Students take innovative new centre to heart

New learning spaces at Our Lady of Mercy College Burraneer are continuing to inspire students’ spirits and minds, and to support programs that provide academic challenge and authentic learning opportunities to students at the Years 7 to 10 school.

The Catherine McAuley Centre will officially open with a blessing ceremony on March 9 during Catholic Schools Week, celebrated across Sydney with the theme ‘Inspiring spirits and minds’.

The building features an eco-friendly, energy-efficient design and includes three new Science labs, four technology spaces, a Design and Technology area with a workshop for Woodwork, Textiles and Food Technology rooms and another for Industrial Technology and Multimedia subjects. A general learning area that can expand to become a large open space with flexible soft furnishings has become an inviting place for students to collaborate, reflect and engage in learning.

“The Catherine McAuley Centre is the heart of the College,” said Principal Gilda Pussich.

“It has quite an innovative design that puts good teaching practice front and centre of the learning within the school. The learning spaces are very open and flexible and have a beautiful aesthetic. The students have really gravitated to the spaces. You can hear them talking about their learning and they’re excited about coming to class.”

Ms Pussich said committed teachers who give of their time to tutor students in co-curricular programs including SASH (Stay After School Homework) on Tuesdays and Thursdays and MAL (Maths at Lunch) added to the school’s strong learning culture.

The students have really gravitated to the spaces.

– Gilda Pussich

The school also offers the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program, and all Year 7 students take part in project-based learning program LAUNCH (Learning Authentically, Nurturing Challenge) which adopted a Science, Maths and Technology focus last year. The project is supported by a visit to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), where students engage with a female scientist to learn more about their work. It also includes and an afternoon showcase for parents to see their daughters’ work.

“It’s all about breaking the barriers between what girls do and what girls are traditionally expected to do,” Ms Pussich said. “Part of the building of a space that has science and technology – is that it sends a message that they are extremely important to us within girls’ education.”

The College’s ‘Philosophy by the Bay’ elective is also going strong three years after it was introduced, with many students seeing the critical thinking it develops as a crucial skill set for their final two years of high school. The elective was developed in 2015 for Year 9 students by gifted education facilitator and teacher Kerrie Ramsay to explicitly teach critical thinking skills, and is endorsed by the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES).

“The girls are really embracing the course,” Ms Pussich said. “Philosophy itself is designed to extend your mind, and we went our girls to be deep thinkers. This is a skill that is critical to learning at all stages.

“There is unequivocal evidence that the quality of teaching is the most significant factor affecting student outcomes. Strengthening our learning culture is always a central focus at OLMC.”

This academic focus is balanced by students strong involvement in social justice initiatives through the school’s Mercy Action Group, visits to Stella Maris aged care centre in Cronulla, and support for Caritas and St Vincent De Paul appeals.

Catholic Schools Week is on March 5 to 11. Sydney Catholic Schools are celebrating with the theme ‘Inspiring spirits and minds’.

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