With credible research demonstrating that students in education across the globe are disengaging from learning and school, at Snowy Mountains Grammar School we are heading in the opposite direction and engaging students in areas in which they love to learn. In addition, our students also learn the full complement of the rigorous Australian Curriculum administered through NSW BOSTES and successfully complete the Higher School Certificate in Year 12.
In 2016 SMGS introduced an innovative program called Academies of Excellence for all students in Years 7-12. This program has allowed students to study in one of eighteen different academies, with an array of options, including Drama and Theatre Studies, Engineering, Innovation and Design, Aviation, Equestrian, Mountain Biking and Early Childhood Education. Each Wednesday the traditional timetable is suspended and students attend their academy of choice and learn with students across all year levels from Year 7 to Year 12.
Traditionally, schools have focused on grouping students based on their year of birth but, at SMGS, students select their academy based on their interests, passion and desire to achieve excellence in a chosen field and to extend their skills and knowledge. Students are also involved in applying their skills and knowledge to solve real-life challenges. For example, students in the School of Invention, which is led by the Information Technology Manager at the school, are responsible for designing and building a fully automated and wireless-controlled Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that is capable of both airborne and underwater exploration via manual control, pre-programmed instructions or basic artificial intelligence. “Some of the best ideas and designs have come from Year 7 students challenging the Year 12 students, who bring experience to the challenge”, said Mr Craig Moore, Head of the School of Invention.
SMGS has instigated ways to increase student engagement and achievement by developing and introducing a revolutionary program called #GlobalU. Students in Years 9 and 10 are able to enrol in any Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and have class time to complete the coursework, with students studying courses such as forensic science, psychology of criminal justice, bioethics and paleoanthropology. Students are studying with universities such as Princeton, Harvard, Penn and London as well as domestic universities such as Macquarie, Sydney and Wollongong. “There is no limit to the possible study pathways for our students, and the fact that they choose their own subjects and courses from over 5000 available, means they have truly individual learning pathways,” said Mr Callum Ross, program co-ordinator of #GlobalU.
Deputy Principal of SMGS, Dr Michael Barton, has worked with the teaching staff to make these innovative programs possible. “We are fortunate that our teachers want to give students every possible opportunity to extend themselves and are not afraid of challenging the traditional model of education,” he said. Meanwhile, School Principal Mr Andrew Bell said, “Our students need our schools to be delivering them the very best. This means we need to find new global ways to help our students learn the skills for occupations that are yet to be determined. At SMGS, our school is doing just that.”
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