The workplace is changing rapidly, becoming increasingly dynamic and complex, and schools need to adapt to meet these needs. Automation, globalisation and more flexible working arrangements are reshaping our economy and work, requiring us to future-proof our students.
To prepare for this future, schools need to provide transdisciplinary opportunities that foster the development of an innovator’s mindset. This includes experiences that encourage students to look closely, explore complexity and find opportunities for reimagining. These learning experiences empower young adults to envision the world differently and take action towards designing and creating a better future. They also foster the development of transferable skills and dispositions that our students will need now and in the future, including creativity, transdisciplinarity, design thinking, computational thinking, systems thinking and technical skills, resilience, novel and adaptive thinking, collaboration, critical thinking, communication and empathy.
Principal of Emanuel School, Andrew Watt, agrees, “We are embracing this new landscape with a re-focus on innovative technology, on programs like STEAM and on teaching lifelong learning skills. We recognise the need to adapt and innovate to suit the new work-reality, equipping our students with the skills to embrace their futures with confidence.”
Emanuel School’s emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) has resulted in a number of opportunities for students to learn and practise the skills needed to succeed in an ever-changing and technologically advanced environment. Making the most of the opportunities provided through STEAM learning offers our students a diverse range of ways to arrive at solutions and puts a further emphasis on human-centred problem solving.
As part of a class project, six Year 6 Emanuel School students took on the challenge of changing the statistics of women in STEAM fields, starting with shaping the minds of primary students at the school. Under the guidance of Emanuel School’s Primary Innovation Leader, Sophie Poisel, they researched and learnt about the United Nations Development Goals. The students then entered the Tech Girls are Superheroes competition, where they used design thinking to determine a problem in their community and develop a solution that involved a business plan, app development and connecting them with mentors in the field.
The girls designed a team of six superheroes, the STEAMA 6 (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Astronomy). Together, these heroes would fight for gender equality in leadership roles in STEAM fields. The STEAMA 6 was awarded first place in the competition, receiving perfect scores from all three judges for many of the areas examined.
“The rigour of this competition extended our students thinking beyond the curriculum and across disciplines,” says Ms Poisel. “It was wonderful to see how the students identified a real-world problem and created a context specific solution that developed the dispositions and skills they need now and in the future, such as empathy, collaboration, communication and citizenship. It was also interesting to see how an empathy-fuelled experience developed the students’ interests in technology.”
Emanuel School’s Imaginarium and Design Lab in the new Innovation Centre provide students, teachers and community members with a space to develop their capacity to find problems and the skills to develop solutions. Primary students, for example, were given the opportunity to develop the layout of the new Imaginarium and provide recommendations on how the space should be designed, equipped and used. Many of these designs are currently being built for the students to use in the room.
In Years K-6, class programs provide opportunities that foster computational thinking such as learning computer science and coding. The skills for app and web development, robotics and electronics are explored with opportunities to tinker and learn beyond the curriculum in the Imaginarium.
Year 7 and 8 students participated in Emanuel School’s first STEAM days. These two days were unique opportunities to undertake engaging and dynamic challenges that explore focused knowledge and skillsets in a project-based format. Year 7 students and expert teachers worked with Melissa Silk and Annette Mauer from STEAMpop to generate striking paper and light-based sculptures constructed using mathematical concepts around tessellation and pattern. These sculptures were then installed by students and presented to the school community as an aid to commemorate the pogrom against Jews in 1938 – Kristallnacht – the Night of the Broken Glass.
As a K-12 initiative, teaching staff have collaborated to examine and develop the dispositions that characterise members of our learning community, sharpening the focus on our learners’ soft skills and competencies.
According to the NSW Department of Education, as published in its online ‘Learning for the future resource’, under Learning Dispositions, “Development of these dispositions is fundamental for students to develop an awareness of the way they learn and establish future-focused attitudes to learning, critical if they are to be able to become lifelong learners.”
Among many other learning dispositions, having a growth mindset was identified as central to our thriving school community.
A focus on empowering our students to envision their world differently and take action towards designing and creating a better future is being embedded through programs that focus on building students’ adaptability, transdisciplinary and critical thinking skills, through authentic learning experiences, enhanced by the integration of digital technologies.
Through a focus on the six C’s – collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, citizenship and character – students at Emanuel engage in deep learning, a key aspect of Emanuel School’s educational strategy. This is quality learning, grounded in real-world application, able to future-proof our students to become the thinkers and changemakers of tomorrow.