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9 Sep, 2020 - 3 min read

How Kathryn returned to her roots with The Mind Lab's Masters programme

Puhinui School Gardening Club|markus-spiske-bk11wZwb9F4-unsplash|mind-lab-lr-33|MIND LAB LR-54|mind-

Kathryn Franklin graduated from Auckland Uni three years ago; since then she has done our Postgraduate Certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning and our Master of Contemporary Education

“It was through The Mind Lab that I was introduced to the concept of the local curriculum. It really resonated with me and I started to think about how to incorporate that into my practice.”

Kathryn grew up in rural Ireland, “my parents grew organic vegetables, and they ran a little shop,” she begins; “it would be great to say that I always had an interest in gardening but my parents would argue that in fact I did not have any interest in it at all! So let’s say I’ve always had an awareness of it."

Kathryn teaches at Puhinui School in Papatoetoe, Auckland.

“We’ve got a pretty multicultural school here and we do a lot to recognise all the different cultures but one of the things that I wanted to cement was their belonging to the school and their community. There is this vast cultural knowledge; I wanted to find a connector, and something that anchored them in this community.”

Kathryn began her Master of Contemporary Education (MCE) with a plan to do something very different from what she is currently involved in.

“I was so passionate about digital technologies so I embraced MCE for that reason and – excuse the pun – I didn’t realise that it would bring me back to my roots. I would never have explored the concepts of play-based education and local curriculum if I hadn't been doing MCE.”

In her second year of teaching, Kathryn began a small gardening club for Y1’s and Y2’s who, prior to planting a bean seed, had no idea that plants actually grew from seeds. They planted a small vegetable garden and invited the parents to share in their harvest.

“They were so passionate! That was amazing. All the parents could say is ‘I’ve never seen my kids eat this many vegetables’, and the kids were scoffing it down. I think it was their personal connection with it, their ownership of it.”

“Then this year we launched it for the whole school – this is my Master’s project. We wanted to establish a gardening expert in each class so we got the teacher to select a student who was not only interested, but who could also benefit from a club like this to build social relationships. We ended up with a real range of kids, from some who are really passionate about gardening to others who are quite shy and reserved; to others who had behavioural issues.”

From day one, student engagement was staggering.

“What was key was to let the kids drive what would happen, and that’s hard, especially for a New Entrant teacher, to relinquish control! But it was amazing to see senior students stepping up. We had 5 sessions and planting was planned for the day after we went into lockdown!”

Kathryn’s Masters is not actually about gardening, it’s around problem solving: and the key skills and competencies needed for that to happen well.

“I also try to identify how communal, collaborative, practical work encourages or enhances these skills. Actually, COVID brought problem-solving to the fore! We restarted after lockdown and had to adjust seasonally and change plans but that’s all part of it. The most exciting thing is to see who shone, who stepped up – the other teachers were amazed at the outcomes. What is it about the garden that supports increased ability in problem solving?”

“The whole process has just been incredible, I have two other teachers who help me and that teamwork is everything. For the kids too, I was amazed at just how well they worked together when given the opportunity. Our little ones were attached at the hip with their older buddies. And the older kids developed leadership skills that they had never had an opportunity to demonstrate before now.”

“I never would have come to this idea without the inspiration from The Mind Lab, and without the support and encouragement of my cohort; being surrounded by so many people that had such innovative ideas gave me confidence to take a leap of faith rather than taking a safer option. 

“I’ve spent most of my teaching career with The Mind Lab and I can’t imagine doing it any other way.”

A teacher smiling with school students gardening in the background.

A teacher with the school students sitting in a circle.
Two school students are holding a harvest from the school garden
A student is watering a plant in a planter box.

Kathryn with some of the students in the Gardening Club at Puhinui School.