Wayfinder Learning Lab

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

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Clear is Kind.

I love this post from Brené Brown, adapted from her book Dare to Lead: “Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind.”

In leadership roles in spaces with many moving parts and challenges, I’ve learned that unnecessary ambiguity can lead to unnecessary conflict. As a coordinator we can often predict where some of these conflicts might arise.

In something as complex as an international IB school, with a range of perspectives and experiences, having the “truth” to hand can be an effort and relationship-saver. Thinking carefully about the cultural forces of expectations and language can shape more positive interactions.

I’ve more recently started to lean on the phrase “here’s where we’re going with this” (Ron Ritchhart), in making as clear as possible to my colleagues and students the direction we’re going… and that it’s a shared journey.

We can invest time to make time (COT), to set the stage for productive collaboration, through resourcing, accessing “truth” documents and being clear with intention and the use of language. Through clarity of message, direction and resource we can minimise the chances of someone’s energies being sapped on surface-level frustrations. We want the mental energy to be spent on productive, collegial discourse.

Another line I love in Brené Brown’s post is “talking about someone rather than talking to them is unkind.” So much so, that in the agendas I control, we have two guiding questions at the top:

Simple principles, easy to live by.

They have helped me mature and maintain calm over my journey so far.

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A Megadose of Vitamin Sea

15 years since we last dived… and we came back to the same place, Gili Air.

Transition years can be full-on and exhausting. New country, new role, new friends, kids, colleagues, tech, language, environment, expectations, opportunities. Embracing the new and trying to avoid old traps. Parenting through transitions and creating new memories. Overcoming challenges when things go wrong or culture shock hits.

We’ve been fortunate to land in a city and a school racing towards the future. Beijing five years ago was a hard no, but we tracked the environmental data, learned from friends and have arrived at a time when I think the transition is easier than ever. It is getting cleaner, there are technical solutions to almost all communication, transport and shopping issues (WeChat and Microsoft Translate are awesome). People are friendly and there are loads of things to do. The only thing static about Beijing is the air.

It is very, very dry.

Sadly one of the things we loved we’d had to leave behind in Japan was the ocean. And for a family like us that has been a challenge. The move overall has been great and I needed to make a dramatic change in work-life balance and stress. I think we’ve been doing OK with that and need to protect it with the new role next year. Breathing sea air is not much use when you’re too stressed and burned out to jump in.

So it was brilliant to get back to Indonesia for a week, for a megadose of vitamin sea. The last time we visited Lombok, almost 15 years ago, I was just finishing up as an ESL teacher. Hesty wanted to learn to dive, and I had a question to ask. I spent everything I had (it was not much) and took her to Gili Air. She learned to dive. We got engaged. I left for the PGCE, she finished her degree.

Soon enough I was back in Indonesia, in a new IB school in Jakarta. We saved up, got a proper ring, got married and had Anya. Moved to Bandung and had Samudra (“Ocean” in Indonesian, via Sanskrit). Seven years in beautiful Japan and now Beijing.

Fifteen years since I last dived went by in a heartbeat. We made it back to Lombok with kids big enough for an adventure. One Bubblemaker, one Junior Open Water diver, three surfers, four ocean lovers. We saw turtles and corals and spoke lots of Indonesian. We learned about the work of the Gili Shark Conservation team and helped out on a beach clean. We were encouraged to see that although so many years had passed and development had inevitably taken hold, the changes were not too dramatic. Lessons are being learned from Bali and there is a swing towards more sustainable choices.

This is where our heart is. We will be back.

This was super cool. Gili Shark Conservation told us about their work and mentioned that they could ID turtles. Sam was fired up to find the turtle we saw while we were snorkeling near Manta Dive and get a photo. One day the current was strong and visibilty was low. Then one day we saw it… and my GoPro camera door was open. He was gutted. I ran up to the dive centre and luckily another guest lent us their camera. We got the photos. A few days later, they sent us the pics, we sent them in and Andre from Gili Shark ID’d it as a new turtle: “H40 Samudra”! Awesome!


Designing a Service Learning Cycle

MYP Service Learning OutcomesNote (March 2018): This 2014 post is a few years old now, and the Service Learning Cycle is gathering momentum in the school in its use by students for service learning. The current working version is at the end of the post. I’ll leave the body of the post as-is; it was an interesting process. For some other Design Cycle-inspired cycles: Personal Project, Professional Inquiry, MYP Experimental, IBDP IA, PHE, Standardization.

Note (June 2018): Working on one for PYP now as well, as way to connect PYP “agency” to MYP Service Learning, through student-led action (such as for #PYPx) based on design principles.

