Friday, 22 June 2018


Philosophy basically translates to the love of wisdom. It started in Ancient Greece, and some well known Philosophers are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Philosophers discuss and think about the big questions.
Over the last couple of weeks my senior (yr 3-6) groups have looked at a bit of philosophy, discussing a variety of things - from success (what is success, what helps us be successful?), to fairness.

The juniors also looked at philosophy a couple of weeks ago - looking at what makes a good pet and discussing their ideas and reasons for what they thought. They talked about temperament, looks, personal preference etc. Lots of good discussion about a seemingly simple topic.

Philosophy is all about being able to express your own opinion without fear of others making fun of you. Children are encouraged to discuss and debate (respectfully, and with reasoning) but also to take time to listen and consider others' opinions first.

I am off to a P4C (Philosophy for Children) course over the next two Saturdays, so hopefully I gain some ideas there too.

Here are some of the children's ideas on success - looked at last week by some groups, during Gifted Awareness Week (GAW). The theme for GAW this year was 'Catalysts for success", so I thought I'd ask their opinions. We discussed different ideas and that everyone experiences / reacts to things differently. What do YOU think are catalysts for success? What helps us succeed?
Here are the kids' ideas...

Professor Francoys Gagne has a 'Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent' (DMGT) to help us define and identify Giftedness and Talent. I like his model, as it also shows catalysts that can help develop giftedness (Gagne says this is a natural 'innate' ability) into a talent (an outward expression of a gift, developed to a high level). Note- it is not only external catalysts such as people and opportunities, but also internal catalysts (drive, perseverance etc) that is useful. Some people have a lot of these catalysts, and some only a few. Some go on to develop great talent, and some don't. It really depends on the circumstances and the person themselves. But people can still be gifted even if they don't show a developed talent.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Myths and Fables

This week at Quest the year 5&6's had a visiting speaker from Massey University. Anastasia Bakogianni lectures in classics and specialises in Greek Mythology. She gave a very interesting talk looking at the main components of a Greek myth (a hero (traditionally male), a quest, a mythical beast (often female!), sometimes a love interest, help from a God etc). She looked at how Greeks often had warriors in their stories, as that was part of their lives back then. She showed examples of Greek myths and how many ideas have been used / changed for more modern stories, such as Percy Jackson stories. She also mentioned a tv series from the 80's called Hercules, which was filmed in NZ, and Xena warrior princess. Thanks to Jenny Lawn ho also works at Massey University for organising this.

The younger Quest classes have been looking at Aesop's fables. Aesop also lived in ancient Greece, and was reportedly a slave. His oral stories earned him fame. They are short stories, often with talking animals as characters, and always with a moral. We looked at some of the traditional fables and then looked at how other authors have copied some of the ideas and changed them a bit yo create their own stories. 'Frederick' by Leo Lionni is a good example. It follows the ideas from Aesop's 'Ant and Grasshopper'fable, with a difference.  Frederick is a mouse whose family is busy gathering food ready for winter. Frederick however spends his days sitting in the sun and staring at flowers, and dreaming and thinking. He is different. When winter comes they all have enough food to eat because of the hard work by the other mice. And Frederick begins to recall the sunshine and the flowers by telling stories and poems and helps the mice imagine a warmer time. So he was useful after all!. We looked at how different people have different stengths and it's important to have lots of different people in the world as it makes it a more interesting place. We looked at what they think their strengths are. So many varied strengths - great to see them all proud of what they do well.
Choices included  making a Kahoot Quizabout Ancient Greece, writing their own fable, researching about what grasshoppers do in the winter, reaing more fables etc. 

Next week we will be looking at writing our own myths / fables and thinking about presenting them - stop motion video, play, slideshow etc.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Greek Myths - Heracles

There was no Quest last week due to the chess interschools and the Auckland Writers Festival trip.

This week we have a guest speaker coming on Monday evening. We are very lucky to have Lynn Beresford from Indigo Assessments and Counselling coming to talk about the Social and Emotional needs of gifted children. 7-8.30pm in the staffroom Monday night - gold coin donation.

We will be looking at Greek Myths again this week - looking at the labours of Heracles (Hercules in Roman mythology). This is a good opportunity to look at challenge and choices we can make when faced with a challenge. We will be looking at strategies we use when facing challenges and hopefully sharing ideas so that we have a range of strategies we can try.
We'll also think about using our imagination to create ideas for our own myths.

Next week the year 5&6 groups will be having a special guest speaker - Dr Anastasia Bakogianni - lecturer in classical studies, specialising in Greek Mythology, from Massey University. Thanks to one of our Mums, Jenny,  for suggesting and organising this - it's great to have experts for our kids to open up a world of learning possibilities for them!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Ancient Greek Life

This week we looked a little at Ancient Greek life - similarities and differences in schooling, and looked at what the Western world learned / gained from the ancient Greeks.

