Simon and the technicolour friendship chair
It was red and yellow and green and brown and purple and white and pink and orange and blue and we had a special visitor from Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM) come to open our seat of many colours. Our Student Representative Council (SRC) students had to think about how to make the school a better place. From these regular conversations came the idea of the rainbow Friendship Chair. "The Friendship Chair will be a chair where you can go if you are feeling a little lonely or are without a friend," said Faith M, one of our SRC members. "We will encourage children who see someone on the chair on their own to approach that person and ask them to join them in play." Wayne, Faith, Lyndsay, Seoha, Alana and Emily worked to put this chair together over the last month and their work was celebrated with its official opening by Simon Lindsay. Mr Lindsay is Manager of CEM's Improved Learning Outcomes division and he visited the school to have a look at the work that has been going on over the last 12 months. [foogallery id="1697"] Improving student outcomes in Mathematics has been a focus for the last two years through the building of confidence in the teaching of Mathematics and the content knowledge required in the area. Mr Lindsay was impressed with teachers' use of video captured by devices attached to Swivl robots in order to develop their teaching practice. "Having teachers video themselves teaching is a strategy that results in massive improvement in teacher practice," explained John Hein, one of our Mathematics Leaders alongside Michael Ozbun. "Critiquing your own teaching and allowing others to provide feedback on how you have engaged with the content and students has been shown to be a highly impactful way of becoming a better teacher." A number of students and staff shared their success stories with Mr Lindsay, including the positive outcomes of working with a Kitchen Garden in Year 3, using Box of Facts for Mathematics intervention and how having a 3D printer assisted Year 6 students create products for their Mission Market. Support from CEM has allowed St James the Apostle School to implement strategies to enable students to achieve their best in Mathematics, alongside obtaining robots and a 3D printer to develop students' understanding and use of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills in solving real world problems. Further support from CEM's Student Wellbeing division has meant that the school can now use School-Wide Information System (SWIS) to collect data about student behaviour as part of the school's rollout of Positive Behaviour for Learning. "Our staff, including all our teachers and leaders, have worked hard this year ensuring every child achieves their best," said principal, Mary Abbott. "In the area of Mathematics, we are now hearing children using accurate mathematical language and making connections between concepts from term to term and year to year. Even parents are learning something new!" "Everything we do revolves around our belief that every child deserves to learn and become people of hope. From teachers being invigorated and challenged in their practice through the use of video and supported in incorporating STEM elements into units of work with robotics, to students being engaged through quality teaching and the celebration of positive behaviour choices, our focus never strays from ensuring growth for every single child in our care," explained Ms Abbott.
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Celebrating our Maths success for MAV
On 6 and 7 December, the St James Maths Team attended and presented at the Mathematics Association of Victoria (MAV) Conference. The conference was a two-day event, which hosted over 1 400 educators from around Australia. As part of our presentation we showcased the deep learning and research based practices we have been undertaking through Box of Facts and Learning Framework in Number (LFIN). We demonstrated the ways Box of Facts and LFIN has positively impacted upon student learning as a one on one intervention, as well as how these can be used in a whole class setting. Many of the educators attending our session were thoroughly impressed by the work taking place at St James. They have inquired about visiting our school and seeing the impact Box of Facts and LFIN can make on their students. Another feature we spoke about in relation to Box of Facts was incorporating parents in the process, highlighting the Year 2 learning space and the help Sarah, Megan and Erin have been providing. Overall, presenting at the MAV Conference was an exciting experience especially as we were able to boast about how fantastic it is to be a part of the St James community.
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We’re a bloomin’ VSGA success!
The Victorian Schools Garden Awards (VSGA) have been awarded every year since 1977. This year, we were lucky enough to be winners!  The VSGA recognises, rewards and celebrates the gardening achievements of schools, their students and community in existing and newly established school gardens. It is run annually across both metropolitan and regional Victoria. This year, St James the Apostle School won the 2018 South Western Metropolitan regional award for primary & special schools with more than 280 students. A group of Year 3 students, which included SRC representatives, Environment Monitors and the children whose presentation was chosen for the school's entry, visited the Royal Botanic Gardens on 15 November to be presented with their award. [foogallery id="1679"] "Our Year 3 Learning Communities have put a lot of time and energy over the last couple of years into making our kitchen garden so successful," said principal, Mary Abbott. "The teachers have taken full advantage of the educational opportunities that this environment provides, bringing the garden into the English, Mathematics, Science and Humanities curriculum." Year 3 students engage with the garden on a weekly basis, with time devoted to learning about gardening and incorporating this new-found knowledge about plants, growth and maintenance into their inquiry-based units of work. Students are encouraged to get their hands dirty in order to plant, prune, trellis and harvest. The produce they harvest is then used as the basis for cooking lessons, giving students experiences to practise chopping, stirring, mixing and tasting. The VSGA money will be used to continue to make the garden into an outdoor learning space, with the installation of seating, tables and a teaching area. Future dreams for the garden include creating a children's garden that engage all the senses and investigating ways to encourage a wider variety of wildlife to call the garden home.
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