The Ruyton Reporter - Spring 2014 - page 8

8
the ruyton reporter
Language – so much more than
a means of communication
With the introduction of the Australian Curriculum there has been an increased
emphasis on Asian Languages and language learning throughout a student’s education.
This is also linked to an increased focus on Australia’s place in Asia. The benefits of
learning a second language from a young age are well established. Learning an
additional language takes time and needs to be given appropriate weighting in the
curriculum.
The decision to introduce Chinese at Year 3 in the Junior School allows the girls to
experience two languages before making a choice in Year 5. It is unusual for students
to be given a choice in the primary years. Typically language options are introduced in
the secondary years. This choice exposes the girls to both a Latin-based language and
a character-based language.
There continues to be significant time allocated to learning a language in the Junior
School so our girls can acquire the language rather than simply experiencing it.
There are many benefits to language learning, including cognitive benefits. Learning
a language teaches the learner something about the nature of language and languages.
Language teachers teach a language and they also teach language as a concept.
Children learn about communication, context and also culture. Learning a second
language assists children in acquiring and understanding their first language. It is more
than learning a set of simple vocabulary. Learning a second language also involves
learning a new culture. It allows students to develop an awareness of their own culture
and to begin to attend to difference in appropriate ways, which leads to intercultural
competence.
Monolingual English language speakers
are predicted to be at a disadvantage
in an increasingly globalised world.
As English becomes a basic ‘must-have’
skill, it will be those people who have
a second or third language who will be
at an advantage.
Ms Nicole Ginnane,
Head of
Junior School
A Bunch of Firsts
The Scientists of Tomorrow …
It is a particularly exciting time to be at Ruyton, with the commencement of work on
the newMargaret McRae Centre, which, among other areas, will house science
laboratories for the Senior School girls and those in Year 6. (See page 11 for more
details.) Engaging girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
based subjects from a young age is an important priority at Ruyton. We are
fortunate to have a dedicated Science, Design and Technology teaching role to
facilitate this for all girls in the Junior School.
When asked to draw a picture of a scientist, young children will typically draw a
character that is male, eccentric and most likely wearing a white lab coat. Although
this may seem harmless enough, it does present us with a problem. How can we
expect girls to aspire to a career within the STEM fields, when their perception of
such people is so vastly different from themselves? While there has been some
improvement over the past two decades regarding the proportional uptake of
STEM-based tertiary study and STEM-based employment by females, they are still
significantly under-represented within these figures. This shortfall holds a range of
social and economic implications for Australia’s future.
The Junior School Science, Design and Technology programme seeks to provide girls
with a wide array of rich learning opportunities, allowing them to engage in deep
scientific inquiry. This approach encourages students to view STEM-based learning
as enjoyable, meaningful and relevant to their lives. The materials-based unit which
the Year 3 classes studied is a good example of this kind of learning. We focused on
paper and after learning how to make recycled paper, the girls concentrated most of
their learning around paper towel. Students were asked to identify which properties
of paper towel make it a useful product, and they decided that good paper towel
needs to be both strong and absorbent. Students were then presented with four
brands of commercial paper towel and were asked to inspect their packaging,
identifying the claims the companies make regarding each product. They were
interested to find that all brands claimed to be both strong and absorbent, although
it was slightly confusing - one brand claimed to be the most absorbent, while
another claimed to be the best absorber! The girls agreed that it is very difficult to
make an informed choice between the products based on the information on the
packaging. They designed their own experiments to test the strength and
absorbency of each brand. The girls spent several lessons refining their method,
carrying out the tests and recording their results. Once this was complete, they
began using iMovie to produce consumer reports, outlining their tests, their results
and making evidence-based claims regarding which brand they believed to be the
best value.
The girls were thoroughly engaged throughout the process, and enjoyed drawing
links between their learning and real world scenarios. Through taking on the role of
‘product testers’, they began to realise that they could be real scientists as much as
any adult in a white lab coat. My goal is that by the time these girls leave the Junior
School, when they are asked to draw a picture of a scientist, the first image they will
think of is themselves.
Mr Ross Baker,
Prep-Year 5 Science, Design and Technology Teacher
Early Chinese Adopters
When I introduce the Year 3 girls to Chinese language and cultural understandings I use
songs, rhymes and role-plays as ways to facilitate the learning of the language. This is
done using a topic approach as the girls begin to learn the tones, the sounds and a
variety of vocabulary with which to build simple sentences. Students also have access to
some useful apps on their iPads to consolidate and extend their learning beyond the
classroom. The topics we have covered include:
• an introduction to China. We discussed the population and its culture, the language
and the food, how New Year is celebrated and why 2014 is the year of the horse.
We made dumplings and drew horses with Chinese calligraphy brushes.
• the language. The girls were introduced to the different tones, learnt some basic
greetings and eight basic Chinese pictographs.
• numbers. The girls enjoyed using numbers in meaningful ways, such as in describing
the months, the dates, the days of the week and their birthdays.
• families. We discussed the structure of Chinese families and learnt how to ‘meet and
greet.’ The students made their family books with Book Creator, iMovie or Keynote.
• traditional music and dancing. The girls compared traditional music with what we hear
today – and they were really excited to watch the progress of a three-year-old Chinese
boy on the popular Chinese TV show, Chucai Zhongguoren (China Has Got Talent)! In
the last week of Term 2, 3 MG girls experienced fan dancing while 3 GM girls enjoyed
drum dancing.
Mrs Danyang McAuliffe,
Dean of LOTE
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