Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Science and Ethics

Every year as part of my Genetics topic I set aside a couple of hours to talk about morals, ethics and ethical frameworks. I am still using an awesome outline I got from a session at Biolive in 2009 that Fiona Anderson presented that uses some great resources from the Science learning hub Ethical analysis page. I ask my students to try and think past there ideas of ‘right and wrong’ and identify why they think so. Yesterday was the first time I got asked

‘Why are we doing this in Science Miss? Isn’t this social studies?’

Which was both a great teachable moment around science and ethics, and a little bit of a downer that somehow throughout the year I hadn’t made an impact on to why ethics might be important for Science. That said, you do need a relationship with the class so it is a safe space for students to ask questions and share ideas – you can end up talking about some fairly heavy stuff.

So I thought I’d share how I approach the ethics ‘lesson’ and I need to keep pondering where else I could include ethics.

So, as I mentioned, I still follow most of the ideas from the presentation from Fiona in 2009. (The slides were shared at the time, so I hope Fiona doesn’t mind me sharing the presentation now – the links are from the old biotech learning hub that have moved to the Science learning hub – link are smattered down below)

Essentially, you identify what bio ethics and ethics is first up

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Then distinguish between morals and ethics – there is a explanation video HERE on the science learning hub.

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I also tell a personal story of when I was working in research, and, without thinking, when my flatmate asked how my day was when we were at the supermarket and I casually replied I’d had a nightmare day because I’d ‘processed’ 150 odd mice, I got ‘attacked’ by a person who overheard and screamed that I was a monster for a good 5 minutes. She and I had very different morals around animal testing. I just tried to diffuse and ignore their leather shoes…. sigh.

And in responses to the ‘why are we doing this in Science question’?, I talked about Mengele and some of the horrific experiments during the Holocaust. And how just because ‘Science’ can, doesn’t mean ‘Science’ should. And how I thought Genetics was a relevant topic to discuss there issues, as genetic screening and IVF techniques become more advances and common place, society as a whole needs to be aware and educated so informed choices can be made.

For my class yesterday, I asked them about the ‘anti smacking law’ (which possibly lead to the social studies question….) as I knew it was something they would all have an instantly moral feeling about – but when I asked them why they thought that, or felt that way, they had a hard time explaining it to me….. we spent about 10 minutes talking through some of these ideas, and of course they all come up with questionable moral and ethical situations in order to ‘trick’ each other. But I have asked with different class and students about euthansia, ‘paying’ for addiction treatments or should the youth wage be less than or the same as the minimum wage.

I then called them back, and spent some time talking about ethical frameworks…. Video HERE

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And then we watched the example of the ethics of whaling, and how you can apply these ethical frameworks to decision making.

And then they class had definitely had enough of me, so I put them into groups, gave them a framework to work with and gave them a task of deciding if we should screen ALL embryos for susceptibility to cancers. (You can have ‘real’ fun with the groups if you like…. in another year I asked about vegetarian versus omnivore diets and put some ‘farmers’ in the values group….) (I thought about vaccinations – should ‘we’ pay for the treatment of some-one who is really sick because they didn’t get vaccinated, but I’ve already had a couple of vaccine debates with this class this year)

And of course, ‘chaos’ ensues. Mostly that awesomely good chaos as students argue, talk over each other, go hang on, I need to look that up…. what do you think?

I LOVE talking about ethics with my classes. It really stretches there thinking. It allows ‘non science’ kids a chance to shine and fully participate. It always opens my mind up to different ideas and morals. It is a great chance to bring up historical cases, or talk about the ethics proposal systems in NZ (it is a rigorous process to gain permission for animal experiments for example, and research can’t be published unless ethical approval was obtained. And students are often quite interested that ethics doesn’t extended to insects….). But can I fit it anywhere other then Biology? Even the story of Rosalind Franklin and the use of her work ties in with DNA. I touch on it with the story of Alexis St Martin who became a living experiment on the digestive tract – and how his family ‘hid’ his body when he died so it couldn’t be used for further research. But I’m not sure how it could fit into Chemistry, or physics quite the same? Maybe around ideas of space travel? Was sending the dogs and primates into space ethical? Or climate change – is it ethical for people to allow building new building consents for ‘water front properties?

I’d love to know where you fit ethics into your Science curriculum 🙂


Posted in NAPP2016, Professional learning, random ramblings

My thoughts on leadership

For the last year or so I have been trying to build a picture in my head of what leadership looks like for me. I’ve done some readings, listened to some amazing speakers, bounced ideas of amazing leaders and educators and watched some youtube clips and TED talks. They all were great, but still didn’t quite fit.

