Geology experiment: core samples using cupcakes!

For this double lesson (2 x 40 mins) students will learn about fossil fuels, share their existing knowledge and identify why sub surface geology is so important to the location of fossil fuels. They will then complete this experiment, record results and discuss.

1. Create rainbow cupcakes using vanilla cake mix and with food colouring

2. Bake and then allow to cool fully. Don’t worry about icing as it’s not necessary for the experiment

3. Provide each student with one cupcake, 5 straws and the written prompts below. Students should take 5 core samples using the straws and then record the colour distributions and location of each sample on the provided pictures.

4. This should help to predict the sub surface geology of the cupcake!

Day 4-7 of the ration challenge

Day 4: rice brain is definitely a thing. I keep asking people the same questions and forgetting answers! I’m finding the body aches (I assume from lack of caffeine + inflammatory response to refined carbs) have mostly passed now as have the headaches. However, I’m not very hungry and rice is really unappetising. I struggled to eat my rice and beans for breakfast, I struggled to eat rice and dahl for lunch, I have given up and am having flatbread for dinner because I just can’t handle more rice!

We had two student birthdays today so there were chicken strips, wedges and fairy bread for lunch. I sat away from the food and there was less teasing from students today. My partner did get me to stop at the shop on the way home (for beer!) and I was eyeing off the strawberries – I miss fresh food.

Day 5: today is an admin day for me at work but I spent the first few hours with a young person out and about and found I was really tired, even though I had made sure to eat my rice and beans before I headed out. I think today was definitely a day where I needed caffeine! I then had a long afternoon meeting and enjoyed my cold drink reward – a can of Pepsi max red creaming Soda. Oh cold fizzy drink….I missed you so much!

I was really not keen on savoury rice again today so mostly stuck with hummus and flatbread and rice pudding.

Day 6: Today was Friday and we decorated the school to support the brumbies #backthebrumbies. I was explaining to one of our volunteer bus drivers what I was doing with this challenge and they thought I was mad! I had some rice and beans for breakfast but then stuck with rice pudding and flat bread for the rest of the day.

Day 7: Saturday and the last day today! I mentioned yesterday I am completely over savoury rice so I took some advice from “ration challenge experts” who have done this before and used my reward protein of bacon + some of my veggie oil + my group spices + cooked rice to make some fried rice. I also swapped my tofu ration for an egg as I just can’t handle the tofu texture. It’s still rice and it’s still somewhat mushy but at least it had a different flavour and a slightly less mushy feel!


I was never really hungry throughout the challenge but I frequently felt like crap eating these sorts of foods. I was tired and run down. I also had an inflammatory response and struggled with my arthritis – that was something I had not expected! I missed sugar and I definitely missed caffeine – but not as much as I missed fresh food. I feel very privileged to eat this way and share this experience for the week but now be able to return to my usual diet.

Fundraising efforts

I made it over $2000 this week and my team hit $4700+ in total! This is the link to our team fundraising page

Day 1-3 of the Ration Challenge

Here we go!

A video my workmate and I filmed to share with our organisation

Day 1, 2 and 3 meals followed the same pattern with some different timings since Day 1 was a Sunday and I slept in. Each meal made bulk amounts which is why I have followed the same eating pattern each day so far. Meals have been:

  • Breakfast: beans and rice with curry powder
  • Lunch: flatbread with hummus
  • Dinner: simple dahl (onion, lentils, stock, curry powder) with rice
  • Snack: 1/2 cup rice pudding, 1-2 cups of tea (I have 10 teabags for the week!)
Food each day for the initial 3 days of the challenge!

How am I feeling so far?

Day 1: Sunday has not been too bad. Making meals in bulk amounts kept me occupied for most of the day and it’s all still a novelty so I’m enjoying it. I went to the shops and was only slightly tempted by delicious apple pie smells at the bakery! No headaches or anything yet but I am expecting them as I wean off the caffeine and sugar. I definitely did not drink enough water though, I would say under a litre across the whole day including 1 cup of tea.

