Clancy Catholic College has taken a personalised approach to learning to another level with the Newman Project.
The program, now in its third year at the school in West Hoxton, gives teachers the flexibility to set different tasks for gifted students in Years 7 to 9 so they remain challenged and engaged in the classroom.
Newman student have dug artefacts from a section of their grounds in a recreated ‘archaeological dig’ for History, created anti-drug campaigns in a medium of their choice in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE), and hosted panel discussions for parents to see the depth of their learning.
“Newman gives parents the opportunity to keep their children in a Catholic school and maximise their academic potential so that they don’t feel they have to go to a selective school in order to get that great academic growth,” Principal Iris Nastasi said.
“There is less teacher instruction from the front of the classroom and more collaboration around forming ideas.
“The teacher will group the students according to their particular strengths and allocate roles in that group. If that is done really well you develop independent learners and independent thinkers. A quiet classroom is not necessarily a productive classroom. Healthy noise is often a good sign that there’s energy and creative work happening.”
Year 8 Newman students Phillip Gigliotti, Jennifer Azzi, and their peers took 15 minutes to learn theory on the circulatory system that would take one week in a regular Science class.
“If our teacher did that theory over three days our class would switch off,” Jennifer said.
When exploring Medieval Europe’s impact on present day society for Year 7 History, Jessica said Newman students were encouraged to create an iBook rather than write an essay.
“We get opportunities like that for almost all of our subjects,” Phillip said.
“Most are designed for Newman so we can extend ourselves but open to the entire grade.
“The areas we get to extend ourselves with still incorporate the curriculum but they’re things we’re going to find interesting so we learn more.”
Year 9 student Ryan Mortlock said Newman classes were different to others where students were bound to study the same content at the same rate.
“In other classes you have to stick exactly to the curriculum and everyone learns the exact same thing at the exact same rate, whereas if we already know half the syllabus we’re not going to spend the same amount of time doing a week’s worth of work,” he said.
“We did a symposium night where we picked subjects we had excelled at and became teachers for 25 minutes. I was really good at music so we got the school Beethoven and a couple of other really strong music kids and we used the garage band app on the iPads to show the parents how music can convey mood.”
The College is also an Apple Distinguished School for Education, Leadership and Innovation, a title it has held for the past three years. Students will use their MacBooks to create QR codes for the school’s open day. When parents approach and scan the two-dimensional barcodes on each building with their smartphone, they will be presented with a different set of five fast facts about the College.
“There are four main principles in our school’s Teaching and Learning Mission with the underlying goal being to educate our students beyond the school gates,” Ms Nastasi said.
“All of our teachers understand that what we teach our students today, will ultimately prepare them for high levels of success in the future.”