Our approaches to learning and our curriculum are constantly evolving at the Alice Smith School. They are influenced by research, evidence around effective learning, by what we observe within our students as they learn and also by our collective purpose; spark courageous exploration to inspire a better world.
Additionally, we must consider what the purpose of education is when making decisions about what and how to learn. We want our students to be autonomous and self-regulating, to be able to make informed choices and not be controlled by the wishes of others. We want our students to be shapers of their own learning in collaboration with our educators, and ultimately, to be shapers of their futures.
The Alice Smith School Primary Team are now making plans to evolve our curriculum further with the introduction of concept-based learning; a move which is very much aligned with our purpose. This will provide even greater learning depth for our students, deeper thinking and learning transfer.
In preparation for a move to concept-based learning, Shaun Rushton and Alexis Farrell, two of our Year Leaders at our Primary Campus visited Larrakeyah Primary School, Darwin, Australia. This is a leading school in terms of it’s approaches to learning and preparing its students to be shapers of the future.
Larrakeyah was shortlisted for the International School Awards for the category ‘Pathway to Continued and University Education Award’ for their QUEST program. The purpose of the visit was to learn more about this programme, as well as their approaches to learning.
QUEST runs in addition to the school’s day-to-day curriculum and is designed to meet the needs of children in the 21st Century. It gives children in Year 5 and 6 a chance to work with industry professionals, collaborate effectively with their peers and present their work to the school community. We witnessed one group create a restaurant from scratch, including creation of their own marketing, menu and actually cooking the food themselves. We also had the chance to speak to students who had created their own talk show; this group had initially visited a local TV station and spoken to industry professionals about how shows like this are developed. Another interesting project was sustainable fishing in the Northern Territories, which also touched on the growing number of crocodiles in the area and what could be done about it. The programme culminated in the QUEST Expo, where parents, staff and students are invited to learn more about each of the projects.
“There was even a surprise visit from the local media, who featured the Expo on national breakfast television! There was a real energy around the school and we were both incredibly impressed with how the children presented their work.”, Shaun commented.
The Larrakeyah school staff have also created a similar programme to QUEST for Years 1 to 4: the Aspire programme. Aspire brings together the learning opportunities from STEAM and QUEST using objectives from the curriculum. The children are given an inquiry question to explore over a number of weeks. Industry professionals are involved to support the children’s knowledge and learning and the children investigate using the design thinking model. The learning is planned to incorporate many areas of the curriculum and to enable the children to develop their skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. As with QUEST, at the end of the Aspire programme the children present their learning at an Expo which is attended by parents and the industry professionals who have been involved. A wonderful edible garden is the result of this learning that had been created during the Aspire programme in Year 1.
Another area that Larrakeyah prides itself on is its commitment to the teaching of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). Projects such as the 'Bat Scram' Robotics Project have not only equipped their students with valuable skills in renewable technologies and energies, but also expanded their understanding of how robotics can contribute to solving environmental issues. Staff at Larrakeyah believe that experiences like this prepare their students to become responsible citizens and leaders.
Overall, the visit was a huge success and our Alice Smith Primary educators were privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such skillful educators who are passionate about preparing children for the 21st Century.
“It was fascinating to hear about the journey they have gone on as a school and the ideas and pedagogies that have shaped this journey. This will support the ongoing work and planning currently taking place to shape the future for our learners at Alice Smith.” Shaun (Year 6 Team Leader), Alexis (Year 1 Team Leader)
Both Alexis and Shaun will use reflections from this visit to support our ongoing curriculum journey and we are very excited to continue deepening learning experiences for our students and educators along the way.