For years now, educators have been enabling young people to ‘fight the good fight’ and help tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
One long-standing initiative include the World School program, in which a school is chosen from a global cohort of others to host a forum and develop its own program aimed at resolving major global issues.
Another is the ‘Justice by Design’ initiative – a new research project at Harvard’s Project Zero, which focuses on how thinking routines are used to consider power, systems thinking and participation.
This year, Presbyterian Ladies' College (PLC) Perth successfully ran its revamped Year 9 Innovation Project (now in its second year), which aims to get students involved and motivated in solving real-world problems and to explicitly teach creativity.
The program, developed with Curtin University, encourages students to undertake creative projects in which they identified solutions to one of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Gender Equity, Climate Action and Clean Water and Sanitation.
The school’s Project was one of several others that were recognised in The Educator’s Innovative Schools 2020 in August.
Below, The Educator speaks to PLC Perth principal, Cate Begbie, about how the Year 9 Innovation Project is tracking, the state of educational innovation in 2020 and what’s in store for the College in the year ahead.
TE: What prompted the development of the Year 9 Innovation Project with Curtin University?
As an International Baccalaureate School, PLC Perth had always run its Personal Project for Year 9 students as part of the IB Middle Years Program. After the School moved away from MYP and focused on the IB Diploma, there was a strong desire to continue a Year 9 project which moved from being project-based to one around problem-based learning. We wanted to ensure the project involved students in solving real-world problems and also to explicitly teach creativity. The aim was to identify problems which mattered to our students, so they were motivated to make something special.
TE: The word “innovative” is thrown around a lot, but what does it mean to you as an educational leader?
At PLC we encourage our students to be brave in their decision making and their learning journeys. I think that if all of our girls are brave enough to pursue their own personal growth and overcome obstacles that may stand in their way, then they already on the innovation pathway. It means they are prepared to risk failure in order to find solutions. It means having a go and getting involved, and all of this drives innovation.
TE: In what ways is the Project helping the ‘Four C’s of Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking flourish at the College?
The Year 9 Innovation Project introduces our students to the Design Council’s Double Diamond model of design thinking to identify problems and solutions before developing their plans. This is important because the model revolves around the core principles of putting people first by understanding their needs, communicating visually and inclusively, working together to create and to identify errors and problem solve. Given their six month time frame to complete the project, the girls were then able to model, example, test, trial and refine their projects, hitting all four ‘Cs’ in the process.
TE: Looking ahead, are there any new and exciting programs PLC Perth will be introducing? If so, what are they?
One of the positive outcomes of remote learning during the pandemic has been how our staff have embraced information and learning technologies to an even greater extent than they already had. As an Apple Distinguished School, we had the infrastructure in place to move quickly to remote learning. During that time, we saw some amazing, innovative work by our teachers to deliver lessons to students. As a result, we have harnessed this and will be introducing two new professional development projects to even further enhance teaching with technology, improve pedagogy delivery and positively impact learning outcomes. The first we’ve called our Levelling Up Project. This aims to build on teacher capacity and skills in the use of ILT and to create powerful teaching and learning experiences. The second is Teaching with iPad - moving to a greater integration within the school of using iPad technology to deliver the curriculum. Both Projects will further equip teachers to become ILT curriculum delivery specialists aimed to significantly enhance students’ learning journey and their educational outcomes.