Day 2: I found Monday was a challenge doing this at work. I struggled to eat beans and rice for breakfast at 7am in place of my usual yoghurt – it just felt so filling and uncomfortable! I persevered as I know I need to eat regularly to keep my blood sugar level. I also really missed my morning caffeine hit. I had a busier than expected day due to unexpected staff absence and I was mentally and physically exhausted by the end of the teaching part of the day.

I then had a hairdresser appointment in the evening and was a little sad to decline the usual glass of bubbles and biscuit snacks and instead ask for….water. My water intake was improved by being at work but still not very good, I reckon just over a litre including a reused tea bag for a second cuppa. It was a very long day (started work at 7am, finished at hair dresser at 8pm) and I was knackered at the end.

Day 3: Tuesday is usually one of my “administration” days at school and I was definitely noticing the lack of caffeine by this morning. I ended up starting early to knock off some admin and then teaching all day….my head was just a bit foggier than usual and I had to work hard to maintain focus. I also kept asking people the same questions and then forgetting I had asked them!

I am getting used to the bland, repetitive food and not missing other food too much – yet. Tomorrow we were going to do a core sample experiment with cupcakes in science but I decided to move that to next week because it was just cruel to make me bake 40 cupcakes! Instead we are going to learn about non-Newtonian fluids. My fundraising efforts were enough that I’m allowed to have one cold drink of my choice and one treat up to $5 consumed in one sitting. Although I’m not craving other food at this stage, I am wondering if tomorrow will be my cold drink day because I really miss Pepsi Max Red Creaming Soda right now!

Student responses:

Working with students who come from very diverse backgrounds we have been careful to share our experiences but not enforce any expectations on the young people. This week is birthday week at our school (I think we have 13 students birthdays across the week) so a lot of cake and snacks are being consumed. Although a few students like to rub it in (waaaah) most are being very kind and understanding. We are also getting a lot of questions around our meals – rice for breakfast certainly sparks some conversations!

Fundraising efforts

I am at approx $1900 and my team hit over $4000 on day 1 of the challenge! This is the link to our team fundraising page

Refugee week challenge: intro

I am doing the Act For Peace Refugee Week Challenge this year, so from Sep 13-19th I will eat only the rations that a refugee in a camp in Jordan would receive through the Act for Peace charity. But why, you ask? I am doing this to raise money for this important overseas aid program as well as awareness around what a financial contribution can mean in this circumstances.

So far I’ve raised just over $1700 and my team (of two) has raised over $3500! There’s still time to donate here.

The food in my ration box has arrived as well as some “food vouchers” to cash in. For the week I will end up with the following foods as well as unlimited plain water:

  • 1.9 kilos of white rice
  • 400g plain flour
  • 400g tinned kidney beans
  • 85g dried chickpeas
  • 170g dried lentils
  • 125g of tofu (usually sardines – as pictured – are part of the ration pack but I selected the vegetarian option so will have tofu)
  • 300ml of vegetable oil

On top of this, I earned a few bonuses through my fundraising efforts. Added in across the week I achieved the following goals:

  • Sponsoring myself – an unlimited spice of my choice (I chose curry powder)
  • Asking individual people to sponsor me – 10 teabags
  • Join a team – 210ml of milk for the week and shared spices (I gained vegetable stock!)
  • Reach a 24hr target – 50g sugar
  • Fundraise $250 – unlimited salt
  • Reach a 24hr target – 2 Tb coffee
  • Fundraise $500 – 170g of one vegetable. Which one? Onion maybe?
  • Fundraise $750 – 120g of one protein of my choice. What to choose!?
  • Fundraise $1000 – one hot or cold drink of my choice (up to 330ml). Mmmm Pepsi max
  • Fundraise $1500 – a bonus single item up to $5

So…fun fact about me. I seriously can’t cook rice. I can barely even eat it! I have also never cooked lentils or kidney beans in my life. Or tofu.

This should be interesting.

