Bridges a link to real world learning

OLOR bridge project (2)

Our Lady of the Rosary Kensington students talk about the finer points of engineering with parent Joseph Santangelo. Photo: Kitty Beale

Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary Kensington students with an aptitude for problem-solving have designed a footbridge to help their peers safely cross the road between the two sections of their school grounds.

The project was for students who are part of the Newman program for gifted students. A group of 11 students in Years 1 to 3 used the Real Engagement in Active Problem Solving [REAPS] model to design their bridges. The model gives students real-world problems to solve in order to learn and think actively within a social context.

The group first interviewed teachers to see if they could volunteer more time to help students cross the road safely and were surprised at their busy schedule.

Year 3 students Caleb Dasey and Isobel McManus, both 8, designed a footbridge made of concrete, steel and hard plastic, to answer the challenge.

“We were told to remember to keep the pedestrian crossing, that we had to label everything, and to think about the materials we used,” Isobel said. “Probably the railings are the best feature because they are 100 per cent safe and they’re easy to make with many slats in between so you can’t fall through.”

Caleb said the bridge would start at the Year 1 stairwell and end at the Year 6 curve, with a top made of hard curved plastic. He found the research stage interesting.

“The Interviews were nerve-wracking because you’re interviewing teachers at the school and you don’t know what they’re going to say back to you,” he said. “I didn’t know that they worked from 7 in the morning to 7 at night.”

The challenge drew on the engineering knowledge and experience of parent mentor, Joseph Santangelo, who is head of construction at the University of New South Wales.

“My first interlude with the program I was absolutely mesmerised,” he said. “You can see the way that these children are developing, and the way they want to be part of this world and make it a better place, in the way that they question and want to inquire.

“They have an aptitude that is beyond what I have seen before. I think nowadays with the technology that’s out there that [gifted] cohort is actually growing, because children have the ability to get into much more information.

“That for me is the most exciting bit – they want to be part of this.”




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