Monday, February 9, 2015

The WHY of the bottle bivy #28daysofwriting day 9

Three years on and I get tweets about the bottle bivy – WOW! Thanks so much to Carol Lynch @edLeadCarol and Sharon Honeyfield @NakiGirl2013.

This got me thinking it was time to spend 28 minutes reflecting on the journey of the bottle bivy. So, day 9 of the #28daysofwriting challenge and hear goes a reflection on the journey.

Early on in 2012 Mark Herring from Myross Bush posting a photo of a bottle bivy from an American learning centre. 

I immediately responded thinking of the power of this as a student created learning space. 2012 is the realisation of a dream for me, returning to the class after a year’s study leave, truly allowing the learners agency and ownership of learning spaces and tasks.

I responded to Mark’s tweet and sent the challenge to other educators on twitter to join me on the journey as our classes created bottle bivys, and so the journey began. I am aware of Mark at Myross, Stephanie at Tawa intermediate, and Janine at Silverstream who took up the challenge. WOW what a journey. 

You may like to check out my edtalk Creating Learning Spaces or check out our CELEBRATING THE MAGIC OF THE BOTTLE BIVY BUILD AT ST MARY'S... clip to enjoy the journey. 

Earlier still you may like to view my edtalk as I explored Student Designed Learning Spaces.

What began as a dream, eventuated into one of the most powerful ‘learning by doing’ experiences I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. Ownership of the journey was firmly with the students who were responsible for:
· Collecting bottles from home and local cafes
· Cleaning the bottles
· Bundling the bottles in tens and hanging
· Creating the base
· Gluing the bottles in place with hot glue
· Encouraging whanau support
· Persevering when the gluing failed and the bottle bivy collapsed more than once
· Dreaming a bigger, better bivy
· Taping 800+ bottles in place to create the most amazing learning space ever
· Sharing the journey on our class blog
· Hosting other learners in our space during and after the build
· Turning the bivy into a planetarium
· Enjoying the space
· Deconstructing the space
· Recycling all 800+ milk bottles into doggy doo scoops and the remainder to the recycle centre

The journey took months, and the memories live on. Only yesterday was I talking to a learner, who is now year nine, about the great journey it was. Owning the journey and learning by doing, were crucial to the success of this journey. Also crucial was dreaming big. The space held all 27 of us at a real squash, but comfortable seated up to ten on beanbag in the bivy. 

WHO – an amazing class of year 5/6 learners
WHY – because we could and we believed it would be a great learning space
WHAT – construction of a bottle bivy learning space
HOW – perseverance, determination, equipment 

Would I do it again? YES in a heartbeat. It was a most MAGICAL journey to be a part of. 

So thank you very much for reviving this journey for me. 

My challenge to you all – dream big, create amazing learning spaces and learn by doing!


  1. I loved the bottle bivvy but hated at the same time. At one stage I wondered if the thing would ever get the thing finished. The collapse also lead to some great learning conversations around what happens to buildings when foundations are loose. Not for the faint hearted... but then nothing in teaching ever is.

    Thanks so much for the memories Anne.

    1. Oh Stephanie, you captured it so beautifully. We too had a love hate relationship with our bivy. I will never forget the morning Miss 9 suggested that I had collapsed the bottle bivy to give inspiration for writing.... It was such a wonderful experience and a great opportunity to experience perseverance, resilience, and grit and determination. It was also a fabulous experience to involve the whole school in our journey visiting the space. Indeed, so many great memories!
      Anne K

  2. Thanks so much Anne. This is a perfect example of how we need to re- situate ourselves as teachers I think. I will be using the bottle bivvy to challenge the school leaders that I work with.

    1. Hi Carol, I am so grateful to you for the inspiration to reflect again on the journey! It really was an incredible growing experience for us all. Imagine how it could be if educators empower learners to create spaces... Would love to see examples shared all over twitter.
      Anne K

  3. Love the bottle bivy! What did you make the structure out of?

    1. HI Bronwyn, I am hoping this tags you and sends you the response directly!
      Thanks for taking the time to visit and read.
      Our first couple of efforts fell down. We were very fortunate to have a Dad in the class who worked for Ulrich Aluminium. He constructed the eight sided, Octagon framework and sponsored industrial double sided tape to make the entire thing possible.
      We were extremely grateful.
      I have seen other classes create with hot glue, but in Mosgiel in the winter, the glue became brittle and they snapped apart all the time.
      It was an incredible journey to be a part of and 4 years on learners still see me up the street and talk about the bottle bivy.
      Are you keen to make one?
      I would love to skype you and your class and talk about it if you would like.
      Anne Kenneally