EMBRACING BIG IDEAS
Preparing students for the demands of life after school is integral to the learning experience at Central Coast Grammar School (CCGS), where a focus on real-world education cultivates critical and creative thinkers, independent learners, effective problem solvers and competent communicators.
“We empower our graduates to thrive in a rapidly changing world through their collaborative skills, technological competence, enterprising spirit and capacity for innovation,” says Headmaster Bill Low. “We’ve identified nine next-generation learning characteristics necessary for young people to be fully prepared for success. Developing these skills underpins everything we teach, within and beyond the classroom.”
Year 10 students recently took part in the school’s inaugural Festival of Big Ideas, which encouraged them to steer their own learning by identifying a problem in their local community and working together to develop a solution. “It was about students articulating their response to the world, then coming up with solid ideas about how they want to function in that world,” says Low. “It was next-generation learning in action, where students took the lead in their education.” Parents also get involved in the school’s learning culture. The festival was funded by an innovation grant, one of a number awarded by the Parents and Friends Association to enable pioneering teacher-generated projects.
teaching for Understanding
Two years ago, Harvard University’s Teaching for Understanding Framework was implemented across the CCGS curriculum to prioritise understanding and the application of learning. “It is this ability to understand and apply that matters, not how much we know,” says Low. “From understanding we can build knowledge.”
New approaches to learning demand new thinking around learning spaces. CCGS is heavily engaged in innovative learning environments and has invested significantly over the last 18 months in next-generation learning facilities that develop cutting-edge teaching, learning and digital literacy capacities.
“Our newest learning facilities are designed to fulfil the school’s strategic approach to learning,” says Low. “They challenge the default positions of learners and teachers. It’s quick and easy to reconfigure ergonomic furniture, spaces and digital collaboration zones, creating freedom and flexibility for student-centred learning.”
character and confidence
The emphasis is on a balanced education and a breadth of opportunity – exploring, developing and discovering what makes each student unique and how they can build their skill set to succeed in society. A non-selective school for children aged five to 18, CCGS nurtures excellence across an extensive curriculum and wide range of cocurricular opportunities beyond the classroom.
“When students, teachers and parents share the aspiration that every student will reach their academic potential, the result is impressive academic outcomes,” says Low. “But we offer so much more than academic success. Every day is an extraordinary fusion of experiences that build character and confidence. It could be sports, drama, music, dance, debating or robotics – where our senior team are current RoboCup world champions.” Most of these opportunities get underway from kindergarten, offering children the chance to explore their interests and experiment with new skills from an early age.
International programmes teach students to become global citizens. During overseas humanitarian tours, they learn leadership skills and exercise their problem-solving abilities by building houses in Cambodia or taking an active role in local community organisations. “Our exchange programme has been built in-house from the ground up,” says Low. “We offer reciprocal exchange experiences worldwide, creating deep and long-term relationships that bring the world into our school.”