The Children’s University, supported the UON’s Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, offers superior educational experiences for students aged between seven and 14 years. It also offers volunteering opportunities outside of school to those aged between 15 and 18.
The program, which began in 2016, is child-led which means the students participate on a voluntary basis and choose for themselves which activities they would like to participate in. It aims to provide students with a chance to develop their confidence, self-efficiency and appreciation of learning through experiences outside the classroom.
Each participant receives a Passport to Learning from their school which they use to record their 30 hours of extra-curricular learning, before attending a graduation ceremony at the UON’s Great Hall to celebrate their achievements.
The activities and opportunities are provided by educational and learning activity providers across the Hunter, Newcastle and Central Coast regions. These include places such as council facilities like libraries, pools, and art galleries, sporting clubs, dance schools, museums or music teachers.
Students can also visit places, such as Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, during their holiday breaks and write reflections to earn further hours. Each activity however must relate to a university course in some way.
The hours continue to roll over from year to year, allowing students to further build their hours and earn higher awards. Just like University graduates, students can earn Honours, Masters, Doctorates and Fellowships.
Cessnock and Adamstown were two of 44 Central Coast and Hunter primary and secondary schools that participated in the 2018 program, with this being the second year Cessnock has had graduates through the program.
“The inclusion of Children’s University for St Patrick’s has been an enjoyable experience for the students,” said Michael McKenzie, Teacher Librarian at St Patrick’s Cessnock.
“Along the way, students have learnt how to sew on buttons, dance round a maypole, make damper, play the ukulele and have fun learning in each other’s company.”
“Children’s University is an exciting extra-curricular initiative our school has taken part in for the first time this year,” said Justin Hutchens, Principal of St Columba’s Adamstown.
“While it is about learning new skills, we feel the real value of the program lies in the possibilities it offers students – in giving them the mindset that learning is lifelong.
“Children’s University gives young people a unique perspective into what learning can lead to post-school and allows them to visualise themselves as tertiary learners.
“After talking to the students who took part, we are impressed with how the program has raised their expectations in regards to learning and has challenged them to consider new things.”
“It would be wonderful if more Catholic schools got on board for 2019,” said Michael.
“It only takes one member of staff to organise activities and to keep the lines of communication open with parents and students. It would be a wonderful experience if one night of graduation was predominantly made up of Catholic schools to get together and to enjoy each other’s company.”