IN BRIEF

Name a grand teacher
Nominate a teacher as Grand Friend of the Year in the Grandparents Day awards organised by the Council on the Ageing (COTA NSW) for the NSW government. The award is for someone aged 50 years or over who has made a contribution to children’s lives in a professional capacity. “We believe that teachers make an incredible contribution to NSW, and we would love to see them nominated,” said Susan Humphries, COTA Communication Manager. Tick the “Grand Friend” box on the nomination form here. Nominations close on September 20. Schools are also invited to celebrate Grandparents Day during Grandparents Week (October 19-23) because, COTA says, the contribution grandparents make to schools is immeasurable.

UK online marking glitches
Problems with the online assessment system used for Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) in the UK could have led to some students receiving incorrect marks, according to teachers contacted by the British educational journal, TES. The system, run by Pearson, is being used to electronically mark all SATS papers this year (SATS are compulsory national tests for years 2, 6 and 9). Teachers said when they had wanted to recall and alter marks they had submitted but afterwards realised were wrong, they had not been able to. One teacher also said she felt that sometimes the mark she had submitted for one question had been attributed by the computer to another question and she had not been able to get back into the questions to change the marks. Pearson said it had ways of addressing potential marking problems and that it is “simply not true to suggest that the marking isn’t accurate”.

TES quotes a head teacher of a primary school in Manchester, Amanda Hulme, pointing out that: “One mark can put a child above or below a threshold and that makes a massive difference both for the school and for the child.”

Paint a wish
Primary school students are being asked to take part in a new art project to help gravely ill children, and they have the chance to win prizes with their art. The Make Art project, supported by Make-A-Wish Australia and BIC® Kids, is inspired by Andrea, a child being supported by Make-A-Wish, who has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The theme of the art project is “What I aspire to be…”, and is open to students in grades 4, 5 and 6. Teachers can register online and access helpful resources including a lesson and activity plan, the official Make Art artwork template and Andrea’s inspiring “wish story”. Students can also win some great prizes for themselves and their school. Each school that registers goes in the draw to win one of five school art packs, and the top 30 finalists will win individual art packs. Three highly commended finalists will take home an iPad Air, and the overall winner will receive a $1000 cash grant. Students are encouraged to make a small donation to Make-A-Wish to help the charity grant wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Public school medals for science
NSW public school students scored well at the recent International Science Olympiads, coming away with five medals, an impressive tally that reflects both their hard work and the dedication of their teachers. Likened to the Olympic Games for science students, the UNESCO-sanctioned International Science Olympiads constitute the world’s toughest competition for some of the smartest students in the world. The winners are Keita Richardson of Normanhurst Boys HS (biology – silver), Houston Xue of Baulkham Hills HS (biology – bronze), Zane Zhang of James Ruse Agricultural HS (chemistry – bronze), Joshua Lin of James Ruse Agricultural HS (physics – bronze) and Sudarshan Ravi of Baulkham Hills HS (physics – bronze). The Australian team for the 2016 Olympiads is currently being selected following last month’s International Science Olympiads exams sat by more than 4000 students.

Teachers’ Dinnigan tour

One of Dinnigan's creations

The Powerhouse Museum is offering teachers the chance to make up one or more groups to tour Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, the first exhibition to explore the work of this internationally-acclaimed fashion designer. Email the museum for preferred times.

The public exhibition, at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum from September 5 to August next year, highlights her signature lace and embellished romantic, feminine designs that have seen her work sought out by a star-studded clientele including Taylor Swift, Dita Von Teese and Prince William’s wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. “Dinnigan’s sense of adventure, determination and passion has led her to become Australia’s most recognised international fashion star,” says Vogue Australia’s Editor-in-Chief, Edwina McCann. “She is a dynamic, inspiring woman.”

The exhibition features ensembles, accessories and archival material from the Museum’s collection and Dinnigan’s personal archive in a series of striking themed sets by award-winning stage designer and artist Anna Tregloan.

Washing machine garden

Concord West Rhodes Preschool's effort

Teachers and students of Young North PS pressed so many buttons with their gardening proposal that they easily won a $1000 grant to put their ideas into practice. "The Washing Machine Garden" aims to build intergenerational friendships through gardening while reducing waste and promoting native species.

