BIStopia Week

Apr 24, 2015   //   by jhaynes   //   Events  //  No Comments

Once a year our students’ study into community, economic and governance systems culminates in BIStopia, a week where the BIStopia government makes laws, the post office send letters, the hospital and emergency services of BIS rescue those in need and…the BISmark (our currency) rules supreme as our budding entrepreneurs set up shops and sell their wares. Cookies, peg dolls, hairdressing and book shops are just some of the few shops from the past, made by the children with passion and vision.

It is a really remarkable event and great to take part in. If you would like to come along and shop please book in to attend by emailing

When: Monday June 15 – Friday June 19

Time: 12:30 – 3:00pm

Baked goods always score well on the kid's market research

Baked goods always score well on the kid’s market research

Pop corn invariably makes large sums of BISmarks for the "Popper"

Pop corn invariably makes large sums of BISmarks for the “Popper”

Alumni Feature – Emma

Jan 14, 2015   //   by jhaynes   //   Articles, Blog, Open Day 2015  //  No Comments

I started at BIS when I was 7 years old, when my family moved to Brisbane. When I was around 10 or 11 I left BIS to go to a state school, but after about a year realised it wasn’t for me. I moved back to BIS in 2002 to finish off primary school and graduated in 2003. I went to Indooroopilly State High, where I was school captain in 2008 and was involved in their musicals, bands and debating competitions.

Once graduated, I moved to Melbourne to study journalism at RMIT University, which is regarded as one of the best courses for journalism in Australia. While there, I became heavily involved with youth community radio station SYN, voluntarily producing their youth current affairs show for all of 2011. Over the past three years I have worked at The Age newspaper, ABC local radio, Hack on triple j and community radio station Triple R.
After half a year of travelling around Europe and the US last year, I’ve just started a postgraduate law degree at Monash University in 2014, which is tough but very rewarding.
At BIS I learned that there is more to know than what you’re taught and to independently seek out information about your interests. BIS helped give me the motivation to challenge myself through learning, which is part of the reason I decided to start a law degree at 23.
The strong sense of social justice and civic engagement I have, I believe, comes partially from my time at BIS. All of the students at BIS have a voice. All are able to direct their learning and have a say in the way the school works and I believe this has made me more engaged with politics and societal institutions.emma

Talking about “scary” things with kids

Jan 14, 2015   //   by jhaynes   //   Articles, Blog, Open Day 2015  //  No Comments

There is a near constant stream of scary concepts floating through adult conversation at the moment. Newspaper headlines, updates

Spend time discussing the topic not ignoring it

Spend time discussing the topic not ignoring it

on television and overheard discussions mean that some children are more focused than others and these topics end up in children’s conversation. The inherent anxiety the Ebola crisis created is definitely present in many of the older students’ minds and conversations, and at other times the terrible tragedies in Syria, France and Sydney have also surfaced. It is therefore worthwhile covering a few major points when dealing with these issues:

Wait until they are developmentally ready

Developmental readiness isn’t age dependent, it is about their perception of the world. You could, however, use under eight as a benchmark for not telling them about topics that might scare them. It is really important for you to work out the developmental level of your child. For example, when a child has a perspective on the world where they can only see through first-person perspective it means that they don’t understand the distinction of things happening “in another country”. They find it easy to get in a panic when you disappear for too long at home because maybe you have disappeared, and they find masks disconcerting because maybe, just maybe it is not you under the mask. This developmental level cannot

logically reason through the fear. If they have already been exposed to scary imagery like “Ebola is going to get us!” you need to address it practically, such as talking about the security guards at the airport as the “gatekeepers keeping us safe” even if that is not really true. They see the world as good and bad, right and wrong.

Keep it in dualistic world of “right and wrong”

If your young child (5-8, and sometimes older children depending on development) has found out about the scary topic it is really important that you don’t use reasoning that expects them to see the “grey” in the issue. They just need to know that there are good guys and bad guys and the good guys will win. If you try and help them understand all sides they will not feel safe. The same goes for probability: if you say “well there is only a really slight chance you could catch Ebola” that slight chance is what they will focus upon. Young children still think that maybe dragons could be real. This is not a developmental stage to discuss “possibilities”. Be definite.

