‘A new school for a new world’

‘A new school for a new world’

In the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown, not too far from the pristine Gem pier, a ground-breaking education revolution is in full-swing at a newly opened primary school.

At Lumineer Academy, there are no uniforms, classrooms, traditional grades or even homework.

What makes the school even more unique is that its founder, Susan Wu, was not a former teacher who toiled through the K-12 education ranks, but a Silicon Valley start-up veteran who has been called one of the “most influential women in technology”.

Susan Wu’s co-founder is Sophie Fenton, the principal of Lumineer Academy and Australia National Teacher of the Year.

Fenton said that while we can’t predict the future, we can equip children “to be prepared for any version of the future world, and to be highly capable and compassionate builders of that world”.

“Our goal at Lumineer Academy is to help children become resilient, lifelong learners who approach the world with curiosity and engaged empathy,” Fenton told The Educator.

“We want to help children be as fluent in emotional intelligence as cognitive intelligence, think independently and originally and have the skills with which to architect this world ethically and compassionately.”

So what does leadership at Lumineer Academy look like? Fenton referred to the school’s leadership structure and practice being “unusual” from traditional schools.

“We’re a multidisciplinary guild of innovators, educators, scientists, and storytellers, collaborating together to architect a new education system,” she explained.

“We also think about our teaching practice and the learning experience quite differently, for in order to teach the world of the future we have to embody it. We as educators have to become the people we are teaching our students to be.”

At the heart of everything the school is building, says Fenton, is a team culture focused on “collaboration, radical candour, and rapid iteration”.

“We are constantly building and implementing new improvements on a weekly basis throughout our school,” Fenton said.

“At Lumineer Academy, we are both generating original research and also applying evidence based best practices. The majority of our core anchors derive from evidence based research, and we leverage from that basis to generate new research.”

Fenton said one of the school’s five building blocks is to cultivate “systems thinking” in its students.

“Research from The Waters Foundation has found that students who use systems thinking vocabulary and concepts can more effectively question and challenge seemingly obvious solutions to complex problems,” she said.

In unison with the school’s evidence based practice, Fenton said Lumineer Academy is “extending beyond conventional understanding” by applying innovation from other contexts into education.

“For example, we know that inquiry based learning is fundamental to cultivating thinking human beings, but we push the boundaries here and teach our students to think even more powerfully from first principles,” Fenton said.

“Being able to think from first principles changes the trajectory of creating, from one of iteration on existing thinking, to one of genuine innovation.”

Fenton said first principles thinking enables students to become “effective architects, and not merely participants, of their future world”.

“So this style of learning enables children to thrive in a world that is constantly in the process of being invented."