Last week 18 enthusiastic Lutheran educators from Victoria, South Australia and Queensland came together in Melbourne to engage on the last Melbourne Learning tour of the year.
The itinerary included spending 3 hours with Peter Ellis, the Principal of Templestowe College, recently named the Australian Government Secondary School of the year. Peter spoke to us about how they are meeting the needs of a diverse population of students through a range of truly agentic practices. One such practice is their Student Employability Program. In this program students are reimbursed at Macca’s award rate for completing certain tasks in the College. The roles range from emptying the school bins each afternoon to writing up subject outlines for staff, they also manage the College social media, maintain the website currency, and perform admin duties in the library and the student hub. Students also have the opportunity to influence the subjects that are offered by obtaining signatures from fellow students giving their support. Our student guide for the day, Bonnie, had been successful in getting Unit 3 and 4 Ancient History offered this year. The school actively seeks educators that have some kind of industry experience that will help them take learning in the direction of the real world.
Our next experience was Port Melbourne Secondary College. This is a new school that opened in 2022 with year 7’s and are extending with each year towards VCE. This school has been built in Melbourne’s new technology precinct and the Principal Anne is working hard to develop partnerships with some of the innovative industry that operate in the vicinity. There is a strong focus on Design Thinking that is incorporated into daily learning across subjects so that students are prepared to engage in design sprint weeks where industry professionals come in and pitch authentic problems that they are currently trying to solve. The students work in teams to design and prototype solutions that are pitched back to the professional mentors at the end of the sprint.
Our next day was spent at Newmark Primary. Principal of the school, Amanda Tawahai, passionately shared the journey that this remarkable independent primary school has been on since they opened their doors 8 years ago. At Newmark the whole community is passionate about learning having purpose and meaning. Students operate in a porous atmosphere where they engage with the community on a daily basis. Children partner with organisations to design products and services for community, they borrow books from the local public library, they use the public park for break times and the sports program uses local organisations such as the skate ramp for skateboarding and the yacht club for sailing lessons. Instead of traditional specialist teachers they have chosen to employ a full time Artist in residence and Tinker (carpenter) in residence who work alongside cohort educators to support learners with their projects and product design. The students also learn a foreign language through digital technology application. Amanda, the principal, works tirelessly with her dedicated team to ensure that all project ventures launch into the community so that learners can understand that their impact matters.
After Newmark we engaged with a session at Hayball Architects. They shared two different Senior Schooling projects with us and focused on the importance of a strong educational brief to drive what learning spaces look like. It was remarkable how this theme had been so strongly echoed in our school visits prior to this. The team at Hayball then invited our professional expertise to comment on an upcoming project to reimagine what schooling could look like if it was embedded within a community that also had early childhood and aged care and range of community services on site. The discussion and ideating was enthusiastic and passionate and the feedback from the Hayball team was that they were genuinely blown away by the group’s understanding of the complexity and their innovative response to the questions posed. Our educators left that session feeling that they were able to apply all of the learning and insight from the tour thus far. It was a remarkable session.
Our final immersion in this 3 day professional learning experience was at Princes Hill Primary School. This school also employs professionals in residence to engage in many of the rich learning experiences that this school is known for. Currently they have an artist, musician and author in residence. The pedagogical approach in this school is a collective inquiry method that the Principal Esme developed in her PHD studies. Educators introduce a number of carefully developed provocations in Term 1 and then engage with, observe and document student interest and learning to see where the inquiry might go. They do this with a deep understanding of the curriculum needs and are careful to authentically guide the students into appropriate pathways for which there is genuine interest and enthusiasm. One inquiry might keep evolving across a semester or even the year, while others will come to a natural close more quickly. Classes in the same year level are also free to take their inquiry in completely different directions after beginning with the same provocations. It is quite remarkable to speak with the educators who light up when they talk about the learning that is taking place and are completely at ease with the idea that the inquiry is an evolving pathway that will naturally develop.
A stand out theme from all of the schools was how they are engaging with industry professionals to motivate, engage and apply learning not just for the children and young adults learners in their schools but also for the educators in classrooms. Each principal spoke about the benefit of having professionals on the team who have expertise, passions and skill sets that can complement the educators in bringing projects to life in the community.
Learning Leader: Innovation