Wendy Goldston has drawn on her almost 30-year career to design and lead an unparalleled program which is transforming learning and bringing out the best in identified high achievers at her Central Queensland primary school.
Goldston, who has been recognised as one of Australia's leading educators, winning a prestigious 2020 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award, along with a number of other accolades for her work, launched the BLOOM program at Frenchville State School in 2018, with the overarching goal of helping Year 3-6 children reach their full potential.
BLOOM focuses on the development of the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum through creative real-life and life-like learning experiences. It offers complex unfamiliar challenges intended to develop BLOOMer capability to live and work successfully in the Twenty-First Century.
Below, The Educator speaks to Goldston about the inception of the program, the impact it has had on teaching and learning, and what lies ahead for her school’s community in 2021.
TE: Can you tell us what initially led you to create the BLOOM program?
Frenchville State School has a rich history of high achievers; however, it was during a School Review that “providing enrichment for high achieving students…(is) an area for further development” became a priority. Some high achievers were showing signs of disengagement, attendance fatigue and there was a distinct lack of focused intensive challenge for their ability level. After intensive research and investigation, I was appointed as BLOOM’s designer, creator and implementor. The engaging, hands-on nature of BLOOM that challenges students to work in real life and life-like situations is one of its key features.
TE: What kind of impact is the program having on teaching and learning at the school?
From my perspective BLOOM is having an incredibly powerful impact in all spheres – socially, emotionally and educationally. Here are a couple that are notable. Preparing students for the 21st century: Parents, teachers and I all note the significant improvement in mindset for our high achievers. Many are now developing persistence, resilience and learning how to use experience setbacks and learn from feedback. (High achievers are not used to ‘failure’ or genuine challenge and must be taught how to ‘cope’ and ‘react’ in such situations). Creating global citizens – Annually, since the program’s inception, Year 5 Literacy BLOOMers have ‘walked in the shoes’ of the impoverished children of our world. After carrying 6 litres of water throughout the school for two hours to experience ‘walking for water’, BLOOMers have organised and held a MAD (Make a Difference) Fundraiser. Monies raised (in excess of $10,000), have built wells for entire African and Asian communities, and gifted livestock to change lives too. Year 4 Literacy BLOOMers last year adopted an endangered Southern Hairy Nosed wombat after becoming Wombat Warriors, and Year 4, 5 and 6 Literacy BLOOMers raised funds to adopt two orphaned Sumatran orangutans.
TE: Are there any other notable outcomes from the program you’ve observed?
Improved attendance and engagement! BLOOMers never miss school on their BLOOM day/s. BLOOMers are passionately committed to the program and they conscientiously visit the BLOOM room on the first day of each term to see what interactive display I’ve created for them to immerse themselves in (displays change each term). Parents evidence the incredible growth in general knowledge and thinking skills with their BLOOMers, witnessing it daily and hearing about their excitement and passion for BLOOM and all it teaches them. Sense of ‘belonging’ and ‘pride’ in becoming a BLOOMer and aiming for the stars to ensure they remain as part of the program, along with the academic improvement in data.
TE: Are there any new and exciting developments planned for BLOOM in 2021? If so, what are they?
2021 sees BLOOM continue to ‘bloom’. Plans are underway for a student-created accrescent website called BLOOMTube that will assist students, parents and community nationally and internationally to support primary school learning – important in this age of online and remote learning. I have also been engaged to design, prepare and deliver, in collaboration with the Centre for Learning and Wellbeing (Emerald), a professional development program for Gifted and Talented learners which will highlight BLOOM.