Mentors build confidence and take learning to new heights at St John Bosco Catholic Primary School Engadine

Expert support: Retired Cronulla engineer Brian Lapham helps Thomas Roche, Lachlan Curry, Lincoln Albrecht, Oscar Wilson and William Roy with a project. Picture: Chris Lane
Expert support: Retired Cronulla engineer Brian Lapham helps Thomas Roche, Lachlan Curry, Lincoln Albrecht, Oscar Wilson and William Roy with a project. Picture: Chris Lane

The teacher is usually the one who leads learning, but the role of the head of the class is being handed over to members of the community.

St John Bosco Catholic Primary School, Engadine, runs a program for its gifted and talented pupils whereby a 'mentor' from the area is invited to teach children about their area of expertise.

Whether it be arts, war history, philosophy or archeology, community experts of their fields become valuable directors of education.

It is part of an enrichment opportunity that connects to the learning interests of the school's 'Newman' pupils.

Newman Selective Gifted Education is an initiative of Sydney Catholic Schools, which launched the program in 2011 as a response to ensuring educational equity was achieved for gifted learners in Catholic schools.

There are more than 60 Newman Selective schools across the Sydney Archdiocese supporting students from Kindergarten to year 12, including 10 in Sutherland Shire and six in St George.

Children participate in various programs such as creative arts, coding and computer skills, rich literature experiences, STEM initiatives and robotics.

To mark upcoming Catholic Schools Week (March 4), St John Bosco invited mentor, Cronulla's Brian Lapham, to share his experiences in engineering.

Recently retired, Mr Lapham, who is also a university lecturer, worked with a group of pupils on a problem-solving exercise.

They constructed, tested and re-designed bridge structures using wood, to work out which design would be the solid finished product.

He says it is a great chance to pass on some skills.

"The program gives me the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge gained over many years," Mr Lapham said.

"It encourages students to critically think about everyday aspects of engeering and make real-world connections."

St John Bosco assistant principal, Mark Abad, says the interactive project ensures pupils participate in STEM enrichment opportunities.

"We have invested in 3D printers, drones, robotics, laptops and Beebots to enable more hands-on experiences with the technology," he said. 

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