National Science Week 2020

The school theme for national science week this week was “Deep Blue: Innovations for the future of our oceans”. Our students engaged in a range of activities including:

– The Satellite Selfie. Students were encouraged to create ocean themed designs that were biiiiiig to show up on a satellite that flew overhead. Our Year 10s created Gerald the Jellyfish out of bed sheets, tarps, fabric and alfoil. They also laid down to add to the jellyfish tentacles!

– Thundersnow. Given the insanely cold weather in the ACT and NSW towards the end of this week, we learnt about thundersnow. All students learnt something new!

– Ocean plastics poetry. Year 10 students researched the giant plastic garbage dump in the Pacific Ocean and the rubber duck accident. They then created haiku poems about the ocean. Some of our efforts were….interesting….but everyone had a go which made me a very happy teacher!

– Fun science facts quiz. We spent 30 mins of a lesson attempting to answer these questions and seeing who could get the closest! These questions generated some great discussions around blood types, arteries, averages and animals!

Science quiz

1. How many visible colours does a rainbow contain? 7 – ROYGBIV (millions of colours on the light spectrum that the eye can’t see)

2. How much saliva does an average person produce in their lifetime? 38000 litres

3. Which bone is the longest in the human body? Femur thigh bone

4. What blood type do you need to be to donate blood to anyone? O-

5. Diamonds are made up almost entirely of what element? Carbon

6. What temperature can the sun reach? 27 million degrees Celsius!

7. What is the first element listed on the periodic table? Hydrogen

8. What is the worlds largest ocean? Pacific Ocean

9. How much does an average human brain weigh? 1.3kilograms

10. The study of the weather is called what? Meteorology

BONUS QUESTION! Which animal has the longest tongue relevant to its size? Chameleon can stretch its tongue 1.5-2 time’s its body length to catch insects

Remote learning with a diverse student population

Being based in Canberra at an independent school we spent from Week 8 Term 1 to Week 5 Term 2 this year (2020) either preparing for or delivering a remote learning model due to COVID 19. After extensive staff and family consultation, we took a multifaceted approach to support our diverse school community. We had three main categories of students:

  • If students needed to attend in person, we spoke with families and facilitated that although we did not provide our usual bus transport due to the need for social distancing
  • If students had internet and device access, we provided remote learning options. We had a timetable of short class options for students to attend who needed the structure of a school day but also recorded and uploaded these lessons so they could be accessed by students in their own time
  • We recognised a chunk of our student population could not access a device or internet consistently and delivered home learning packs to them once a week.

Built into all of these approaches was extensive social and emotional support from both teachers and youth workers. Towards the end of remote learning, as we progressed towards reopening and a relaxation of restrictions, we also arranged tutorials for students in all categories to come in and touch base face-to-face in very small groups.

Below are my personal observations on using zoom and google classroom for learning in that 6-7 week time period.


  • Unlike many schools, we stuck with zoom (with strict processes around using the waiting room to avoid zoom bombing) as it was easiest for our students and families to access. Zoom and Google classroom were new to the majority of our staff and families but they are simple to use programs and everyone upskilled very quickly
  • Getting to spend some time online with the kids face-to-face. Government colleges in the ACT completely banned video due to privacy concerns and while I understand that approach (and their reasoning), I am glad we were able to “see” our students and that they could see us as well
  • We had a guest author come along to a reading lesson (Jack Heath is awesome), we connected with PCYC and did boxing lessons via zoom and one of our teachers delivered amazing art lessons. I personally grew sunflowers with students for science and they were so invested in good old sunny and his progress

Jack Heath read a short story from his book 200 Minutes of Danger to students on zoom


  • Many of our students come to us completely disengaged from education. Getting them re-engaged and positive about school requires a lot of relationship building and that was really hard to do online. Some kids did just disappear for that whole 8 week period no matter what we tried
  • Workload for staff. Although we tried hard to ensure teachers were only delivering in one “mode” there is no doubt that, at times, staff were writing work for their zoom class, work for their home learning packets and supporting kids in person as well. It was definitely hard to balance. Personally my science lessons had to be written completely differently for the learning packs as I couldn’t use video or online links for sources and experiment viewing
  • Our staff are amazing in their flexibility, innovation, differentiation and trauma informed approaches. We rarely use online tools as part of our learning due to the nature of our cohort so there was a steep learning curve for staff….which they embraced like champions! At times this meant we all made some errors or posted things incorrectly which did cause some students to stress out. As with anything we do, we were always upfront that we were learning too

National Careers Week 2020 – social media posts

Usually during careers week I run an activity every morning with Year 10 students at our school as well as a longer lesson in Work Studies.