Kids had the choice to try some things from Ancient Greek schooling - the Greek alphabet (they were fascinated that 'alpha' and 'beta' are the first two letters and some letters are similar to our alphabet while some are very different); Greek art (decorating vases), Greek games, looking at Greek Myths. Some looked at Homer's Odyssey, some researched other aspects of Greek life.

We talked about the purpose of school today, and the purpose in Ancient Greek times. We compared Athenian education to education in Sparta. Some children were amazed to hear that in Sparta their schooling consisted of learning to fight, steal and lie! Quite different to our schooling thank goodness! Many of our current education subjects originated from links to Ancient Greek education (from Athens and other city-states - not Sparta!) - poetry, art, music, literature, maths, science etc.

We talked abot the pros and cons of different parts of schooling. One group discussed boredom at school and we came up with ideas for if we feel bored. We looked at reasons for feeling bored (if something is too easy, too hard, not interesting to you) and solutions (talk to someone - politely!- and ask for help / extension / new ideas), stretch yourself, change your mindset, use the opportunity to think, plan, imagine, dream etc. While I am not advocating for boredom, I feel that a certain amount of unstructured time can be useful for children (and adults) to allow us time to be creative and think. I really like this video of a young man who came to that conclusion about his schooling - that in order to think and create, he had to stop learning. Jacob Barnett was 14 when he gave this TED talk - he has autism and is extremely gifted. However, at several stages in his schooling he was 'stopped' from learning because he didn't follow the regular path and people didn't know what to do with him. I find his story and his amazing attitude really inspiring.  Hopefully schools can be more enlightened and help provide more effectively for our gifted students, but there is still hope even if students do not always feel provided for - they can learn from Jacob Barnett and use that time to start thinking and start creating.

The older groups were given the opportunity to have their say about the future of NZ education if they wished - I was impressed with how many were keen to do this. This survey is open to everyone - children and adults. It closes 31st May - so have your say if you wish.

Next week there is no Quest as I am away on a couple of trips - the chess interschools on Tuesday, and the Auckland Writer's Festival with some year 5&6's on Wednesday. Quest will be on as usual the following week. We will be looking at another Greek myth and beginning to think about creating our own myth.

Sunday, 29 April 2018



This term we welcome new students to Quest - there are now 111 students attending Quest - wow! (And more are still being evaluated/identified...) 

So many curious minds to work with - lucky me :) I just love working with these children and am constantly astounded by the way they look at the world, remember facts, know incredible information (that never occurred to me to think about!), think and wonder, create and dream - such great inspiration.

I am always busy trying to ensure that they have chances to show/grow these abilities, but if you ever want to let me know about something that you feel I need to know/see then please get in touch. The kids are great at sharing things too - I love it when they can't wait to tell me someting they have discovered or been thinking about, or show me a creation (story, video, picture, etc)

Of course we all have areas where we could improve or need help too, so I also aim to help children with that. It is important that we don't just 'fix their problems' (after all 'problems' are just stepping stones to learning), but rather empower them with skills / strategies / support so that they can help themselves.

I have been watching videos of speakers at the 'Bright and Quirky child' conference this week. So much interesting advice and information about our 2e (twice exceptional / gifted plus - those who are gifted with another exceptionality such as dyslexia, autism, hearing difficulties, processing difficulties etc). One of the main points that many of them have noted is that we need to look first and foremost at children's strengths, and then support the difficulties. They are much more than just the difficulties. I think this goes for all children. They all have strengths - it is so important to acknowledge and encourage those to ensure children feel appreciated / recognised. Of course they also appreciate when we support their needs, but if that is all we look at then they will start to feel a bit like that is all we notice about them!

This term the whole school inquiry is looking at performing arts. I have had requests from some students to look at Greek Gods/Myths, so we will be looking at Greek Myths and ancient Greek history, they tying that in with performing arts to show their learning. Some of the Greek Gods / myths stories are quite far-fetched and have content that I am not comfortable sharing with children, so I will be careful about what I pick to share! They do however have some unusual creatures/ideas in the stories which could be good for encouraging children's own creative thinking, as well as useful lessons to learn from/think about. And of course the ancient Greeks loved philosophy (thinking deeply) so I will add some of that in too. (I am excited to be participating in a philosophy for children course later this term and have some other teachers from Whangaparaoa Primary and College coming to it as well, so I am keen to practice what I learn there.)