For the older children (upper primary) who are moving into solid systems thinking, you can use reason to help them get their heads around the system

s that will keep us safe, and how they work for or against us. Reassure them there is still certainty in the systems themselves. They are still not at a place for you to cast doubt on the system— otherwise you are taking away their solid ground for reasoning. Wait until they are older.

Ask them questions

It is easy to assume that they are not thinking about things or that they see it the way you do—don’t assume. Ask them questions to gauge where they are at. “What have you heard about…?” “What are you thinking about…?” I asked some of these questions recently and found some Dolphins (upper primary) thought that Ebola was carried through the


air! They will hear snippets of information that could be completely untrue but you can be guaranteed that the scariest and most frightening version is what they will keep in their heads.

Validate their feelings

If they say they are scared, don’t say “don’t be silly” or “don’t be scared” as it will just shut them down. They need to know that they can share their craziest feelings with you and you will hear them and help them work through it. You don’t need to be scared with them, you just need to say, “It’s okay to feel scared, let’s work out how you can feel safer.” They will often mirror your feelings so you need to stay calm about these things so that they can mirror that response.

Teachable moments

One of the most important things is to be across these topics

if your kids need to talk about them. Do your own research through credible sources. You can use these discussions to see how to help people locally who connect with the concept. You can learn about another country and find places on maps. These news stories can be great opportunities to open conversation about new ways of looking at the world; just tread carefully and consider all the former points when doing it. Also please tell your child’s teacher if your child is really chatty about this issue and remind your child that other children do not need to talk about it with them as the other children may get scared or worried. It is best for them to seek out an adult when talking about such topics.

Info drawn from and

Penguins Room Feature – What we did in Term 4

Jan 14, 2015   //   by jhaynes   //   Articles, Blog  //  No Comments

The focus for English this term has been fables, and the Penguins (grades 1-3) worked together to write a class fable about a cat and a fish. The moral of the story was “respect people’s differences, we all have our own special qualities”. The cat learned a valuable lesson!

During Week 6, the class all completed MTS Maths testing, both a written test and a mental computation test. Teachers Richelle and Caroline were really impressed with the class’s general attitude toward the test. There was very little stress and most were just happy to give it their best shot. During the test and after Richelle checked in with the class to ask how they felt. She was pleasantly surprised to receive replies such as, “calm, relaxed and proud”. Results were shared only with the couple of children who asked. Since the test the children have been working on 2D and 3D shapes and their features.

In week 7 the Bunnings team visited to help start the regeneration of the slope between the hall and the Penguin’s classroom. The area has been tidied up and some of the shale chipped out which exposed more of the stairs. The class thought of it as an archaeological find! They also potted some large golden bromeliads that were donated. The corner closest to the room had some soil added and the class helped with the planting of some flowering plants. The Penguins have been working to add some little retaining rock ledges to slow the water rate and reduce the soil from washing away. There are plans to shift some of the mulch from the car park to the corner to help with water retention and weed control.

Over the term the Penguins have been learning about Egypt and constructing a museum. Some artifacts that have been uncovered include Ancient Egyptian profile artwork, reed boats, precious jewelled collars and even some clay Ushabtis. At the end of the week the study of Egypt culminated in a Festival, where the Penguins shared Egyptian meals and opened the museum to the school community. The children also looked forward to performing their class play for the school community. The three-act play spanned Tutankhamen’s life and death, and Carter’s subsequent discovery of the boy-king’s tomb. It was an excellent production!


Would you catch a bus to BIS?

Nov 7, 2014   //   by jhaynes   //   Articles, Blog  //  No Comments

We have been working on connecting with the wider Brisbane community as we know that many of our subscribers are from across Brisbane. We are also aware that the location of BIS can sometimes be prohibitive. Whilst it’s lovely being situated in a semi rural area, it is also difficult for non western suburbs people to get here. We have heard many people say that if only they didn’t have to do the trek through the city during peak hour then BIS would be their school of choice.

We have listened and are investigating a solution: A BIS bus.

