Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Never Too Young to Ask

Earlier in the year, my Year 9 class connected with the Year 3 classes through a Science Show. There was a hope that the Year 3 students would see the Year 9 students as "Science experts" to whom they could direct questions. This term, I was contacted by one of the Year 3 teachers, as some of her class had some tricky questions about Microbiology. They wanted me to answer their questions, as they saw me as the expert, not my students. This was not quite the intent, but it still gave me an idea. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity for me to reconnect with the Year 3 students and to explore their ideas and questions in Microbiology, one of my favourite fields of Science.


The email I was sent was one of those communiques that you cannot ignore:
I could not quite accommodate their every wish, but I asked Jane if she wanted me to do a Microbiology lesson for the class, including an experiment where they get to "grow their own germs" on agar plates.

Jane arranged some questions from the students, and it all started to come together:
I was blown away by the quality and wonder shown in these questions. It was going to take a while to prepare for this!! I prepared a simple PowerPoint which covered the main things I thought we should talk about, and included their questions, of course.


It is really hard to know how to gauge the level of preparedness and content that 8 year old students will require. I was so impressed with the quality of their original questions that I revisited my university textbooks and spent a bit of time on the internet, brushing up on my history of microbiology and finding some fun facts.

What I decided on was:
"Teach" about the size of "germs".
Address their questions.
Demonstrate how to set up an agar plate.
Address the rest of their questions...and have a wee chat about personal hygiene.

The quality of the questions is what will stay with me for a long time. I was so worried about how I would teach Microbiology at Level 1-2 of the NZ Curriculum. What a naive concern! The questioning showed such a high level of wonder. The students themselves made links to their own lives. All I had to do was respect each and every student as an authentic part of the "lesson" and to value each and every contribution. You are never too young to ask; you are never too old to be amazed!


  1. I love this post! Thank you!! I was amazed by some year one knowledge in our team this week - we are all learning about the material world - but I was quite blown away listening to a couple of 5 year olds describing activity of molecules! They ARE early scientists! They understand what they are ready for, but no one is underestimating their potential. :-)

    1. Thank you for your comment, Bridget. Our youngest students never cease to amaze, do they?