The cohort that began at the Virtual Academy in Term 1 of 2020 and the cohort that joined in Term 3 2020 comprised 34 students from 19 Gifted Education Lead schools.
For those who began in Term 3 2020, it was their first time meeting peers face to face due to Covid restrictions last year. For the “old hands” who began in Term 1, it was their second face-to-face meeting with their peers.
The day focused on getting the students back into their new unit of work based on the concept of adaptation. They were encouraged to think about the problem, as well as establish connections with like-minded peers.
To aid the process the day was full of hands-on activities and learning in action based around the concept of adaptation.
Ms Sibert said it was an important opportunity to meet in person the students with whom she will work this year.
“Putting faces to names and seeing them work together and individually on different tasks throughout the day was an invaluable experience,” Ms Sibert said.
Amanda Gorman’s hopeful message to the future in her poem The Hill We Climb inspired the day’s introduction. It was then into active warm-up games such as blind-folds and creative thinking where students had to rely on their senses other than sight to adapt.
Other activities included collaborative brainstorming, in which students responded to various adaptation resources and thought about the impact on others of the choice to adapt or not to adapt. In breakout boxes, students worked together to problem-solve challenges. The stories of famous individuals who adapted, provided the stimulus. These included Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, Marie Curie and her discovery of polonium and radium, Ann Makosinski’s hand-powered torch, and Alan Turing’s Enigma code.
The persuasive pitch task adapted an everyday object for a new purpose, and students then pitched this verbally to the group and were given feedback. In the Microsoft Teams reflection task, students evaluated the day.
Johann, a Year 6 student at St John’s, Lambton, enjoyed the breakout boxes, re-purposing objects, and the entry activities.
“The breakout boxes were a fun challenge and I loved collaborating with my groups,” Johann said. “Re-purposing objects was a great idea that made me use my imagination. The entry activities were helpful and a kick-start to my Virtual Academy journey.”
Annabelle, a Year 6 student at St Patrick’s, Lochinvar, said two things she learnt about the concept of adaptation were that anything can be adapted, even everyday objects that we don't give two thoughts about, and that adaptation can take long periods of time, and it can also take fifteen minutes.
Tahlia, a Year 8 student at St Paul’s, Booragul, enjoyed the breakout boxes, re-purposing objects, and making a new friend or two.
“I learnt that adaptation is necessary to live in certain situations, and that it’s been happening since the beginning of time,” Tahlia said.
Ms Sibert was impressed with the students’ ingenuity in coming up with new purposes for everyday objects. “I particularly liked the toothbrush/Barbie hairbrush team’s slogan ‘Throw a brush on the Barbie’,” she said.
Virtual Academy coordinator Rebecca Heath said it was pleasing to see the students work productively and respectfully when collaborating.
“There was a real sense of camaraderie and inclusivity among the students and I noticed no matter how loud or quiet, all voices were heard and listened to,” Ms Heath said. “By the end of the day, many were very proud of their achievements and were able to positively affirm the ‘wins’ of their peers.”