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Wellington Girls’ College – Learning support

Learning support teachers at Wellington Girls' College explain how they are integrating the key competencies into their programme, with very pleasing results.

Wellington Girls’ College has an inclusive practice for students who require learning support – all students learn within mainstream classes. 

ORRS funding is given for those students with significant learning needs. 

Learning support teachers were finding students had increasing difficulty with maths and science as they moved through the school.

Emma and Emily's story

Emily struggled with anything to do with maths and wasn’t able to reliably add or subtract numbers to ten. Her maths teacher tried linking her interest in sport as a means of using maths. However, Emily's resistance to the concept of maths was apparent when in a maths classroom. It was clear she needed concrete experiences to relate to and ‘disguise’ her learning of maths concepts.

Emma had reached a plateau with her maths learning. She had memorised the tables and basic maths facts for book use but couldn’t relate these to practical situations.

The teachers involved decided to take an integrated approach (maths and science) using the context of gardening. The girls would build a raised-bed garden and grow their own plants.

The focus for these girls has been on developing their knowledge, through high interest topics related to their family or community, in preparation for life skills after leaving school.

In maths their learning experiences related to:

  • buying seedlings and materials
  • recognising coins
  • giving change
  • adding and subtracting money up to the value of $10
  • measuring the requirements of the planter box materials.

Once the seeds were planted the girls were required to graph the results of the beans and interpret their growth from a table.

In science their learning experiences related to:

  • the lifecycle of plants and other living things
  • the food chain and ecology
  • physics
  • forces (cause and effect) in making a planter box (what happens when)?

Emily and Emma have had many other positive experiences as a result of integrating two learning areas. They have built a planter box for home, and have consolidated their skills by building a compost bin for school.

The girls have gone on to work with the school environment club, who are undertaking research about trees as part of a recycling paper project, and have undertaken the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme using building as their skill.

"It has been a huge revelation for us to see first hand how using an authentic context both embraces the key competencies and provides the girls with increased confidence and a real position in school and community life."

Key competency indicators

There were many opportunities for the girls to develop key competencies.

Managing self

  • Managing change in timetable activities.
  • Communicating directly to staff if they will be away during a class.
  • Meeting at the right sites for building work (weather dependent).
  • Acting independently in certain conditions.
  • Setting up the building area and preparing themselves with safety gear.
  • Looking after their own equipment.
  • Knowing where to get building gear from and where to put it back.
  • Being safe with tools.
  • Managing their own hygiene - washing hands after gardening and before eating food.

Relating to others

  • Working effectively in a group.
  • Demonstrating cooking and building teamwork.
  • Sharing ideas with others.
  • Discussing decisions about the box with the groundsmen.


Asking questions:

  • How to plant, water, when to harvest/pick/water?

Reflecting on learning:

  • Writing planter box journals, taking photos.

Making decisions:

  • Researching plants, composting, plants/seeds.
  • What and how to cook.

Using language, symbols and texts

Interpreting and using words in a range of contexts:

  • Following recipes to cook vegetables from the garden.
  • Using the oven.
  • Writing invitations to the opening celebration.
  • Writing a book explaining photos and processes of building/gardening.

Interpreting and using numbers in a range of contexts:

  • Measuring wood, where to put screws, which length to use, recognising the shape and which length/piece of wood to use.
  • Measuring bean plants.
  • Money handling and retail service skills - buying and selling.
  • Buying seeds and selling seedlings.
  • Measuring, and using the oven timer and temperatures when cooking.

Confidently using ICT:

  • Accessing photos, and choosing which photo to put in their planter book.
  • Researching which plants will grow best and the conditions needed (on gardening websites).
  • Writing up their work on the computer, printing it out, and assembling a photo book using photos the students have taken.
  • Entering a gardening competition, winning prizes for photos and seedlings, selling excess to staff.

Participating and contributing

Contributing as a group member:

  • Working together to build - holding wood, assisting.
  • Selling plants in staffroom.

Having a sense of belonging to class or group:

  • Emily brought her form class down to see the planter box when finished and they put worms in the soil to start the garden.

Able to participate in contexts outside school:

  • Having a common subject to share with the general public - gardening and cooking.
  • The garden competition enabled them to participate and relate to the success of winning a prize.
  • Lifelong skills learnt about growing plants to use as food, which have already transferred to home with a planter box for family.
  • Eating plants at home that were grown at school.

Making a contribution to a social, physical, or cultural environment:

  • The school now has a garden that the girls in the school notice and comment on.
  • An opening event to celebrate the success of the garden building.
  • Family, principal, staff, assembly recognition with awards from Tui competition and prizes.
  • Building planter boxes for family to continue work at school and in their home life, and family sending reports about plant progress and what plants have been used for.
key competencies

Updated on: 21 May 2010