Note (May 2019): Added simple outcomes graphic (see right, click for pdf). How well known are the seven learning outcomes of service in your school?


If you’ve been following this blog (or i-Biology.net), you’ll know I’m on a cycle diagram frenzy, using Google Drawings to make and customise cycle diagrams from the MYP guides, inspired by the Design Cycle. Meanwhile, the idea of Design Thinking in schools as a process for problem-solving and authentic inquiry has been gaining traction in education and we are starting to see more ambitious Design class projects surface here at school. It is an encouraging time – as we gain competence in the new MYP, more ideas are starting to surface from teachers about how we move forwards.


Buy It!

At the same time, I’ve been working with our super-inspirational Service Learning Coordinator on student learning expectations against the learning outcomes for service for each MYP stage. We got to the point that we figured we should gather what we know from various sources (including the MYP support documents and Cathryn Berger Kaye’s Complete Guide to Service Learning) and put it into a cycle diagram – to apply the Design Cycle to Service Learning. This might be something we adapt and apply throughout the school as a protocol for service as action. This is an early draft, but I welcome feedback and ideas in the comments below. The second image in the slideshow is a service learning cycle developed by Berger-Kaye, which is explained on the ECSL website here.

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In the greater context, we have been framing the value of the Global Contexts recently as the driving force in the MYP that makes a good backwards-designed curriculum into an authentic and explicitly international education. Through knowledge and skills students develop conceptual understandings, which the global contexts help us to shape into meaningful, pragmatic inquiry (critical, reflective, consequence-oriented thought), resulting in action (including service), leading to international mindedness (a state of mind) and global engagement (behaviours). Meaningful action arises in conjunction with cultural competence. Through all this, we hope to develop the IMaGE of our learners.

As the pieces fall into place through curriculum and professional development, as well as gradual cultural change, we are poised to put the service learning cycle in a more prominent central role in our educational experience.

This is an attempt to connect the elements of the MYP framework with Action (of which Service is a subset), leading to International Mindedness and Global Engagement (IMaGE).

This is an attempt to connect the elements of the MYP framework with Action (of which Service is a subset), leading to International Mindedness and Global Engagement (IMaGE).


Here’s Cathy Berger Kaye presenting to the IB Americas’s Conference, in 2012.


Update: 2016

Here we added some level expectations, based on ATL skills, connected to the Outcomes. The idea here is that as students plan and reflect on their Service Learning, they are addressing these goals in a balanced, sustained and meaningful way. It’s not pretty, but it’s a toolkit.

Service Learning Cycle & Expectations Poster [CA 2015]


Edits & Corrections

[Dec 16 2014] Removed hyphens from Cathryn Berger Kaye’s name (apologies!) and updated her service learning cycle image with the current version, from CBK Associates (pdf).

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Quick Review: Tony Butt’s Guide to Sustainable Surfing

Dr. Tony Butt

This quick read (74 pages,£0.87 on Kindle) is worth an hour or two of your time, especially if you’re into surfing or outdoor pursuits and are concerned about the environment. Tony Butt is a big-wave surfer and has a PhD in Physical Oceanography; his educational columns on Surf Science in Surfer’s Path magazine (and his book on the same) are excellent primers on waves, surfing and the environment.

In this text, Dr. Butt sets out to describe how we impact the environment as surfers and how we can make choices that can mitigate these impacts. He makes connections between the issues of Energy, Travel and Stuff related to surfing, highlighting the unsustainable nature of the jet-setting, product-hungry, WCT-inspired modern surfer. Of particular interest are issues of embodied energy and product life cycle assessment, which you may recognise from Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff series on YouTube, or Daniel Goleman’s Ecological Intelligence. As a marine biologist and science teacher there was little that was new to me, but some of the information on surfboard construction and wetsuits was enlightening. At times the text reads as though it was minimally-edited (there are repeated uses of similar phrases and references to Mentawais trips), but the message gets through loud and clear: make careful choices, cut down on unnecessary travel and buy-to-last, not buy-the-latest.

Anya in Baleal, Portugal.

This short text should act as an inspiration to surfers to learn more about our impacts: follow the links, recognise that we are not separate from nature and aim to be mindful in our choices. I would love to see more of his articles presented in cheap Kindle-format like this (Surfers’ Path, if you’re reading this…) and would definitely recommend a copy to surfing friends or students. I think this book could effectively be adapted into a series of webisodes on sustainable surfing to spread the message further.

As an international teacher getting back into the water, it was a good reminder of where the negative impacts of our lifestyle lie and how we might take action to reduce them. International travel may be an essential part of our lifestyle, but wastefulness need not be. It certainly helps that gear here in Japan is so expensive, too – just last week we hunted out a large second-hand store with a big selection of used boards. As my daughter develops as a surfer I hope that we can give her a sense of environmental responsibility and ocean stewardship.