We will be starting by looking at the story of Theseus and the Minotaur (looking at problem-solving, caring, determination, myth vs reality, mazes/labyrinths). Next week we will look a little at Ancient Greek life. The idea is to introduce some ideas in the first few weeks, then allow children to create their own presentation to share some knowledge or something they have created based on Greek culture. It might be a video re-telling a story, or showing/reading a story/play they have written. It could be a powerpoint / stop motion video / recording / video of a play enactment etc. We will discuss their ideas. It will probably be a little more guided with the juniors - we'll see how they go.

Below is the timetable for Quest this term. We try to work around class trips / activities, so some weeks children may come at a different time if their teachers request it. There are some instances where Quest will not be on - listed below. This term I am coming in on a Monday as well to accomodate working around class activities. Please note that I will not be in school on Wednesday afternoons in lieu of the Monday afternoons. (I am still only employed part time - 2 days a week).

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Group Challenges

The first week at Quest was spent doing group challenges - getting to know others in the group, and challenging our thinking, communication and collaboration skills.

The year 3-6 groups completed a 'break-out' challenge - a series of clues that lead to finding the solution to opening a locked box. There were a variety of challenges - code cracking, maths, problem solving, puzzles, memory, a group drawing challenge. I was so impressed with the way students included their team mates and supported those who were finding this tough, and also encouraged each other and worked together to solve the clues. Everyone succeeded in opening the locks - well done!

The year 2 group completed various team challenges - a favourite being the cup stack. First we had races to see which team could stack the cups the fastest, then I challenged them to stack the cups without touching them. I gave them string tied to a rubber band to help with this. It required them to collaborate and communicate in order to pick up and drop the cups - the challenge was getting the cups in the correct position!

I have a lovely bunch of children to work with - I'm excited for the year ahead and all the learning we will do together.

This week we will be looking at the brain - learning about the name and function of different parts and what happens when we are learning.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Welcome to 2018!

I hope you had a lovely Summer - wasn't the weather amazing (if a little hot at times!)

QUEST 2018
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again this year at Quest. 

This term the whole school inquiry is looking at learning - how we learn best. I will be starting with some team building games and activities, and then looking at how the brain works, before we look at different ways of learning - learning through play, experimentation, from others, from mistakes etc etc. The aim is to build on the schoolwide inquiry and introduce more depth and complexity into learning.

This year for the year 3-6's I am going to go back to one longer session a week. I loved seeing the kids twice a week in our trial last year, but found I was losing 10 minutes each day waiting for everyone to come, so we were effectively losing 20 minutes a week. And with the shorter session I feel it was more difficult to go into any depth on anything, as we seemed to just get into something and we had to pack up and move on. So I am trialling going back to one longer session each week this term.

Kids are of course welcome to pop in to chat at morning tea or lunchtime if they want to catch up on the day they don't come to me - I love seeing them and hearing their ideas :)

Quest this year will be in room L1. The room has been refurbished over the holidays and is still not quite ready for me to move my furniture in and set up the room, so don't be alarmed if you pop into school and L1 looks empty still - I will get it set up hopefully next week when I can finally get in there!

I am still going to look at running extra learning opportunities at lunchtime or morning tea - just trying to figure out how this will work. I would like to run chess club, code club, gardening club, games club - they might not all run each week. I'm thinking of alternating chess club and gardening club on Tuesdays, and alternating code club and games club on Wednesdays - all at lunch break. And I'd like to run a little book club for avid readers some morning tea breaks. To be confirmed, watch this space! I will have notices in L1 window eventually to advertise which clubs are on each week to hopefully make it easier for kids (and me!) to remember. Just trying to fit more options in! These are great for kids who want to learn something new or to practice a skill, or simply for  something to do at lunchtime if they are uncomfortable out in the playground.


I work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and will be at school from next week, but want to give classes a little time to settle before I start pulling children out! Quest will start in week 3 this term. There may be some juggling at first for years 3-6's as it is a busy time with leisure centre swimming lessons, cricket training, and Life Education. I will be working out with teachers alternative times for children to come to Quest if they have a clash. 

The school timetable will be a little different this year, with slightly longer blocks for learning in the mornings, and slightly shorter in the afternoons. Break times will also be different - with a longer morning tea and a shorter lunch.

Here is the proposed timetable for Quest - some of the classes might change, but I am aiming to have years 5&6 in the morning blocks, years 3&4 in the middle blocks, and juniors in the afternoons. 

Block 1 (8.55 - 10.50am)
Year 5&6 (B4, M2, M3, M4)
 27 students
Year 5&6 (B7, B8, O3, O4, O1)
22 students
Block 2 (11.30am -1pm)
Year 3&4 (A5, A6, B3)
19 students
Year 3&4  (O1, O2, L3, L4, L5, B5, B6)  20 students
Block 3 1.45 - 2.45pm
Year 2  
12 students
Time for further identification / observations / parent meetings (term 1 only)
Year 1&2 growth class (from term 2)
I have the largest number of children ever at the start of the year, so unfortunately some group sizes are larger than I would ideally like. There are obviously so many bright children at Whangaparaoa! And no doubt these numbers will grow (mostly younger students) as more are identified throughout the year.