This year that wasn’t possible due to COVID 19 remote learning so below are my social media posts shared each day on a school Facebook page where students, families and staff were encouraged to engage.

Day 1 (morning) intro

This week is Nationals Careers Week!#ncwau20

National Careers Week is an initiative of the Career Industry Council of Australia and aims to celebrate careers, career development, career development services, and career development practitioners and to promote the economic, social and personal benefits of career development.

Career development is a process of managing learning, work and leisure to progress through life. It includes gaining and using the skills and knowledge needed to plan and make informed decisions about education, training, and work. Everyday decisions and priorities affect career development. Ultimately, career development is about much more than jobs – it is about how to live your life.

Throughout this week I will post different resources, links, interesting videos etc to Facebook. Make sure to let me know if you would like more information or information on something specific 🙂

Day 1: What is the difference between a job and a career? #ncwau20

A job is something you do simply to earn money; a career is a series of connected employment opportunities. 

A job is usually short term while a career will extend over a long period of time. 

A job has minimal impact on your future work life, while a career provides experience and learning to fuel your future. In a job you are more likely to do the bare minimum but in your career you “go the extra mile” 

Comment below with an example of a job and an example of a career that you can think of. I have done some examples to get you started! 

Day 2: Transferable (broad) skills

Transferable skills are important for any candidate looking to progress in their career. Key skills to develop include:

  •  Communication skills

  •  Leadership and management skills

  •  Planning and research skills

  •  Teamwork and interpersonal skills

  •  Self-management skills  

Can you give an example of a transferable skill that you have discovered since we started remote learning? What is something you can do now that could help you in any type of job!? #ncwau20

Day 3: creative thinking 

The workforce of the future will be dependent on creativity, problem

solving and critical thinking. At Galilee School, our orange “Positive Personal Postcards” are based on the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities. Any student who receives one of these postcards is being acknowledged for their self management and/or social management skills – these relate directly to the ability to think creatively and critically as well as problem solve. 


What are some examples you can think of in recent times where you have demonstrated good self management or social management? This could be at home, with your friends, at school, on a zoom lesson…..anywhere! 

Day 4 Lifelong learning

Learning doesn’t take place just at school. Every single minute of every single day we are learning new skills and knowledge. This information (as well as what we learn in the classroom) is very useful to us in the workplace. Some of us learn best from theory, some from practice and most of us learn best from a little bit of both  #ncwau20

Can you think of a skill or something you have learnt outside of school which might be useful in a job? 

Day 5: exploring your passions

This video is a US one but it gives some great information on linking interest and passions towards future career paths. 


What are you interested in? What do you enjoy doing? Can you think of how this could lead to a future job or career?

Pens Against Poverty Writing Competition

Two years ago all of our Year 10 students entered the Pens Against Poverty writing competition and we were recognised as a school for our entries.

The theme for this year is “Lost and Found”. Basically students write a poem or short story around this theme (less than 500 words) and submit it.
I have included below how I ran it the first year and how the junior English teacher ran it last year so you can see some different approaches.
Mel’s approach 2018
– 2 lessons exploring the theme as a group, brainstorming ideas etc. Making links to own lives, others lives, exploring poverty etc.  
– 3 lessons exploring different poetry approaches (acrostic, cinquain, concrete, haiku etc) 
– Options were then provided to students: a short story prompt, a short story starter, poetry options and students were given 2-3 lessons to create something, reflect on it and type it up. 
Word doc versions were then sent to Mel who entered all info into the online application system.
Junior English teachers approach 2019
– Focus was on variations of concrete poetry and using descriptive language. Students created a whole class one about a shared topic (the ocean). Students then worked on some sample ones around race cars, animals etc (areas of interest) and created these with decorations. Focus was more on language and description than shape aspects in the end but there was some good work! 
– Students then spent a lesson exploring the topic and coming up with lots of different focus areas and offshoots
– Students spent 1-2 lessons creating their versions of poetry around an aspect of the theme 
Word doc versions were then sent to Mel who entered all info into the online application system

