This was the answer; the most wonderful answer … ”
— Alison Cheater, Elmhurst Primary
It’s taken almost a year of planning, but a new joint program addressing shortfalls in specialist subjects is already paying dividends for the Pyrenees Cluster.
The “Full STEAM Ahead” project aims to foster improved student outcomes in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, simply by tapping into the talent of local residents.
Alison Cheater, who is Principal at Elmhurst Primary, said the concept took a bit of research but was “absolutely worth it”.
“Together our schools identified key areas where we were falling short in our curriculum and they were our specialist areas because we simply don’t have the funding to employ, for example, a specialist music teacher,” she said.
“And so, we got together and discussed ways to work around our funding issues and this was the answer; the most wonderful answer.
“It took time and research, but we soon realised the depth of talent in our local community and their willingness to come in and offer their skills to help teach our children.”
The schools are scheduled to meet five times per term, with a broad range of lessons involving local artists, musicians and science enthusiasts, such as charcoal painting, musical drumming and even the scientific application of historic concepts, like Enigma Code.
Each term a different school plays host to the sessions and at each session students rotate through three subject areas.
Trawalla Primary Principal, Kate Morcombe, said the concept was already producing results back in the classroom.
“We’ve already seen an improvement in our students’ recount-writing,” she said.
“They’ve gone back to school and have been able to write the most wonderful sentences about their experience, I guess because it has given them such a rich topic to discuss and, so, they’re thriving.”
Ms Morcombe said the cluster concept was providing an enriched educational experience for all involved.
“In the first session we were able to do some really wizz-bang science experiments and the kids were just in awe,” she said.
“And that’s not an easy achievement; getting kids to be genuinely engaged in science is a challenge for all schools.”
The Pyrenees Cluster comprises seven small schools: Ampitheatre, Elmhurst, Landsborough, Moonambel, Natte Yallock, Navarre and Trawalla, with a combined enrolment of less than seventy students.
The STEAM concept builds on their dynamic cluster relationship of the past six years, in which the schools have cross-employed teaching and administrative staff, merged school camps and even adopted a cluster Grade Six T-Shirt.
Country Education Partnership (CEP) Project Officer Kate Roache said she hoped the STEAM concept would inspire other clusters to instigate similar projects.
“What struck me most was the ease with which the students socialised and learnt together, it was very evident that the cluster relationship was entrenched in their learning,” she said.
“There was a strong sense of purpose regarding how the day would be spent together and everybody was on-board.”