The school, dismayed by the growing volume of waste in the town’s tip, wants to salvage washing machine cylinders and use them as containers for threatened native species as much of the Young district is cleared for farmland and hence is void of native species. Using the containers will help conserve water in a district that receives only 600mm of rain a year.

The planting will be done at the Southern Cross aged care home, with each garden bed shared by a student and retiree "buddy". As the school caters for students from predominantly low socio-economic backgrounds with 15 per cent being Indigenous and 13 per cent being of Lebanese-Muslim background “it is anticipated that barriers of age, disabilities, language and cultural backgrounds will diminish and strong friendships will endure,” the schools grant application states.

Young North PS is one of 25 schools to receive Yates Junior Landcare Creative Gardening Grants.

The photo shows one of last year’s winners, Concord West Rhodes Preschool, recycling tyres, paint remnants and paint tins to make a “dustbowl” in its yard into a colourful, productive garden. Almost everything, including plants, came locally to reduce the carbon footprint.

Minecraft at Powerhouse

Discover treasures with free app

During the school holidays, children can help make a Minecraft world inside Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum through building, craft, electronics, projections and their imagination.

They can construct and play inside Minecraft scenes, wield a physical Minecraft sword and, by connecting it to the amazing MaKey MaKey invention kit, use it to control a digital Minecraft environment, add to a massive Minecraft projection on the walls of the museum by creating and then scanning a special drawing, and play with giant Minecraft characters including Steve and a whole petting zoo full of farm animals. There’s also an opportunity to play with the museum’s free Minecraft app and win a digital prize on completion of the mission. Bring your smartphone and tablet, get the app and explore the museum, discovering hidden Minecraft treasures. Children can point their device at the treasures and watch them come alive. Look under “What’s on” at the museum’s website for bookings

Help wanted to telegraph refugee experience
The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is seeking volunteer community educators who will work in partnership with refugee presenters to develop joint presentations to schools and community groups.

The Face to Face program seeks to address the gap in understanding about, and negative perceptions of, refugees.

The Face to Face Program addresses these issues by focusing on the lived experience of people who have been refugees. It has been implemented in schools and community organisations in Sydney, Wollongong and Melbourne since February 2014.

To date, presentations have been co-delivered by a representative of the RCOA staff who presents information about refugees, together with a person of refugee background sharing the story of her or his journey to safety. This provides a good opportunity for students to learn first-hand about refugees, their experiences and their contributions to Australia. RCOA does not receive funding for this program.

As the program expands, the small RCOA team is seeking to engage volunteer community educators to replace RCOA staff as co-presenters. Community educators will present information about who refugees are, where they come from, facts about refugees worldwide, conditions refugees face overseas and Australian refugee policy.

Selected applicants will receive practical training detailing the role of the community educator and the content of the presentation. Dates for the training have yet to be determined. While this is a volunteer position, community educators will receive out-of-pocket expenses for delivery of Face to Face incursions in schools.

Presentations will reflect a sense of hope and promise. Community educators will represent RCOA in this role and are therefore not able to offer private opinions or pursue alternative agendas.

RCOA is seeking expressions of interest to participate in this training. Contact Eileen Wahab on (02) 9211 9333/0417 400 543 or on email. To learn more, click here.
- Amber Flohm, Multicultural Officer/Organiser

Kids' speech development

Professor Sharynne McLeod

The development of speech and language and how it can shape a child's future is the subject of a lecture on Wednesday, September 9, at the Albury-Wodonga campus of Charles Sturt University. “Children's speech and language acquisition is an amazing feat,” the speaker, CSU Professor of Speech and Language Acquisition, Sharynne McLeod, said. She will draw on her research with Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians as well as with children from Vietnam, Fiji, Turkey, Zambia, Hong Kong, Germany, the United States and Iceland to describe children's communication capacity in a range of languages. The audience is encouraged to bring mobile devices to access online resources during the lecture including blogs, websites and fact sheets.

Plain packs free trade battle
A case being fought by Australia in a Singapore court against tobacco giant Philip Morris is a sign of things to come under the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (TPPA) where, under Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses, a company could force a country to change a law that might have the effect of lowering the company’s profits. Using an ISDS clause in an Australia-Hong Kong free trade agreement, Philip Morris is making Australia defend the rule for plain packs for cigarettes sold here. Australia’s bill — paid by taxpayers — will probably be $50 million or more.