The idea of self was hard for me. All through out NAPP we have been asked ‘who are you, and what do you value?’. I kind of brushed over it with an awkward feeling – what exactly is my ‘moral purpose’? Who am I to ask/demand these things?

But part of my roll is around leading change. And I think I’ve finally got an idea of what I want my leadership to look like


Ko Rakaia te awa

My river is the Rakaia

My river is the Rakaia because my family has a crib at the south side of the river mouth. I grew up on holidays there, fishing for whitebait and salmon, swimming in some of the creeks, being terrified of the waves from the sea (the drop of along that stretch of coast is crazy) and hearing of stories of flood and destruction. It fills me with sadness that my son might not get to see pods of Hectors Dolphins skimming the waves after Kawhai like I did as a child. My Grandfather spent countless hours constructing flood protection along the banks to stop the Rakaia huts getting flooded. Every time I drive home from Dunedin to Christchurch, I cross over the bridge and look at the water – is it high or low? rough or like glass? Multiple braids, or a solid stream. I am linked to this river more than I realised as a young person – we moved house, I moved cities, but the crib has always stayed the same and the awe inspiring power of the water still fascinates me.

I want my leadership to look like the Rakaia river.

Multiple sources feed into the river, contributing diverse ideas. The river might separate out into individual streams, develop eddy’s (thanks again to Karen Hopai for this idea) that can either suck ideas under or propel ideas forwards. At times, the river is sluggish and slow, other times rapid and raging. The river comes together only once in the journey from the mountains, at the Gorge, before it all streams out again finding a unique path to the sea.

Care is needed to ensure the river does not become a flood or a tidal wave that people become afraid of and can also wash away a lot of good things that are happening. Or that people will put up barriers to protect what they deem as essential or what are genuinely to good to throw away. A lack of ideas and input would dry up the rivers flow. Taking to much from the river will also dry the rivers flow so we need to carefully nurture and respect each individual drop on water.

The water also shapes the landscape around it, carrying rocks and earth and nutrients, hosting multiple lives along the length. It provides enjoyment, sustenance and occasional danger along its banks. Occasionally new paths and streams are forged, either by a flood of water in a hurry, or water gently carving away at a bank, or water building up due to some obstacle. And it might so happen that that direction is not as fruitful as first thought, and the water needs to change course again, either in a flood or bit by bit.

But all of the water, no matter the path it takes, eventually reaches the ocean. The rivers goal is clear – doesn’t matter how you get there and what uncertain paths you take, the water gets to the ocean. Which is where another fabulous idea that I learned this year comes in (thanks to Judith Forbes for sharing this at the Dunedin NAPP day)


The challenge for me is to not be the ‘Tsunami’ and allow people to find their own path. Respect that people will take a different route and maybe a different speed. If I can encourage people to ‘long’ for a more meaningful education for our young people that empowers them to become better citizens of this world, it doesn’t matter if they take a slightly different path.

‘ I took the one less travelled by, and it has made all the difference’ (Frost). So long as the end goal is the same, it doesn’t matter what path you take.

Posted in NAPP2016, Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from NAPP PLG 2

Being very honest, I have not done nearly enough for NAPP since the Hui in the holidays. There have been so many other things to do (Oh my goodness ALL the things) that it just kept getting put into the next week pile. EVERY WEEK. When the PLG day rolled around, my first thought was ARGHHHHHH – I am already out 2 days that week. We have ERO the week after. I’m off to Wellington. And then sadly I am heading home for a funeral this week now too. Life just keeps getting bigger right now…

So despite all of the other things, it was really good to have the day set aside to focus on it, regroup and get re-energised. To have TIME to think about what I am doing, where I am trying to go and TIME to talk to other people about projects and ideas and ponderings. To have TIME to listen to others and their experiences, and TIME to learning new things.

The most valuable session (to my mind) was listening to a newish principal about their experience. I can’t share the full story, but there were certainly some challenges and it was a very warts and all story that was told. The points that stuck out for me where

  1. When you apply for a job, the BoT/School want you to
    1. have all of the strengths of the previous person
    2. none of their weaknesses
    3. Solve problems instantly….
    4. without creating new problems
    5. AND be great on stage at prize giving.

So just be yourself – no point in every trying to be what they want, cause then you need to be that person. Which is impossible when you are under constant pressures.

2. Every school is full of people, and people are messy. But they are your greatest asset. Treat them like you want to be treated and build relationships with them – this will make hard conversations easier.

3. If you want your school to be a safe place to make mistakes, model it. Make a mistake on purpose if you have to – and acknowledge, apologies, wear the egg and fix it

4. Look after yourself. NO-ONE else can do this.

They also shared an amazing quote which is mixing in with my nautical themed NAPP experience so far


Which is awesome. Don’t get bogged down in the small stuff, and don’t tell people what to do, let people find their way to change.

