It's a kind of magic

St Aloysius Primary School, Chisholm opened its doors Monday 2 February. As the Foundation Principal, it was a very proud moment for me and the culmination of an extremely busy year, with so much more to come.

There are many things that make the Hunter’s newest school distinctive, – the glass walls, climbing rocks and a ‘shoes off in class’ policy! All these are new and exciting, but their main purpose is to support the learning processes we are trying to build at St Aloysius.

Contemporary learning methods stress the importance of teachers and children working together collaboratively, teaching the students to solve problems and showing them how to set goals and achieve them. The buildings and furniture help, but it is the collaborative mindset that will distinguish St Aloysius.

We want all our students to be engaged with, and take responsibility for, their own learning. Already, we are giving our students opportunities to demonstrate this. When they have mastered a concept, some students have been making short tutorials on iPads which they then share with students who haven’t yet fully understood. Peer to peer learning is just one way we are empowering our students to master concepts and feel successful.

Our students have embraced the process we have introduced for working collaboratively, – cave, campfire and watering hole; three distinct and equally important learning spaces they use throughout the day. When the teacher wants them together, it’s ‘campfire’ time. This is when they gather on the modular lounges. When they need to work in small groups to solve problems, they gather at a ‘watering hole’ of their choice, either inside or outside. And of course we all need to retreat to our ‘cave’ sometimes to work on our own! These learning spaces are linked to their individual goals and working towards achieving those.

We are raising the bar and the children are rising to the challenge.

Our school community is blessed to have a diverse team of committed and caring teachers and staff who have all embraced the 21st century learning philosophy of our school. They are also stepping up – sharing information, working collaboratively and going the extra mile. It is very important to me that the staff of St Aloysius have as many opportunities as the students to experience success.

We worked hard last year to build a school community as the children of St Aloysius have come together from 31 different schools. Throughout 2014, our families had many opportunities to gather together and form relationships.  We are now reaping the benefits of having these excited, enthusiastic and connected families keen to play an active role in our school. We have formed around 20 committees covering every conceivable aspect of school life – uniform, canteen, gardening, social, playgroup, ICT, admin and library support, sport and coaching and building/maintenance committees, to name just some! It is my aim for every family to feel it’s made a contribution by the end of the year.

We are also an important part of the Chisholm community and we are looking at opportunities to allow the people of this area to gather together at events like monthly markets and Christmas Carols. We are in an ideal situation to create authentic relationships within our local community.

The children arrive at school with smiles on their faces; they already know their voice is being heard and they are excited by their new learning spaces. It’s a beautiful feeling when you walk in because of the colours and the thoughtful design of the buildings and landscaping. It’s a blessing to have the staff, the children, the families and the community that we do and when you put that mix together, it’s a kind of magic!

St Aloysius is the first newly established school in the diocese in 30 years. The first stage of building (at an approximate cost of $8 million) was funded by the Diocesan Schools Building Fund and a Commonwealth Government Grant. Please visit mn.catholic.edu.au.

A New Chapter by Emma Blackford

When 85 year-old Marie Euston (nee Wynne, pictured on cover) went to St Aloysius Girls High in Hamilton, she studied typewriting, shorthand and book keeping. 70 years on and this February Marie walked through the gates on Day One at the Hunter's newest Catholic School, St Aloysius at Chisholm, where her grandson Brock is enrolled and where a different sort of 'type-writing' will take place in a very different style of classroom.

"For my era and my age, St Aloysius at Chisholm is just something totally different and I'm happy to work with that," Marie said excitedly.

Featuring learning commons, curved lounges, movable walls between classrooms and tables with whiteboard surfaces, students such as Brock won't be confined to a traditional desk and will be encouraged to learn across multiple environments, including outdoors. 

"It's a new tradition for Brock and I'm happy to be part of it," Marie said. "Whilst ever I'm still here, I can follow on with new traditions and change."

In 2013 when Catholic Bishop Bill Wright first announced the school would be called 'St Aloysius', after the patron saint of young students and youth generally, St Aloysius Gonzaga, Marie said she was excited. "I said to Brock, that's where Grandma went to school. At first that's all I was excited about; the name!" she laughed. However, after meeting the Principal, Suzanne Fern, and touring the classrooms and facilities where her grandson will be educated, Marie said she's committed to the new school community and is looking forward to being part of its future. 

"The school's great, the chapel is enormous…it's definitely different but to me, I went back to my days and I'm going to be involved at St Aloysius."

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Suzanne Fern Image
Suzanne Fern

Suzanne is the Foundation Principal of St Aloysius Catholic Primary School, Chisholm.

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