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St Hilda’s youngest members of generation Z – the girls in Prep to Year 6 – are embracing amazing opportunities that were unimaginable a decade ago.

St Hilda’s young learners are being ‘educationally transformed’ in that their education or the topics they seek to explore, are no longer determined by their age. For example, St Hilda’s Head of Junior School Lisa Cleverly says “Year 3 is being introduced to abstract concepts in atomic theory – complex subject matter that traditionally would form part of Year 9 or 10 science curriculums.”

“Our Year 3 atomic theory program was devised by teacher Ian Stewart, based on the notion that the minds of very young students are able to be stretched or extended to understand and appraise complex and abstract concepts,” Lisa says. She said Year 3 girls took up the challenge to use their understanding of atoms, molecules and the periodic table to examine transference of energy. They designed coffee cups using materials that would protect the user from hot beverages. In Year 4, students are busily writing code to program or control the movement of a Sphero, a mandarin-size cylindrical droid that’s battery-powered and programmable to move and light up.

“The educational transformation we are seeing in our classrooms is evident in the girls themselves,” Lisa says. “The girls are now focused on engagement with problem-solving and their own sense of creativity. We have also seen activity in the classroom change with a shift from teacher-centred to learner-adaptive and from formal delivery to more interactive environments.”

Lisa gave examples of Year 6 girls involved in coding a small drone, Year 4 students who have designed and created (using a laser cutter) a fork prototype that could assist people with hand arthritis, and teacher Dan Martinez, an Apple Distinguished Educator and mentor for the Junior School staff, who has published a course on coding Spheros on the iTunes U platform.

The importance of this ‘educational transformation’ is underscored by a current research project being undertaken with St Hilda’s Year 3 girls and Dr Carole Haeusler from the University of Southern Queensland. Dr Haeusler is gauging the effectiveness of the early introduction of complex and abstract concepts, traditionally introduced in the secondary years.

“Research to date has shown that young children are capable of understanding complex science concepts and using them to explain the composition of the everyday phenomenon,” said Dr Haeusler. “In addition, the early introduction of abstract concepts may result in more girls going on to study science in secondary and tertiary years.”

This truly is an amazing and exciting time to be young primary-age learner with incredible opportunities unimaginable to their parents or indeed to their teachers, just a decade ago.

Visit www.sthildas.qld.edu.au

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