Recently we held the first contemporary learning tour in Adelaide. It was well attended with 35 people from across all three regions coming together in Adelaide for the event.
We began the tour with an immersion at Redeemer Lutheran School in Nuriootpa. Redeemer is a primary school and has developed a village learning philosophy, grounded upon multi-age learners working with a team of educators in innovative learning environments. Redeemer is a wonderful example in our system of a school who has dedicated resources to send staff on learning tours consistently from 2019 until now. These educators have cherry picked what works for them from many of the schools we visit on tours to inform the incredibly beautiful and effective whole school physical space redevelopment and importantly to develop a co-teaching and co-learning practice that brings their vision to life.
The next school on the itinerary was Annesley Junior School. This school was closed as a P-12 Girls school and has re-opened 10 years ago as an ELC and Primary Co-Ed school. They have a strong focus on developing skills, strengths and passions to create belonging and impact. Some of the contemporary and innovative practice that we heard about was their commitment to creating Assessment Capable Learners and how educators and students work together to track progress against learning goals. It was also fascinating to hear about Quest Mondays, a social enterprise program that involves every child in the school. We also heard about their commitment to students being out in the community with each year level spending one day per week out of the school grounds. Instead of visiting a place one time on an excursion the Year 3 students are visiting the Adelaide Zoo every Tuesday this term, to allow them to develop deep inquiry and investigation. The Year 5 students are doing a physical endurance challenge and are spending one day a week on activities such as hiking in the Adelaide Hills and long distance mountain bike riding.
The third school we visited was Adelaide Botanic High School. They have split their subjects into transdisciplinary groups of STEM, Lifestyles, Global Perspectives and Arts. The students all engage in interest based studio session on Wednesdays where they are working on projects that are connected into the community and partnering with local organisations to create impact. The school is part of the New metrics of Success National project which is working to develop Senior Secondary school post ATAR and are focused on developed a jagged profile for students based on skills and experience. Another interesting aspect of the school is that students start at 9:30am each day responding to research that shows adolescents benefit from a later start in the morning, this later start allows staff to meet for one hour of planning and professional learning in teams each morning of the week and the day finishes at 4pm for all students and staff. The High School is housed in an impressive multi-storey building right in the heart of Adelaide’s city centre.
The final school on the tour was just down the road from where we stayed on Hindley St. Deliberately located in one of Adelaide’s grittiest areas YouThink is a Senior Secondary special provision school for 18-25 year old youth to return to school to attain their SACE. The school is focused on working with young adults to analyse and develop gaps in skills that allow them to fully engage in study, work and social connection. Their program runs 50 weeks of the year and students work with staff to develop a MAP (My Awesome Plan) based on their individual MIN (motivation, interest and needs). The staff support students to work on 3 projects, 1 personal and 2 group projects. The Group projects are focused on upskilling the students in areas where there are known skills shortages and future pathways. It was a fascinating and heart warming immersion led by two incredibly passionate leaders. The final question posed to them was around one change that more traditional schools can make to support students within the current pathway offerings and school settings so they are able to graduate with a pathway the first attempt. The advice was to take one more step beyond what you are currently doing to really understand the needs of the individual young people in your school. See them as whole people, without judgement. Be the people that see them with fresh eyes and for who they truly are rather than putting expectations of who and what students should be, look like and sound like.
Throughout the tour we build in deliberate reflection, sharing and journalling opportunities for participants to process what they are seeing, hearing and feeling as they engage with new schools on tour. We held our final reflection and journalling session at MOD, Australia’s leading future focused museum, it provokes new ideas at the intersection of science, art and innovation. Well worth a visit next time you are in Adelaide. It was a wonderful tour with an incredibly engaged group of educators, as always making us proud to lead in Lutheran Education and to be partners on the journey of innovation and contemporary practice that our schools are committed to.