The bus would be subsidised by the school but it would cost approximately $4/day for a child to travel a return journey to BIS. We are looking at a route that would take in a few pick-up points from the Southside to BIS.

Possible pick up points would be: Yeronga (for Graceville and Annerley), Hill End (for West End), Paddington and Indooroopilly. To make this idea become a reality we need to gather levels of interest so please follow this link to lodge your intention.

school bus


Self Directed Learning – What does this really mean in a primary school setting?

Sep 26, 2014   //   by bisadmin   //   Events  //  No Comments

Explore the nature of Self Directed Learning through the prism of developmental theory and your own experience. This lecture and little bit of self exploration looks at how developmental theory and social and emotional learning interlock in the process of developing self direction in the unfolding human being that is your child. Jen Haynes – BIS Principal is the presenter



When : May 13 @  6:00pm – 7:30pm

Where : Brisbane Independent School – 2447 Moggil Rd Pullenvale


Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award

Sep 8, 2014   //   by jhaynes   //   Blog  //  No Comments

BIStopia has been awarded a Commonwealth Bank Financial Literacy award of $10,000. These awards celebrate the achievement of BIStopia as a learning experience by providing funds to be spent as the school sees fit to enhance the program.

Principal Jen Haynes was proud to accept the award on behalf of current and past staff members who have helped shape BIStopia into the amazing, immersive experience it is. She said, “We will be using this money to expand the existing program so that we can invite students from other schools to visit and enhance their financial literacy skills.” The school is also documenting the program so that other educators can run similar programs in their school. Part of the $10 000 will be spent on a range of resources to enhance the financial literacy program, including international currency collections and toys for the younger years that focus on the role of community in managing an economy.

Term 2 is all about BIStopia: a deep and intense exploration of how economies and communities work. The students investigate the role of the individual, the community and wider systems like the financial system. Students play with rates of exchange and taxation as well as the postal system, health system and parliamentary system. BIStopia culminates with the BISmark floated as a currency while political parties vie for votes. It is a busy time, with normal study paused for a week as students set up businesses. In addition the younger students (Big Cats) create a hospital and the middle group (Penguins) set up a post office. The older students (Dolphins) have their hands full running a bank and forming government.

The learning that students engage in over the term is rich with depth and full of real experiences that enable them to find purpose in learning about history, science, English and math.

Keep your eye out for BIStopia in 2015 during term 2, we love having visitors come to visit.

Pet Day

Jul 28, 2014   //   by jhaynes   //   Blog, Open Day 2015  //  No Comments

Term 1 is a focus upon the self, how we understand ourselves and connect to others. Pet Day and Toy day are key parts of this as they allow the children to express themselves but also connect with their classmates. The development of the individual and supporting them in developing the ways that they can share themselves safely with others is a core part of our tripartite curriculum.

This year, with your increased numbers we had to change the format a bit and have our presentation in class rather than as a whole school. Students without pets bought in soft toys or photos and everyone got to have a hold or a cuddle of each other’s pets. Oli’s snake was one of the highlights, Mesmo’s cuddles were a little too scary for Jen the Principal who spent the day with the snake’s cage behind her desk. “I am quite scared of snakes but I had to stroke Mesmo because she just means so much to Oli, but I am really glad she has gone home.”

Focus days are an important part of life at BIS and we love having special days like Toy Day, Bike Day and Pyjama Day. Bike day is such an important event that the State Government has given us $1200 to spend on signage and transport training materials. By listening to the kid’s passions and interests we try and balance the practical need to get through a range of Federal Curriculum outcomes with those of the student’s and the BIS community.

The BIS community welcomes the Goey family into the fold

Jul 28, 2014   //   by jhaynes   //   Blog, Open Day 2015  //  No Comments

Up until early this year the Goey family (Grace, Ronan and parents Kelly and Paul) lived in a wonderful community in Toowong, where the children freely played in the street with neighbouring children. Kelly and Paul felt incredibly lucky to have found a street with like-minded folk with young kids of their own. Like many BIS parents, the Goeys have juggled family aspirations with significant career demands (Paul lends his construction expertise on a fly-in fly-out basis out in the Pilbara in Western Australia and Kelly runs a busy Spring Hill cafe with her sister). The Goeys had an open mind when planning for Grace and Ronan’s education and visited BIS several years ago, ultimately opting to enrol in the local state school.




