Nature Based

November 16th, 2017
Nature Based
Basket Range Primary is a little school doing big things.

Nestled in native bushland and surrounded by tall pines and eucalyptus trees, the school’s approach to education sets it apart.

Aside from being one of only three schools in South Australia to implement the Steiner stream of education alongside mainstream curriculum, earlier this year the school managed to come first in a national mathematics competition.That’s no ordinary feat for a school of 36 students.

Teacher Claire Gallagher attributes the school’s success to its dual-stream teaching approach.
“I think that’s one of the unique things about us,” Claire said. “I’m a mainstream teacher, but the two streams don’t have to sit separately.

“We come together and teach across the streams.

“They can almost be merged together,” she said.

Steiner education, also known as Waldorf education, is based on the philosophy of Austrian born Rudolf Steiner and takes a holistic approach to a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual development.

Steiner focuses on practical hands-on activities, creative play, developing artistic expression and emphasises the role of imagination in learning.

The school’s surroundings mean that students are encouraged to explore and to apply the skills they’ve learned in the classroom to their outdoor environment.

So finding your child incorporating their maths skills with cubby building isn’t out of the norm.

Sue Gallagher, a Steiner stream teacher, said the cubbies are constructed from materials the students found on school grounds.

“All down through the gardens here are fallen branches, stumps and pine needles,” Sue said.
“The students work cooperatively, gathering whatever they need, and they then work together in building the cubbies.”

The children decide the features of the cubbies depending on the needs of their surroundings and friends.

“They might see a friend who needs some quiet time and they’ll respond to that and create a safe place.

“Or they might decide they’re making a shop cubby.

“A decent branch might cost three gum nuts, so they trade – they’re doing maths too,” Sue said.

Claire added that the school didn’t rely on students learning in front of computers.

“We have technology, and we do desk work, which is important.

“But we utilise it a lot less than other schools,” she said.

The school’s decision to incorporate a Steiner stream class was a result of community discussion and need.

“We had some families within our area who were really interested in Steiner,” Principal Nancy Saccoia said.

“They approached the school and we had many discussions with the community and teachers about how a Steiner stream would work in our mainstream school.

“We talked a lot about the Steiner philosophy and the school’s philosophy and values – it actually meshed really well and met the needs of all our students.

“For example, as a whole school we focus on the environment and work outside in our wonderful grounds. So the underlying principals for both streams are very similar.”

There are currently 17 students in the Steiner stream from reception to year 2.

In the mornings students work with their teachers on their own curriculum, Steiner or mainstream.

After lunch, the groups come together for subjects such as music, language, design and technology, art and craft, and health and physical education.

“We’ve got students with siblings in both streams, some younger in the Steiner and older in the mainstream,” Nancy said.

“Basically you can’t tell coming into the school who is Steiner and who is mainstream. We’re like one big family at Basket Range.”

Claire added that the unique mix of Steiner education and mainstream meant that the needs of students on all levels could be met.

“We recently went on a school trip to the Botanic Gardens.

A ranger remarked to my colleague that the children were really interested – but that they were interesting themselves.

“It was an amazing comment.

“They are curious and invested in what they’re learning which means they are learning so much more.”

The school is also growing in size, but Sue maintained the school intended to remain small.
“All these little schools in the Hills are all kind of holding on.

“We started this year with 24 children and we’ve now got 36.

That’s quite a big jump when a lot of schools aren’t growing,” Sue said.

“Our students don’t just interact with their peer groups, but right across the board. They know each other very well,” she added.

Earlier this year, the school placed first in the 2017 Open Month Mathematics competition – an online mathematics education platform for students.

Basket Range Primary competed against 671 schools and 140,440 students from across the nation.
Claire said that was an example of how the school differed in its education approach.

“In our school, our learning approach is more about the nature rather than the technology,” she said.
“We don’t really subscribe to online-based teaching or use computers often, and our teaching is very hands on.

“To a school our size, it’s a big deal, and it should be noted that even though we teach in a very different way to other schools, we still managed to come first.”

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