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Preparing for lift-off with real-world skills

Issue: Volume 96, Number 16

Posted: 09:15am, 11 Sep 2017
Reference #: 1H9ecP

A focus on innovation and real-world learning at Hamilton’s Rototuna School has seen budding designers and engineers planning a rocket launch.

Rototuna High students, from left to right: Hannah Xu, Crystal Deng, Taran Singh

Rototuna High students, from left to right: Hannah Xu, Crystal Deng, Taran Singh and Hannah Sun. Photo: Anna Pratt.

Houston We Have A Problem is the name of a class at Rototuna High School in Hamilton, but one with a difference. In the integrated maths and science class, they‘re studying how to build and launch a rocket.

An official opening ceremony was held last month for the new school, which is located on a greenfields site in fast-growing north-east Hamilton. Providing real-world career options and skills to students is a focus for the school’s leaders.

Approaching the building entrance, it would be easy to think there is one very large school on the site as the frontage extends two hundred metres across from left to right. However, a junior high school and a senior high school share one building.

For the year 7–8 students, maths is combined with science in a specially designated area as part of the connected and integrated approach at the school.

There are no bells to indicate the end of a class, and the integrated study modules, which are not subject-based, are 100 minutes long.

It’s a sign of the times at Rototuna, which is all about innovation and flexible learning. In planning a potential rocket launch, the students are applying what they learn in geometry.

In the year 11 module, Another One Bites The Crust, students study maths and food technology, combining their statistical and design process knowledge to create snack products for the school’s café.

Each semester the school has a theme, and this semester it’s ‘innovation’. Seamless collaboration in education is the goal and the school motto is, ‘Connect, inspire, soar’. Rototuna has huge open spaces and the latest technology.

The senior high school principal is Natasha Hemara and Fraser Hill is the junior high school principal.

“We aim to excite and engage the students with knowledge that mirrors the real world they will be in once they leave education. So their learning must be relevant” says Natasha.

The junior high school, which has been open for 18 months, currently has a roll of 990.

The senior high opened earlier this year with a roll of 100 students, but with room for 800. “Because our school is new, and state of the art, it’s a case of having a clean slate to extend the possibilities, and we are doing that,” says Fraser.

On Wednesdays senior students in year 11 have the opportunity to work on personalised “impact projects” that encourage them to explore a future career option during school hours. It might be beekeeping, or car mechanics, or even specialist fields such as medicine. Students are encouraged to make contacts with people in the field they are interested in, and to learn about what is involved in that career.

“We teach the curriculum but the students are being engaged at a different level through our integrated approach. It’s about connecting and making the learning relevant and authentic for our students,” says Fraser.

“We personalise learning and say to our students, ‘whatever it is, follow your passion’. They really shine as a result. Our feedback from parents is there’s deep engagement in their children’s learning and they are lapping it up.

“It’s early days yet – but even so we are already getting students really achieving. Year 11 students are producing Level 2 NCEA work at a merit and excellence level through integration, and because they are allowed time for deep learning.”

“As school leaders, our position is probably unique in terms of the level of collaboration we are attempting – but it works!” says Natasha.

“We are going for one team, united.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

The Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero is produced by NZME for the Ministry of Education for teachers, leaders, and other education professionals working in New Zealand.

Posted: 09:09am, 11 September 2017

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