Here’s Tony Butt discussing the Energy issue in terms of renewable energy sources over oil, following an oil spill in the Canaries that rendered the environment dangerous and the waves unrideable.


Footnote: This Story of Stuff video from 2007, which we used in environmental science class, gives a quick and general overview of some of the issues discussed in Dr. Butt’s book.

Post-script: I wonder how sustainable these new Patagonia wetsuits really are? Although Dr. Butt’s book pre-dates this innovation, he recognises that wetsuit technology is inherently polluting (and oil-based) and suggests that we should aim to buy the most durable suits we can, rather than regularly replace large pieces of non-biodegradable neoprene. Thanks to scientist Karen James (@kejames) for mentoning it on Twitter.


Teaching our Sons not to rape: SexEd & #YesAllWomen

This is a brief reflection on a work in progress, but health education in school is very important to me. It is a brief reflection on a project to update and refine a Sex Ed sequence, bringing in a stronger element of values education, sexuality and attitudes. It aims to move away from the traditional ‘plumbing and don’t get pregnant or raped’ approach to a more powerful and relevant ‘plumbing, make good decisions and be a good person’ approach. 


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From @feministabulous on Twitter.

Towards the end of the year we had the opportunity to review and teach a G9 Sex Ed class, standing separate from the regular MYP PHE class and with a different staffing allocation. It comes at a time when the school is working out how to re-distribute health topics into PE, to make PHE, yet retain the balance of content work and physical activity. Sexuality education is a hugely important service schools provide students and their families and with this five-week (five hour) sequence we wanted to maximise the impact of the course. The course followed the end of a sequence of ‘peer group connection’ classes, which pairs up groups of older and younger high school students to discuss social and community issues. As a result, the groups come in fully-formed and comfortable with each other. The school has a very packed schedule, so finding time for all this with students is a challenge – they don’t get the weekly health & social class that I had been used to teaching from G6-10 in Bandung.

The Approach

After a review of the existing course, the aim was to set up some lessons and supporting resources that gave students reliable information but which also led them to other useful sources. I wanted to make sure that we weren’t afraid to tackle difficult issues, so the flow of the course goes:

  1. Anatomy, Physiology (including ground rules for SexEd, discussion of purposes). This built on their pre-existing knowledge (which was minimal) from puberty classes. The ground rules were shown again at the start of each lesson.
  2. Menstrual Cycle, Sex and Pregnancy (lots of video, quite teacher-directed)
  3. Abstinence, Contraception & Avoiding STI’s (starting to open up discussions, looking at different approaches to safe sex and STI avoidance, includes condom/banana demo).
  4. Consent: Making Safe Choices (further into discussions of values, risks, pressures around sex and communication. Heavy emphasis on the nature of consent and ‘no means no’. Starts to explore attitudes towards sexuality and introduces alternative sexualities.)
  5. Attitudes & Behaviours (really focuses on being aware of and avoiding negative behaviours, including rape prevention not as a fault of the victim but as a responsibility of the potential perpetrator.)

Students each week received a double-sided sheet for notes, with clear statements for Understand, Know and Do, as well as vocabulary list, key content and links to the supporting resources on a GoogleSite. This all took a lot of time to prepare, as it was accompanied by discussion-cards and a presentation as well. The GoogleSite is filled with videos and further links to sources I’d vetted, in order to allow students to explore more in class and at home. Towards the end of the course, students were able to use the resources to answer their own questions.

Every week started with a tuning in exercise, usually a quiz or discussion based on the previous week, and ended with an exit ticket, used to inform teaching in the future weeks. The final lesson ended with an evaluation GoogleForm.



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A key message of the course.

The course was very well received by students who completed the survey, and the dynamic in discussions improved as the prompts became more interesting. In one session I noticed a very quiet group of one-word answers, so for the following week adapted discussion prompts for a rotating discussion model, as seen in the presentation. This made a huge difference and came from one of our focuses for next school year in supporting all teachers to be language teachers.

Through formative assessment I noticed that students’ memories of the reproductive system organs were weak, though their understandings of the processes were strong. The emphasis on consent, respect and safe decision-making came through loud and clear, and I was grateful for that. Students understood that there were multiple factors influencing how we think about sex and sexuality and that “no means no; the absence of yes means no.”

We looked at a range of non-traditional, yet important, issues around sexuality, from masturbation and pornography to sexual harassment, discrimination, homophobia and sexual violence. We saw examples of campaigns targeted at men to prevent them from being rapists and discussed the victim-blaming nature of existing approaches and policies.

