Larrakeyah Primary's Innovative Blueprint

5-Star Innovative Schools winner, Larrakeyah Primary School, thrives on creative STEAM events, real-life inquiry-based learning, and a student-driven approach to problem-solving. The Educator recently sat down with Fathma Mauger and Danni Mattiazzo to find out more.


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Kylie Speer [00:00:09] Hello and welcome to The Educator TV. I'm Kylie Speer. And joining me today is Fathma Mauger, Principal and Danni Mattiazzo, Head of Curriculum and Assessment Senior Teacher at Larrakeyah Primary School. Larrakeyah has been recognized in the 5-star Innovative Schools 2023 awards. Welcome to you, Fathma and Danni, and congratulations on such a well deserved accolade.

Fathma Mauger [00:00:35] Thank you, Kylie. It's very exciting for our school. And we're really thrilled to be here. 

Danni Mattiazzo [00:00:41] Yes, very happy to be here talking to you today.

Kylie Speer [00:00:44] Well, firstly, how would you characterize Larrakeyah's approach to innovation overall?

Fathma Mauger [00:00:52] Yeah, innovation is always interesting for schools. And, you know, it seems to be sometimes a bit of a scary word. But our approach to innovation is that we don't innovate just for innovation sake, we implement innovation to do something better, to do something different, to improve student learning outcomes and Innovation at our schools always been used to improve. And it always has a focus on teaching and learning, because that is our core business. And we also understand that innovation is so important in education, because education is constantly changing. And we can't always use the same teaching practices. So we have to change and we need to embrace innovation. And that's what our school does. 

Kylie Speer [00:01:44] The school has STEAM days involving every student, how did you devise this concept? And how does it work?

Danni Mattiazzo [00:01:52] So at Larrakeyah Primary School were really lucky because we're always looking and researching for best practice. And not only do we research best practice, we actually attend conferences, and we actually visit schools that are achieving in those areas and learn from them. And so the whole school STEAM day actually came from a visit to a conference in Sydney with a STEM conference. And it just inspired us that the people who went to try and bring that to our school and, and that's what we did, we didn't copy their problem, because obviously, you know, we wanted to be unique to our school, and also what was happening at the time. And I think our very first one was a Christmas themed STEAM day where the Grinch had stolen Christmas. And it was the students coming up with different ways to bring presents to the children at home, because this Grinch came in and broke the sleigh and lit up the center's and not them sad in the rain days, and we set up crime scenes around the school. We help them empathize with the problem, we then define the problem further. So they had a really good understanding of the prototypes they were going to come up with, and they ideated solutions, and then they presented back their solutions. So it's really good. It's not the only one we've done. We've done one every year since 2018. And it's a really great vibe around the school when they're occurring.

Kylie Speer [00:03:19] Another innovative program you run is quest, what are its fundamental principles?

Danni Mattiazzo [00:03:25] So quest is our innovative teaching and learning program, which is designed to connect and inspire bringing real life context to the classroom through the process of inquiry. Teachers are referred to as project leaders during our quest program. And they facilitate a small group of students about 12 to 15 in each group, and they focus on a particular area of inquiry, working with industry professionals, and targeted members of our local community to obtain specific knowledge and skills. And so teachers are given planning days prior to the quest program commencing, and they work together to look at who in the community they can engage with, and bring into the school to work with our students and give them an insight into the into what they might want to be in the future, which is really helped our students have a clear pathway moving forward.

Kylie Speer [00:04:19] How important is it to enable student led innovation supported by staff?

Fathma Mauger [00:04:25] Yeah, that's a really good question, Kylie. I like that question. Because I think that, you know, listening to student voice and have students lead innovative programs supported by staff is just so essential. It gives students ownership of their learning and an opportunity to direct their learning with their own passion and drive and, you know, students can create in ways that often teachers can't perceive. For example, we had a group of high achieving students who wanted to know more in the air or digital technology. So they came, they were aware of a local problem. And it was bats eating mangoes in the mango farms, which affected the mango industry. And so they created a solution. So their solution was designing and constructing a prototype in the form of a robot that would deter the bats from eating mangoes and force them more into a more where there's an alternative food source. So the sustainability project was innovation led by students, and it's just absolutely amazing when you see projects that come into effect that, you know, students are driving this and you think God, you know, this is our next generation. These are this is where our future is heading. And it's just so exciting to see innovation, led by students.

Danni Mattiazzo [00:05:53] Yeah, so I think the best thing, it's been the best thing for classroom teachers as it gives you a really good snapshot into how your class feels when they commence the day. So our students are asked or to come in each day and record an emotion on the YooHoo App. This is sent directly to a portal, which tracks the students and how they're going. But what's really great about it is that it does flag certain emotions and trends to the teacher directly through email, but also flagged words. So if that child is having a really bad day, there's been a death in the family of a pet, if you know they've had an argument with their parents, some of those words will be flagged in their comments straight to the teacher, and the teacher is able to actually check in with the student. And just really give them some clarity around or strategies moving forward, and how they can, you know, change that emotion and it's really helping them become emotionally literate, and being able to identify how they're feeling, but also how to change that feeling. Yes, which has been really good.

Kylie Speer [00:05:53] Another element of your innovation at Larrakeyah is using the YooHoo App, what type of data does that provide? And how do you use that data?

Kylie Speer [00:07:13] And finally, Fathma and Danny, how do you maintain an innovative mindset in the school amongst the teachers and staff?

Fathma Mauger [00:07:21] I'm really glad to be answering that question, because it really is about leadership. And it starts with the default, I think of, you know, yes, tell me more about that new idea, or this a better way of doing something. So it's always been open to different. And it starts with the leaders in the school. So an innovative mindset is part of the school culture. And, you know, we say we are an innovative school. And so teachers are encouraged and supported to think outside the box. And professional development is essential, so that teachers understand what innovation is. And, you know, particularly, for example, with technology now and AI, teachers need to see that, you know, this sort of innovation can make a difference to their teaching, and consequently, the outcomes for their students. And I think it's important, you know, when we're talking about this question is that, you know, teachers inspire other teachers. So we invest in teachers, who are, I guess, most open to change so that they can visit other innovative schools and learn new ideas and practices to bring back and share with a colleagues or attend conferences overseas so that they return to share their learning and invigorate that innovative mindset that that exists in our school.

Kylie Speer [00:08:50] Such great insights. Well, congratulations. Once again, Fathma. And Danny, it was really lovely speaking with you both.

Danni Mattiazzo [00:08:58] Thank you.

Fathma Mauger [00:08:58] Thank you so much. We really enjoyed answering those questions and sharing just that bit more about Larrakeyah Primary School.

Kylie Speer [00:09:07] And thank you, of course, to our viewers for watching the latest episode of The Educator TV. We look forward to seeing you again soon.