Having taught at Marsden School for nine years, she says she has realised that some ideas work out well, such as her most recent brainwave – to get her students to produce a plant pot to sell at the annual Marsden Gala.
“I’m always looking for a real-life context to build learning into as I think this makes it more relevant and interesting to students,” Ballara says.
“I believe a project should have purpose rather than doing something for the sake of it.
“Knowing the gala was coming up (on March 5), I decided to present the class with a design brief: to create a unique plant pot no bigger than 10x10cm, with a drainage hole.”
As most of the Year 9 students had never used CAD software, or designed in 3D before, Ballara thought the simplicity of a pot shape would be something they could manage successfully, she adds.
As far as challenges faced by the students, the biggest one was learning how to use the software and to start thinking in 3D.
“It was sometimes difficult for them to visualise what their designs would look like ‘in real -life’ and there was also the time pressure to have them completed and printed before the gala,” Ballara says.
Some students didn’t get to see the pots for the first time until the gala - we definitely didn’t allow enough time for the printing process,” Ballara says.
However, the team behind the gala gardening stall planted the pots with a range of succulents.
“They were definitely a hit … they looked amazing, and the team have asked us to do it all again next gala,” the digital technology teacher says.
There is a big emphasis on using technology as a learning tool at Marsden, which has two campuses in Wellington – Marsden School Karori campus provides Preschool education for boys and girls, and education for girls from Years 1 to 13, while Marsden Whitby provides education for boys and girls Years 7 – 13.
The school realises it is preparing its students for a world where they will all need at the very least, a basic knowledge of computer programming; and that working with technology requires a skill set that includes the ability to problem solve, be flexible and adaptable, and to see failure as part of a process, Ballara says.
The Year 9 technology project provided many student gains, including mastering the 3D design software, learning to persevere and work through challenges, and the art of following a design brief while working to deadline.
Meanwhile, Marsden School is in the process of developing a MakerSpace at school, this will be a space where students will be able to create, invent, and build things.
“It will be a space where the principles of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) can truly be realised through the integration of potentially any curriculum area,” Ballara explains.