One of the joys of my job is seeing the changes young people and families are making in their own lives, as a result of their learning. Highlights this month have included signing certificates for the 93 Auckland young people who completed the Youth Employability Programme this year; reading students’ articles in the annual Student Voice magazine that’s hot off the press this week; and attending the 2019 SouthSci Symposium where student groups reported back on their research projects.
One of the SouthSci presentations sums it all up for me. A group of students from Manurewa High School spoke about their algae fuel project, describing their ambitious goal to construct a go-cart fuelled by biofuel made from algae they grew themselves. They shared the challenges they faced – from technical issues with algae-growing to communication and teamwork. Did they succeed in growing enough biofuel to power a go-cart, you ask? Not yet – but they certainly achieved some significant learning goals. What shone through was their ability to learn from their mistakes, their problem-solving and most of all their persistence, sticking with their project through multiple setbacks – surely far more important in their current and future lives than any amount of skill in algae-growing.
Teamwork, persistence and problem-solving are skills you can’t easily teach in a traditional classroom.
That’s why approaches like SouthSci and the Youth Employability Programme are so valuable, because they give children and young people real-world challenges that are relevant to them, in a context where they are supported to meet the challenges and to reflect on what they learn. Many teachers are also using project-based learning to develop these same skills.
This kind of authentic learning is one of the themes of changes proposed in the MOE’s Shaping a Stronger Education System with New Zealanders, which is out for consultation at present. If you haven’t already made a submission, you have until November 25th to do so.
Meanwhile, if you’d like a copy of this year’s Student Voice magazine, please email your postal address to firstname.lastname@example.org