An important shortfall noted in the feedback was that the course felt too short and that there was not enough time to really explore some of the more current and interesting issues. For example, although I emphasised that we were not pushing only hetero-normative values, we did not really give students much opportunity to discuss LGBT issues.



In between the fourth and fifth weeks of the course, after looking at pressures around sex and going into a lot of depth on consent, the #YesAllWomen campaign exploded on Twitter. This was a powerful response to the misogny-fueled mass-shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Some of the students had seen the news, few understood what was behind it. Some had seen the hashtag and we looked at the stream during class. At that time there were over 50 tweets coming through per minute, a steady stream of everyday (and extreme) issues faced by women.

“I noticed things in this course that sometime now I don’t like to notice,” 

I asked students to watch the stream, note some of the hard-hitting tweets and try to clarify to each other what they meant. The girls got involved right away, with lots of ‘Oh, yeah‘s, but the boys took a while. When they got it, it led to some profound moments of reflection that I hope we can build into meaningful changes in attitudes and positive future actions. Over and over again, we stated that if we truly believe in equality for all, we need to change the mindset of the population to really move away from victim-blaming and into taking real responsibility for actions.


Personal Reflection

I am thankful for the opportunity to do this with the classes, even though it was an exhausting effort at the end of an overly-busy year. There is clearly some way to go in the development of these resources, and I’ll aim for a sixth more open-ended week next time. Approaching sex-ed in this way is a risk and needs confidence and caring in the classroom to make it work – I honestly can’t see it being successful if forced on those who don’t want to teach it this way. We are very fortunate at CA to have students who are capable of mature and compassionate discussion.



The materials and ideas for the course are pulled from many sources, all of which I checked as rigorously as possible for currency and accuracy. Many of them are posted on the course GoogleSite. Here are some key resources:


This TED Talk on ‘The Great Porn Experiment’ is super-interesting – and highlights an issue in sexuality education that we would not have had to deal with (to the same extent) the in days before always-on, in-your-face internet exposure to sexual imagery.

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2 Million Views on i-Biology.net!

This week saw i-Biology.net push past two million page views. It now gets around 4,000 views per day, which is a lot of teachers and students looking for resources. This week also saw the closure of Gifts4Good.co.uk, who had been processing charitable donations for Biology4Good.


So this week is the perfect time to re-launch my appeal for donations to charity through Biology4Good on a bigger service,  JustGiving


JustGiving guarantees that 100% of the donation is passed on to the charity.



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A Year of Meat-Less Living

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote on my family blog in 2011, but I was encouraged to edit and re-post today by an article posted on GOOD Magazine’s website: “Eating some meat may be better for the environment than eating none.”

Factor in the intense meat-holiday of Christmas with the Taylors (and the holiday weight that needs shifting), as well as the intense work-avoidance of a Master’s assignment and the feeling that I should be blogging more about my practice and the decisions I make as an educator and here you are.

For more than a year now (bar Christmas!), we have been trying to make conscious decisions to live “meat-less.” This doesn’t mean full veggie, but we have cut a lot of meat from our diets.

An updated version of the original article is below. Here is a little TED Talk from Graham Hill of Treehugger, on why he is a weekday veggie:

Continue reading

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Biology4Good is taking off!

After a run of generous donations, i-Biology users have so far donated well over £700.00 to my chosen charities, including the Marine Conservation Society, Mines Advisory Group, Hope HIV, Save the Children, Save the Rhino, Tree Aid and Medecins sans Frontiers!

A couple of years ago I started a Gifts4Good charity list for my site, called Biology4Good. The idea was that people who used my resources might feel like they could give back by donating to charity through the list. It was very slow to take off, but after some promotion during the final IB exams in May and November this year, it’s finally getting going!

This Movember also saw the site generate some support.

At first I was unsure if offering a wide range of charities would be a good thing or if it would spread donations too thinly, but I’m happy I’ve kept it broad. This way users can choose a charity which most closely aligns with their own personal feelings. It takes a lot of time and effort to put this site and the resources together, but feels good to know that others find it worthwhile enough to make a small contribution to charity as a result.

Thank-you! If you are an educator why not consider doing something similar. Get your work out in public and let it work for others who need the help. Call it Teacher CAS.

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A Million Views on i-Biology.net

One meeeelion viewers. Link to my Movember profile.It’s exciting to see how i-Biology has grown over the past few years, and to get feedback from students and teachers who are using the resources here from all over the world. As always, constructive comments are welcome and if you spot any errors or have suggestions for resources, please let me know.

If you want to show more support, please make a donation to either my Movember account or Biology4Good. Every little helps! All donations go completely to the charities.