Says Kelly, “The year was incredibly tough for all of us—I watched my little girl’s confidence in her own brain and ability erode, and in hindsight, my own confidence as a parent was diminished also. We visited speech therapists, podiatrists and occupational therapists, with recommendations of more specialists, and endured telephone calls throughout the year from the guidance counsellor asking what we were doing about Grace. I dreaded drop off and pick up and steadily avoided eye contact with her teacher for fear of yet more negative feedback… and then I finally remembered what was important to me and my family.”
Kelly’s story is similar to many BIS families.
Principal Jen Haynes says, “Sadly, the Goeys’ story is quite common. The State School system has made a lot of progress in recent years and it certainly works for a lot of kids but we do get a good deal of interest from families looking for a framework that allows children to be individuals, that doesn’t try to put them in lock-step formation, and that is more attentive to the unique quirks and learning pathways that all children have.”
For Kelly, the first day at BIS was like coming home. She says, “I felt so relaxed and excited for the kids, saw the spark of recognition amongst the parents. We want them to flourish in their wonderful discovery of self, that we want them to be supported to embrace all that they are… including the tricky stuff!  It was in such contrast to the first day at Prep last year, as we put Grace into her too-big uniform and chunky no-climbing-in-these shoes, dutifully restrained her hair and joined the group of parents entering the classroom all looking as scared as if it was our first day of school all over again.”
Kelly has watched Grace slowly settling into herself at BIS and letting go of the stress. She is grateful that Roman has the benefit of knowing no different, having started Prep at BIS. And Kelly herself is slowly settling back into herself and letting go of the stress. “We made the decision over Christmas to move closer to the school and so, left our beloved community and rented out our house in Toowong. I really didn’t know how all of that was going to feel… but as with a decision that is right the whole move to BIS has just kept feeling more right as the weeks roll on. Last Friday morning, over breakfast Grace was busying herself with something, when we got to the car she showed me the “Best Teacher In The World” badge she made for Tim.”
Kelly advises parents sending their kids to Prep at other schools to trust themselves and to ask questions and be proactive. “If you can develop a relationship with your child’s teacher that will allow some space for your child, then do it.  If you can’t, seek an alternative. You will never regret putting your child first.”


Jul 28, 2014   //   by jhaynes   //   Blog, Open Day 2015  //  No Comments

After twenty years of being a teensy weensy school 2014 has swollen to a marvellous 59 students. To support this increase (we are aiming for 75 by 2017) we have increased our staffing so that we have a teacher aide in each classroom. This means that our teaching and learning has even more depth for our students as there are some great opportunities for the multi-age groups to both be supported and extended as needed. As part of this we would like to welcome some staff:

Richelle Robertson – Richelle comes to us with many years of teaching experience in varied settings around Qld within the state system. She has jumped into the BIS system with enthusiasm after volunteering last year for a day per week. Richelle is working with the Penguins.

Caroline Gray – Caroline has come all the way form England to work at BIS. She found us last year and saw in BIS her dream school. After an enormous amount of passion and trust she moved herself and her daughter to Brisbane in a two week period to start working here on the first day of school. She is the teacher aide for the Penguins.

Andrew Rowlands – Andrew has had a varied career in the service industries but realised, on becoming a Dad that working with kids was his calling and has started studying education. He has his own small children but seems to have limitless patience as he is always so calm with the BIG cats (and with Tim) who he works with.

Kay Ward – With years of teaching under her belt, we are very lucky to have Kay join our community as a teacher aide. Her experience gives her the perfect insights to be working with the Dolphin crew alongside Linda (who started teaching last year).

Kirsten Hartel – a new graduate with lots of enthusiasm Kirsten is teaching Spanish on Mondays and sharing with Linda teaching the Dolphins on Thursday and Friday. Kirsten has her German upbringing and her love of Spanish to keep our linguistically interested kids on their toes.

Welcome to you all!


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