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Engagement in Learning Starts Young!

Today’s classrooms look and sound very different to when I was at school. As a young student my classroom was often quiet, had no computers and my teachers directed most of the learning. Why is engagement in learning so important for our students in today’s world?

Simply put, engagement in learning equals progress in learning! Learners who are engaged are intrigued, inspired and have a thirst for learning.

The Grattan Institute reports that in any given year up to 40% of learners can be disengaged and unproductive. Effective learning environments use consistent approaches to support and engage learners. To avoid this statistic becoming a reality it is recommended that learning environments:

  • Establish high expectations for all learners
  • Develop strong relationships between the students and teachers
  • Have clarity with well-structured instruction
  • Provide active learning experiences
  • Support students through encouragement and praise

To prepare for an ever-changing world, the way in which students engage in learning environments has also changed. 21st Century skills and learning play a key role in engaging learners. Preparing students for a changing job market starts as young as the Junior years. 21st Century skills means supporting students to develop:

Learning Skills – critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication
Literacy Skills – information, media and technology
Life skills – flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity and social skills

(Bri Stauffer, 19 March 2020, Applied Educational Systems Blog)

What is taught and how it is taught are crucial, but creating a good learning environment in the classroom is necessary too’ Grattan Institute 2017.

Here is a snapshot of how Teachers across the Junior School foster engagement and create the right environments for 21st century, critical thinkers and learners.

Year 4

What better way to engage Year 4 learners about History and the past than having “The Day of the Infamous”. Students selected a convict and studied in depth their story and journey. Boys presented their learning through displays, dressing up as convicts and immersing themselves in learning about convict life. They were excited to share their work with family and their peers. 

In Science, completing hands on experiments while they learn about forces has kept the boys intrigued and captivated.  Further, in Religion the boys have studied in depth the meanings and messages of Parables. Parables are now being reinvented to connect with the boys modern world by rewriting them in a relevant context. In Digital Technology, students are understanding how computers and their software work by coding their own stories and scenes on Scratch.

Year 5

To further their learning on the early days of Australian settlement, students travelled to St Helena Island. The boys were captivated by the experience. They loved seeing where the convicts, wardens and their families lived, worked and in some cases, died. However, their very high levels of engagement were around the complete immersion that they experienced. The tour guides were in character the entire day, one as a convict and the other two, wardens. They treated the boys as convicts, told them stories and even demonstrated punishment techniques, all with an underlying humour. The boys won’t forget their St. Helena experience in a hurry.

In Digital Technology, the students have been using robots to design solutions for real life problems. Their latest challenge is to send in a robot to clean up a toxic chemical spill. Tricky has been busy cleaning and clearing up the mess!

Year 6

Throughout Term 2, Year 6 have received a taste of Middle School life by being introduced to the science labs. This collaborative working experience has engaged students by encouraging them to apply their creative and critical thinking to solve problems and answer practical questions. This term has been focused on electricity. Therefore, students have:

  • used soldering irons to construct electrical circuits,
  • measured voltage and currents using multimeters,
  • investigated why resistors are needed in circuits that include LED’s, and much more.

In Digital Technology, students are engaged in invention literacy by designing a controller for Nintendo that has a unique or wearable element. The controllers connect to the computer with a Makey Makey kit and simple stationery.

Friday Afternoon Learning Experiences

Whether it engages the mind or body, Junior School students have the opportunity to engage with it all. Every Friday afternoon students across the Junior School come together to collaborate and engage in a range of learning experiences, suited to their interests. Teachers design learning experiences that challenge, engage and intrigue learners. The activities are outside of the regular learning experiences and provide students with the freedom to explore their talents and skills while they integrate with other year levels. Whether it is strength training, chess training or fishing club, students are provided with an opportunity to improve their skills.

Engagement in learning means becoming a lego master, passionate debater, bridge builder, mad scientist, art specialist, 3D modeller, film maker or a computer coder. The sky is the limit, and in this 21st century learning environment we love seeing the boys engaged in every aspect of learning.

With regular small group College Tours taking place each term, we love showing our future parents and students all the fun we have learning in the Junior School!

Belinda Emmi

Stauffer, B., (19 March 2020). Applied Educational Systems Blog. What Are 21st Century Skills? (

Goss, P., & Sonnemann, J. (2017). Engaging students: Creating classrooms that improve learning. Grattan Institute. Engaging students: creating classrooms that improve learning (