Friday 12 June 2015

Collaborative and Exploratory Learning

In the aftermath of examinations, the boys in Year 10 are pursuing a Project Based Learning (PBL) initiative – a concept that is being explored in contemporary learning environments in schools and universities across the world. Launched by Fr Jeremy Clarke SJ, who was involved in PBL learning when teaching at Boston University in Massachusetts, the project is asking the boys to select, research, analyse, interpret and synthesise information using a process of heuristic, collaborative, and exploratory learning. Designed to promote problem solving skills, research, an interface of technology and traditional epistemologies, the chosen topic is challenging and demanding:

What are the greatest challenges facing humanity and what alternative solutions exist?

Drawing on the big issues of our time such as sustainability, education, health care and poverty, the boys are asked to select a transdisciplinary project, research the nuances that create and sustain it, and, seek creative responses through collaboration and solution focussed interaction. Parents who are interested in the methodology and outcomes may like to view an article published in the Boston Globe associated with Fr Jeremy’s class at Boston University.

Complementary elements of the religious dimension of school life featured prominently during the week:

  • Service activities saw students, parents and teachers from Southwell House tending the St Vincent de Paul breakfast van in Prince Alfred Park last Sunday. Over 100 local residents – some who have rudimentary accommodation and others who are homeless, enjoyed a warm breakfast against the backdrop of a cold and crisp morning.
  • At the same time, 120 students in Year 7 and 8 gathered at the College to support the Red Shield Door Knock appeal. A few hours later, with some tired feet but a glow in their heart, the boys handed over $5,591.05 in support of causes that address the marginalised and disadvantaged in Sydney.
  • Students in Year 9 participated in a Reflection Day during the week, amid the splendour of autumn in one of most beautiful cities in the world. Working with Year 11 group leaders, the boys explored the theme Companions on a Journey, countenancing the importance of discipleship based upon gospel teaching, and how that is lived out in the contemporary world. Time was also devoted towards dealing with adversity; analysing the ‘storms’ that sometimes appear in community and family life, and how resilience and prayer can be a catalyst to strength, hope and optimism.
  • Members of the Cana Community joined the College in the Gartlan to celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart at a whole school mass. At the conclusion of mass, one of the residents spoke with enormous courage about her life of adversity and hardship, but more importantly, how she had found a deep sense of community and belonging through Cana.

These activities reside at the heartland of the school’s religious and social justice mission and speak to a spirituality that is centuries old.

The language of music came to life on Wednesday evening in Ramsay Hall with Riverview in Concert. A captivating range of ensembles and quartets, including saxophone, percussion, string, guitar and wind, accompanied rock bands, choirs (both tenor and bass), stage bands and orchestra to showcase the musical talents of the boys. While each and every item combined to produce an outstanding evening of entertainment, the thunderous theatrics of the drumline rounded off a performance schedule that will remain in the memory of the many who were so fortunate to attend and witness the calibre of instrumentation and stagecraft.

Indicative of the diverse pursuits of the boys, the Coonabarabran Horse Expo gave a number of boarders the opportunity to showcase their horsemanship and equestrian skills. Between polo cross, show jumping, eventing, dressage, horse ball and team penning, the boys did themselves and their school proud, particularly against some of the state’s toughest competition. Adverse weather was encountered along the way as driving rain made conditions difficult, soaking parents, boys and their horses. To quote from an email that I received in the aftermath of the Expo:

“ … the boys were wonderful ambassadors of the school, both in the saddle and out. What we lacked in experience we made up for in courage, rising to the challenge of all events”.

Congratulations are extended to the boys and many thanks to the parents who supported the event through some challenging weather. Special thanks are reserved for the wonderful Angy Newey who made the long trip to witness the boys’ talent and showmanship.

Last week in the city Yalari hosted their annual dinner that celebrated the success of Indigenous students in schools across Australia. Riverview has a number of Yalari boys who acted as fine ambassadors of the College under a very public spotlight. Trey Petterson formally welcomed all of the guests to the function while other boys had positions of prominence on the night, particularly Ali Crawshaw Tomlins whose expertise on the didgeridoo was widely acclaimed and the Riverview dancing troupe, which performed with enormous solemnity, conviction and energy. So central to the mission of the College, it was inspiring to see so many aspirational Indigenous students enthusiastically pursuing gainful futures through the Yalari program. Many thanks are extended to Mr Waverley Stanley who works so closely with the College to assist the boys in their education and development.

Each month in the Mushan residence, the Year 12 boys who turn 18 years of age in the boarding house celebrate their birthdays with a massive T-Bone steak, some delectable salads and a healthy spirit of community. Because the boys are a long way from home, an extra effort is made at the College to commemorate this significant milestone. Thanks to the hospitality of Neil and Melissa, many of the associated traditions are invoked including the mandatory cake, candles, a rendition of Happy Birthday, presents from home along with the richness of celebration are synonymous with the occasion. And, with their parents’ permission the boys are allowed to have a commemorative beer – just one, but a moment that recognises their coming of age and their status as an adult before the law. It is a pleasure for Fr Ross, Mr Tom Reimer and I to attend these functions for in many ways they speak to the essence of community and in circumstances where the boys’ families are not able to be with them due to the distances that are involved.

Best wishes for the final week of term.

Dr Paul Hine