 'a craftsman's guild for a digital age' advocates a policy 'that no file exists until it exists in three places'. Alex is a veteran of digital creativity having worked with Lucasfilm on the original Star Wars. He now works with digital artists across the world and manages many large data sets of great value. His policy means that for any file you can't afford to loose you need to have three copies of it each in a different location, one of which must be off site.

To meet the requirements for a 'three places' backup you will need to have a means to save your files on to two locations external to your computer. A backup of a file on the computer is a nice way of avoiding accidental erasure or replacement of an old file with a new version but will do nothing in the case of a malfunction or other disaster. The off site backup is also essential. Too many people store their backup drive next to their computer at home or in the bag with their laptop. Great for convenience but what happens if the house burns down, is burgled or the bag is accidentally left in your favourite cafe? This is when you need that offsite back up.

So how should you backup your data?

There is no single right way and what one person does might not suit your situation. Your plan needs to suit the amount of data you have, how much of it you need access to on a daily basis, how often it changes or is added to, how fast your connection to the internet is and how much data you can send over that connection. I use a mixture of methods that looks like this:

  • Multiple external hard drives are used to store photos, images, music, video and longer term backups of documents
  • One set of drives is stored at home in case of a failure, the other is stored at a relatives house nearby but in another suburb in case of disaster (fire, flood, tsunami)
  • I use Carbon Copy Cloner to create exact copies of the drives I use, it does incremental backups so although the initial backup takes hours, after that only the changes need to be made and it is a quick process. It also means I can swap a new drive into my system and carry on working. I use naked drives for the at home set and USB drives for the off site set. There are many similar options for Windows. (Clonezilla, ToDo Backup - I have not tried either but they have solid reviews)
  • For files used on a daily basis I use the cloud service DropBox. This ensures my work files are always backed up and are accessible on any computer. (See below for protecting against user error)
  • With new photos or videos the files stay on the SD card until they are safe in three locations. I do the same when traveling, one set on the SD card stored safely in a pocket and always with me, one set on a laptop, and one set on an external USB drive stored in a suitcase away from the laptop.

For the files I need access to everyday and on both laptop and desktop I use DropBox. This prevents all sorts of user errors from becoming a problem. I don't have to remember to bring a USB Thumbdrive with me thanks to this service as it automatically syncs files across any number of computers and even lets me access files over an internet connection on any computer. It has also saved me from 'dumb' mistakes. I recently managed to delete a folder from my laptop and as luck would have it this was the folder that contained the files I needed for a presentation that afternoon. Losing that file on that day would have been very bad but thanks to DropBox I was able to go back in time and access the files I had deleted.

There are many options for this sort of cloud storage. SkyDrive offers integration with Microsoft Office, Google Drive integrates tightly with Google Docs and makes sharing and collaboration easy, Apple has iCloud which is becoming a more useful service after years of neglect. There are also services aimed at just backing up large data sets such as Carbonite or CrashPlan. All these services provide you with online backups but rely on an internet connection which means you will need to consider how much data you can send over your internet plan and how quickly you will need to restore that data after a problem. This sort of storage is also not really an option for your Boot Drive, the one that stores your operating system and programs.

Any online, cloud based service brings up issues of privacy. You need to consider who has access to your files and what is the cost/risk to you of someone else gaining access to those files. No service can claim to offer complete protection. The publicity around Edward Snowden and PRISM reveals that government agencies can access all of our online data and that this is particularly relevant for non-US citizens. It is true that due to the inner workings of the internet much if not most of the worlds internet traffic goes through the USA at some point in its journey from computer to computer. It is also true that most people are not saving data that is worth being spied on so the level of fear need to tempered against the reality of the risk. Put another way, no one especially no one in the NSA, wants to read your email or look at your holiday snaps.

Lastly don't forget that you probably have valued files on your portable devices too. Smartphones, iPads, Tablets etc all have important files and are all easily lost, dropped or washed. Your backup plan should include these devices and in most cases needs to be part of a daily schedule. For these devices you will probably find that some sort of cloud-sync is available and provides the level of protection you need.

So, go now and check you backup plan, don't put it off. The drive in the computer you are reading this on could be about to fail.




Will you be amazing?

Every student in Year Six has the potential to be amazing, to develop an idea that is completely inspired and goes beyond the ordinary. How do you this? First discover what you are passionate about and do something with that. Then think BIG, really big, stretch the boundaries and break through any barriers that make you think little. Then Persist, stick at it untill it is done.

Need proof that you can do it watch this video. Fifteen is not that much older than you and this is an idea that could bring light to people who have no electricity, no money for batteries that run out and replace dangerous, unhealthy fires in many third world communities. This is what young people can do when they are amazing.

What will you do?