We have all observed firsthand the rapidly changing employment landscape and can't help but wonder what jobs will be available for our children when they graduate. While we can't be sure about the detail, we know that critical skills and dispositions in thinking and collaboration will be most important for personal success in this future. Helping students to develop in these areas is a daily pursuit at BGS, but twice each year, Signature Programs in the Middle School allow these to be particularly emphasised.
During Signature Program weeks, the regular routine of six different classes each day is replaced by an immersion in experiences relevant to the real world that require a cross-disciplinary perspective. A hallmark of each of these programs is that a design thinking approach leads students through stages of immersion, synthesis, ideation and prototyping to produce solutions to the problem they are presented with. Students work in groups and are challenged to develop their collaborative skills. While teachers conduct immersion experiences and guide students through the different stages, it is the students themselves who drive their groups to find and present solutions.
Some may question – is this really school? In one room, half the Year 8 cohort listen expectantly to personal survival tales from full time BGS Outdoor Education teacher and part-time adventurer, Mr Jon Hodges. In another, Year 5 students are being told the bad news of their recent crash landing on a deserted planet. In the amphitheatre, Year 6 students animatedly discuss how many 'mollars' (the currency of the newly established Year 6 economy) they 'inherited' that morning, as they wait their turn to negotiate a risky 'minefield'. In Centenary Hall, 50 Year 7 students join the circus, while others hear the exciting news that they will be coding an app and cooking this week. By the last day, still other students have paddled constructed rafts across the School pool or made objects from recycled items.
Indeed, this really is school. Effective learning will increasingly involve experiences that don't involve sitting at a single desk or look like a traditional classroom once did. The Signature Programs are just one example, albeit a particularly extended one, of such learning. At the end of each week students often ask “can we learn this way every week?" While the answer is no, it doesn't stop the Middle School community from thoroughly enjoying each experience for as long as it lasts.
Head of Middle School Curriculum