With all the challenges and down times, this person still thought that leading a school and a community was ‘magic’.

We also had a really good session on finance. I am mindblown about how much of this (what I consider CRAP) Principals have to deal with. Staffing, op budgets, donations, PTA, buildings, taxes, expensese…. it went on and on and on…..

What I took out of this (other than a confirmed belief I NEVER actually want to be a principal under the current model…..) is that there is not enough money EVER. So I do need to think more about the price of things compared to their value. What is value for money? What is value for students? teachers? The community?

Linked to this is that you can’t actually MAKE parents pay for anything. Eg workbooks – you can’t make students and parents pay. Because you could still teach using refill paper and a white board. You can’t make students bring a device, because you could do it with refill paper and a white board. This ‘default’ learning setting of bare bones needs to change. Bare bones should not be teacher delivery, student writing in silence. Student deserve better. But really, this is a whole other blog post…..

So it was a very worthwhile day away from school. And once I get back from the funeral, and once ERO is out of the way, and once I am back from Wellington next week (I am talking to TELA….) I must make time to go back and really invest in the readings and re connect with my coaching buddy. I need to get on and document my inquiry so I don’t get to the end of the year and find I haven’t got anywhere.

So another big thing I got out of this day is that there are sooooo many things. To hear, to read, to listen to, to watch, to discuss and to do. I often lament my students lack of prioritising. Perhaps because I am so woefully inept myself 🙂 I need to be more purposeful around my NAPP inquiry to ensure it remains meaningful, useful and FUN.

Posted in NAPP2016, random ramblings

Reflections from NAPP HUI

A week ago I attended the NAPP hui as part of the national aspiring principals program. It was an amazing few days that have really challenged my thinking and what I am trying to achieve as an educator. Finding the WHY was the theme that reoccurred for me over the 2 days.

For me, the single best idea I got out of this 2 days was the idea of an educational ‘eddy’. Karen Hopai used this analogy and it really struck a chord with me (Her whole talk was amazing really, I really liked what she had to say). I have spent a bit much time of late focussing on disruption without thinking about what do to after the disruption. (Thanks Paula and Philippa for talking me through some of this) So when I heard this idea, I LOVED it. Eddie’s can create whirlpools that can suck you down, or they can be used to propel you forward in your journey downstream. Strong rocks can withstand them over time, let the water wash around them, while less strong rocks will get shaped over time, and the small stuff will just get swept away. When I was chewing this over out loud, I (hopefully teasingly) got called a Tsunami, which was a good reminder to not be too rushed with ideas and become destructive. Some-one else also said that your end point might be across a rocky sea – there were several references to water through out the 2 days.


The other piece of advice I got from this speaker was to stick at what you are doing. Even if it is just you, or one or two others, the idea will get there and as it gains traction great things can come from it.

 The theme of NAPP was to figure out ‘who we are’ as part of exploring what is giving passion and purpose to out leadership. I found this really challenging – I am not really sure where I want to go. Perhaps this is because I haven’t found it yet, or maybe I won’t find it, all I know if that I am not satisfied with the way things are now. So I am still thinking over these concepts. I know I am not ‘happy’ with the status quo, I am doing something about it, but I still haven’t quite always got a handle on understanding the way I am trying to do things. Even focusing on the language I am using will help this.


Another highlight was meeting Rachel Bolstad. Meeting people I’ve meet ‘online’ in real life is always awesome – even if I was a bit ‘star struck’


Her talk was all about possibilities, and how can we make those possibilities a reality. Do we take a what will be will be approach or do we reach out and grab the future and wrest it to our will

Leading without harm was another idea that came up a few times. Again, I’m still not sure about this idea…. Obviously you don’t want to make things worse, but you also need to take risks – if it doesn’t work you can iterate and change. So the balance between action, reaction and inaction seems to be finely poised…



The last speaker (Graeme Stoop) was different again. School leaders are in positions of authority (after 2 days of partnerships and leadership this was a different take…) but what is authority? A title? Power? He had power over us as we all listened to him, but also the audience had power as we could have all got up and walked out (as if….). So it was a reminder that we have a responsibility and for me the big take home there was I can have all the passion in the world (I am quite passionate) but if I don’t have the responsibility to go with it, the passion will go no where.



And finally somewhere over the course of the 2 days (I’ll admit they did start to blur, it was a very full program) we were asked this. What are we going to start doing? Stop doing and keep doing. I have been thinking on and off on this for a week and I’m still not sure exactly how to answer other than my initial scrawlings.


All in all, a LOT to think about and it is going to take more than a week to digest some of the ideas. Thanks to everyone I spoke to and learned from 🙂

Mostly for my own reference, Storifies from the tweets from the events are HERE, HERE and HERE.