July 3, 2012

Hi there,

Seems like it might be time to update the Candlebark blog… Seeing as how it’s 18 months or so since the last one!

So here’s the latest from the Candlebark front:

We’ve decided that from Term 3 2012 we will implement a new program called Learning in Depth, pioneered by Professor Kieran Egan from Canada. Nearly all the staff went to a presentation by Professor Egan a couple of months back, when he was in Melbourne. Learning in Depth is a simple program which has the potential to dramatically motivate students and enhance their learning.

The way it works is this: each student is given a topic to research, with the aim of him or her becoming an expert in that field. So much of the learning in schools is general in nature, and this program offers contrast and balance, as it requires highly specialised, and, as the name suggests, in-depth learning in a particular area. The intention is that students will “run” with a topic for years, possibly for the whole of their time at Candlebark. Topics are allocated by the school, reasonably randomly, and can come from such disciplines as science, art, history, geography, music and sociology. But the intention is that the student should treat the topic as creatively as possible and, over the years, widen their exploration as far as possible.

For example, if a student is given the topic Time, they might begin by studying the operations of clocks, watches, sundials and egg timers. They might look of the history of timing devices. They might look at the significance of time in different cultures and at the different calendars used in different societies. They might later extend their research into the orbits of the moon around the earth and the earth around the sun, low and high tides, and Einstein’s theory of relativity. They might consider the possibilities of time travel, they might compile timelines showing the span of human activity on the planet (for example), they might look at the significance of midnight in popular culture, they might look at the way time influences sleeping and eating patterns and behaviour. They might make models of timing devices, they might study the history of Time magazine, they might compile an anthology of poems about time, they might examine the famous “melting clock” in the Dali painting and ask what understanding of time the artist was expressing….

Topics are chosen because they allow for this kind of extensive and creative exploration.

We expect good academic outcomes and good personal-growth outcomes from the Learning in Depth program, and we are very excited to be one of the first schools in Australia to implement it. One period a week will be allocated for Learning in Depth, and we’re hoping that there will be plenty of support from home as well.

Students will do a multimedia presentation at least once a year to the school community to communicate some of what they have learned.

Late yesterday afternoon we finally got the decision from VCAT on our application to increase our numbers. VCAT has agreed to our request to be able to increase our numbers to 196. We certainly don’t plan to rush to 196, and I doubt if I’ll ever see the day when Candlebark reaches that size. My own best guess as to the optimal size of the school is somewhere around the 125 mark, but time will tell. I’m sure we’ll “feel” it when it becomes big enough. However, we have now submitted our application for Year 10 in 2013, supported by a mass of curriculum material prepared by the teaching staff at the school, and we expect to go through the approval process for Year 10 relatively smoothly. (Hope I don’t ever regret those words!) We don’t however plan to offer Years 11 and 12 in the immediate future.
As well as having Year 10 here, we will offer VCE subjects to Year 10 students through the Victorian School of Distance Education. Among the subjects on offer are Art, Visual Communication and Design, Music Style and Composition, Philosophy, Health and Development, Media, Psychology, Legal Studies, and various English, history, maths and science subjects.
Students in Year 10 here next year who elect to do VCE subjects can be assured of the complete support of Candlebark staff as they go about their work.

Other highlights of Year 10 at Candlebark will be an outdoors adventure program, an extensive work experience program, and comprehensive preparation for the academic rigours of Years 11 and 12. We are also considering implementing the Duke of Edinburgh scheme for all Year 10 students, which at Gold Award level involves five strands:

  • Volunteering: undertaking service to individuals or the community.
  • Physical: improving in an area of sport, dance or fitness activities.
  • Skills: developing practical and social skills and personal interests.
  • Expedition: planning, training for and completion of an adventurous journey in Australia or abroad.
  • Residential: staying and working away from home doing a shared activity.

We feel this would be a terrific way to give structure to the year and ensure that the students have a wide range of experiences which will be of benefit to them and to the greater community.

A couple of years ago I set three big targets which I felt the school had to achieve in order to secure its future. The first, and the least obvious, was to establish a reliable high-speed Internet connection, so that we could access the best of modern technology and ensure that our students were not disadvantaged in this area. The geography/topography of the school made it incredibly difficult to get a good connection in here, but after trying many different approaches we finally achieved it early this year, with the steadfast help of DuxTel Pty Ltd, a Geelong company. The second was to modernise the existing buildings and provide enough new buildings to ensure that the school had adequate infrastructure for many years to come. This was also achieved at the start of this year. The third was to go through the bureaucratic processes that would guarantee the school’s future financial viability by increasing the number of students we could have here, and it is very satisfying to be able at last to finally tick that third box.

All the best to anyone interested enough in Candlebark to have read this far!