Science / arts show - Friday 16th March - I have booked 20 seats for 'Erth's Prehistoric Aquarium' - part of the Auckland Arts Festival at Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna. It is only for years 5&6, and I will need parents to help transport please. Let me know if your child is interested in this as I'll have to get paperwork organised and out in the next few weeks. It will cost $13 per child to cover costs of their ticket and parent helpers tickets. If you don't get to come, or would like to take your families, there are public showings also - a little more expensive than the schools showings. They recommend it for age 5+, but for the schools day I was only allowed to book for years 5-8 students. There are other great looking shows suitable for families as part of the Auckland Arts Festival if you like that kind of thing. Nanogirl is back with a science show too :)

Auckland Writers Festival - Tuesday 15th May (term 2) This is the year 5-10 schools day. It's always a fantastic day with several authors talking about their books and how they came to be an author or illustrator - lots of great inspiration for kids (and adults!) - perfect for those who enjoy reading and/or writing, or for those who need some inspiration. Sorry, again it is just for years 5&6. Please can I have expressions of interest for this. Usually I book 20 tickets, but with 49 year 5&6 Quest kids I might need more tickets this year if there is a lot of interest. Bookings open on 7th Feb (next week) and I need to get in early as they usually sell out quickly. It would be good to know if I will need more than 20 tickets so that I can try to get them. Costs will  be dependent on transport - I am going to apply for a transport grant that they offer, but generally I think this goes to lower decile schools, but it's worth a try! So tickets are $12 plus whatever transport costs we have - to cover parking costs if parents are kind enough to offer transport, or to cover bus / ferry costs if needed. Could be up to $20 all up I guess, depending on Transport?  The authors announced so far this year are Gavin Bishop (NZ), Chris Riddell (UK), Anne Salmond (NZ), Selina Tusitala (NZ), Alex Wheatle (UK)  - I'm not sure if they will all be at the lower schools day or the high school days. There will no doubt be a free family day at the Auckland Writers festival which is usually suitable for younger children too - I'll let you know as I find out. There are videos of the past schools day presentations - last year on the junior schools day we saw Lauren Child, Tim Tipene, Donovan Bixley and Renate Hopkins. I loved them all, but was most inspired by Tim Tipene's talk. Here is the link if you are interested.

EPro8 Engineering Challenge - 1st November (Term 4)
A fantastic opportunity for those keen on problem solving, building, creating, teamwork. Costs $33 per student - they work in teams of 4. I have booked for 3 teams at the Silverdale  regional event. Last year our school won their regional competition and went on to the semi-finals which was very exciting! Again, its only for years 5&6 - sorry! Lots to look forward to for younger children who are keen. I will ask for interest closer to the time. Here is some info if you want to know more. 

Chess Interschools - these unfortunately clash with the Auckland Writers Festival this year - so I am seeing if we can go to another area's competition on a different date. TBC

This year NZAGC (NZ Association for Gifted Children) are running a conference "Giftedness from the Inside Out",  on 17/18 March in Parnell. Unfortunately it is the same weekend as our school Gala. I have decided to go to the conference - a tough decision, but I learn a lot at these conferences and it's a good chance to network too. It's open to Educators, Parents, and students (there is a student programme with some really interesting options). Here are the details if you are interested in going.

This year I would like to invest in a pokerwork machine for engraving on wood - to help children make signs for contemplating around the school (quotes, sayings, tree labels etc), and to make some outdoor games. The one I am looking at costs $238. Before I buy it, does anyone have a second-hand one I could buy, or any contacts for a discount somewhere? Also, we would like to make a set of large dominoes that children could use in the playground. For this I need flat smooth wood - to make dominoes approx 15cm x 30cm x 1.5cm? I'm thinking old floor boards could be good to cut up for this. It doesn't need to be treated as they won't be left outside - just to take out at break times. Does anyone have anything suitable? And is anyone able to cut them up for us? 

Thank you for wading through so much information! In future I hope to send communicatiions through Linc-Ed, but I am still working my way through setting up my groups on the system, as they were not set up like classes were. I am always learning (or trying!) so here's hoping I figure it all out soon.

Looking forward to seeing you back at school.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions or comments, or want to make a time to meet. I will do my best to get back to you but if you think I've forgotten please drop me a line again as being part-time and dealing with so many children I can sometimes overlook things! Please let me know if your child does not want to attend Quest this year. 

Debbie Thompson


Philosophy basically translates to the love of wisdom. It started in Ancient Greece, and some well known Philosophers are Socrates, Plato, a...