Rennock Lodge All-Age innovates to educate
When the teachers complained that incoming students at Rennock Lodge All-Age School were having difficulty with mathematics, Principal Jacqueline Lewis came up with an innovative idea to get the youngsters interested in and acquainted with numbers.
For their next mathematics lesson, Lewis took the students to the school's chicken coop, where they were introduced to day-old chicks. The task at hand was to weigh each baby chicken and record their weight.
The fun with numbers was just beginning for these children.
Their task was to record the weight of each baby chicken in the next class and chart the weight-gain progress. In addition, with the help of their teacher, the class created a projection chart to map this progress.
"We have a chart in the fowl coop, and we chart the progress in days, weeks, and months, and then we do the addition, and we estimate as well - how much you think they are going weigh?," said Lewis. "If they weigh one once from day one and each time they put on half ounce, one ounce, tell me what you think they are going to weigh over a certain time?
"We write at the end column to say we are estimating this, and at the end of the six weeks, we weigh the chicken to say this is what the final weight is and this is what we had projected, and that's what we use, and the children do very well in that way," Lewis told Arts & Education.
The school is also exposing their students to technology. The Tablet in Schools programme has helped to build on the students' initial interest and knowledge in other subject areas as well.
"They use tablets to record the chickens' weight and what we would use, such as booster stock, the use of which they would look up on the Internet using their tablets," Lewis said.
"I would say, 'Look it up on the tablet and let's see how much to give them. What is the dosage?' And they would go through and cut and paste it in their little book and it is the children do it themselves."
However, the learning experience wasn't always so intricate, with the contribution of the layer chickens proving to be a valuable teaching aid in basic things such as counting.
"We do the eggs by the tray, which holds a maximum of 30 eggs, which is also used to help them appreciate, for example, that this is actually two and half dozen eggs - the same number but expressed in a different way. So they are able to appreciate even from such a young age how three eggs would be quarter of a dozen eggs because they check and see for themselves, literally, that this is a quarter of 12," Lewis said.
The school is benefitting from concepts initiated by the PALS programme, from I CAT to the Peace Park and Talk it Out ... they are sending positive messages.
Outside of classes, the students are able to complement their learning experience with colourful, and in some cases, life-size teaching aids, which are painted on all the walls, as well as multiplication tables and oversized diagrams, which are accurately labelled.
"At Rennock Lodge All-Age, learning is ongoing and we do go the extra mile to make it a pleasurable experience," Lewis told Arts & Education.
While there is no debate as to what came first, the chicken or the egg, the writing is already on the wall, and these innovations are reaping rewards.