Boy-centric teaching and learning across the academic spectrum caters for energetic and curious young minds ready to take on the world, and is a fundamental part of Highbury’s ethos
At the Media Centre, Robotics is built into lessons with the help of iPads, coding and the boys’ own wonderful imaginations. “I am always surprised at what the boys come up with and put together,” says teacher Lisa van Bronckhorst. “I keep telling them that design is a process, and encourage them to question everything. How do we fix this? How can we make it better?” There are no desks cluttering up this room, just lots of floor space to spread out Lego and other more traditional building materials. It is clear to see the boys are engaged and happy. And what’s more – they all come up with different solutions to the same problem.
“We have found that boys respond very well to the hands-on practical aspects of Lego, and often find creative and innovative solutions to problems,” says IT Integrator Lara Minietti. “STEAM/DREAM/Robotics is a step-up programme that begins in Grade R with the use of Bee-Bots to teach simple coding. We progress through with simple machine sets that teach the basics of engineering principles of pulleys, levers etc. From there we move on to the Lego WeDo 2.0 robotics and then to the EV3 robot – which build on the engineering principles and incorporates more coding on an advanced level.”
Highbury teachers know boys and what they respond to, providing them with more activity, competition and creative ways of learning. “Intelligence is not fixed, you ‘become’ smart,” says Belinda Willows, Head of Foundation Phase. “Our boys choose to do hard things to challenge themselves. If they fail, they try again and do better.”
With beautiful, vast open spaces, Highbury is a massive playground. The boys have lots of movement breaks during the day – whether it’s on the jungle gym, trampoline, sensory path or going for that secret swim to release energy. “Dirty feet are happy feet, and active learning through play does wonders,” says Belinda.
For those finding learning easy, teachers are trained to challenge them. Belinda explains that boys who would benefit from extension in a certain area are not given more of the same. “It needs to be more difficult. This encourages critical thinking and problem solving,” she says.
The introduction of technology has facilitated further opportunity for extension, such as “flipped classroom” learning. This reversal of traditional learning enables extension to take place with ease within the classroom for those individuals or groups who would benefit from it. “Boys who are out-of-the-box thinkers often grasp this opportunity to explore a classroom topic further, or present their own extension that they have been inspired to develop,” says Grade 4 teacher Kerri Peatt. Enrichment and extension go hand in hand. Jolene Goveia runs the Senior Primary Enrichment Club, an extra-curricular activity for boys who want to investigate what interests them and feedback their findings to the club. “The questions that need to be investigated are ‘why’ and ‘how’ things happen. The outcome is the cherry on the top, but not the reason why we get together,” says Jolene.
Head of Academic Support, Lea Lyle, says Highbury is privileged to be able to offer full-time remedial classes for Grades 1 to 4 to those boys who need consistent academic support. “Fully qualified remedial teachers work parallel to the grade team to cover the same curriculum, in a way which works through a boys’ strengths to address his areas of difficulty,” she explains. “Our boys can remain part of the Highbury family, experiencing friendships, sport and cultural activities with their peers, while receiving full-time remediation.” After Grade 4, step down classes of remediation are offered in English and Maths to support the boys in their integration into mainstream classes.
“We are also able to meet our boys’ needs on site, with professionals coming in to offer their expertise in our LAD centre (Learning and Development Centre),” adds Lea. “I am truly passionate about seeing boys find a safe and happy place, where they are free to make mistakes, ask for help, learn how they learn best and as a result, reach their true potential.”
Along with outreach programmes, Highbury also offers a vibrant cultural programme.
“Highbury’s 116-year history carries a rich tradition of boys’ preparatory education. Over these years the boys who have walked our halls have not only experienced a holistic education of sport, culture and academics, but have also learned the importance of good manners and solid Christian values,” says Highbury’s Headmaster Roland Lacock. “We are dedicated to educating boys to thrive amidst the challenges of the 21st century.”
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