Learning activity: gratitude tree in two parts

Earlier this year (March) we made a gratitude tree as a class. We did the activity as part of our once a semester focus on gratitude. We always encourage the young people to reflect and be grateful but once a semester we have an explicit focus on it every day for a week. I found a big branch in the yard, a jar to put it in and cut out leaves for the kids to write on. The students wrote down things they were grateful for including staff, school, family, pets, food, their clothes….anything they could think of really.

In late October I decided we would add to the gratitude tree as part of our second semester “gratitude week” activity. In Australia, it’s Spring at this time of year so the students helped me cut out flowers and we did the same activity again but this time our tree positively bloomed!

Our junior students took this one step further and with the help of an artistically talented youth worker and student leader, they actually painted a gratitude tree in the courtyard! Students will use paint pens to add things they are grateful for to each leaf in the coming weeks.

Volunteering and community engagement through a trauma informed lens

  • Year 10 focus for students at our school
    • Separate campus to Year 7-9 students
    • Year 10 Certificate is the main goal for all students
    • Specific transition support targeted towards the following year: further education, training or employment
    • Focus on workplace readiness and practical work skills through work experience
    • Exploring other training opportunities with external providers e,g, Hospitality Course, White Card course etc
    • Developing independent learning skills through scaffolded and supported project work
    • Volunteering had been done in the past when the student group was smaller but had become more challenging to maintain consistently as numbers increased, risk management an ongoing challenge, transport and lack of staff buy-in
    The start of our volunteering experience
    • Late in 2018 contacted Domestic Animal Services (the pound) in the ACT about students volunteering with them
    • In March 2019, the first group of 6 students and 2 staff (one teacher, one youth worker) attended on a Friday afternoon
    • This program has continued on Fridays throughout 2019 with rotating groups applying through an “expression of interest” process
    • In Term 4, 2019 started Year 10 leading younger students
    Could we add more volunteering opportunities to support positive education and community?
    • The success of the DAS volunteering program led to staff interest in more volunteering to support students to give back their time, skills and effort to the local community
    • Identified bonus for curriculum was tangible skill/s to include on their resumes as many students had minimal work experience or employment history – Work Studies
    • Tuesday afternoons were allocated to a “volunteering project” for all Year 10 students
    • Facilitating all levels of interest, engagement and ability
    • Risk management
    • Transport

    Potential Solutions
    • Volunteering in specific projects that could be facilitated at the school rather than needing to go into the community
    • Incursions and visits
    • Provision of choice so students could adjust their engagement based on how they presented on that day
    Options provided to students
    • Making dog toys for donation centres: Rainbow Paws
    • Crocheting beanies for babies: Canberra Hospital
    • Developing a Community Street Library: Galilee School / Independent Property Group
    • Share the Dignity Drive: Share the Dignity
    • It’s in the bag: Share the Dignity / Local book club
    • Making environmentally friendly bags from upcycled t-shirts: Local environmentally conscious shops
    Unexpected developments from the program
    • High levels of engagement and enthusiasm that was fostered without going off school grounds
    • Attendance levels on volunteering days were high, many students identified that it was a “highlight” of the week
    • Power of side by side learning and conversations between staff and students: plaiting dog toys, making environmentally friendly bags from upcycled t-shirts, crocheting
    • Student engagement in community visits: Natarsha from Rainbow Paws, Judith from Share the Dignity
    • Development of a relationship with the Communities@Work Seniors Program