Standing proud in the heart of Cairns, St Joseph’s School was transformed from the oldest school in the city to the most modern with innovative new learning spaces inside a state-of-the-art, three-storey building – and the students are thriving.
During the Parramatta Park school’s transformation, traditional classrooms were demolished to make way for a new state-of-the-art building featuring Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs). These flexible learning solutions allow students to work in smaller groups, individually or collectively as a class, choosing the best environment to meet their personal learning needs. With engaging themes such as the beach, the rainforest, the ocean and the universe, the students are inspired visually, mentally and physically by their surrounding spaces.
“I am energised, enthusiastic and excited about the improvements we have made to the way we teach and to our school, introducing Innovative Learning Environments which we call ‘Learning Habitats’. I know that what we have created best meets the needs of our students both for now and the future,” tells Principal Gavin Rick.
Gavin shares this enthusiasm with his St Joseph’s staff, who did extensive personal development surrounding tailoring teaching to these specialised spaces. Also sharing the excitement with the school staff are the parents and community, who have been impressed by the school’s latest upgrades.
“The new ILEs are amazing! Our children are so blessed to have the opportunity to learn in these environments,” tells St Joseph’s parent Alicia Prince.
“The teachers have completely transformed their teaching format to provide a wonderful space in which kids can develop. They are so enthusiastic about the new structure and opportunities to help our children grow. The environments provide a more relaxed learning environment without compromising on discipline and structure.”
Students thriving in Learning Habitats
The ILEs have allowed teachers to create a range of learning zones where students can feel relaxed, comfortable and ready to learn. They’re also able to choose the method of learning that suits their needs from options such as writing, drawing or using technology such as videos and apps.
“Our learning environments are far better at meeting the needs of modern learning and the needs of our students,” tells Gavin. “The learning in the habitats has far exceeded what I imagined in terms of our learners being focused, calm, happy and engaged.”
While Alicia had some initial reservations about the new learning spaces, she was quickly reassured by her children, who are thriving in the new learning environments.
“The enthusiasm of the teachers just rubs off on the kids. Kids are able to learn in an environment in which they feel comfortable. Whether explicit learning, small group sessions or finding their own quiet space to work, the children are so much more engaged. They also have more opportunities to work with their peers, helping to reinforce the learning concepts,” explains Alicia.
No turning back
Housing more than 400 students over three storeys, the modern new building and fresh approach to teaching has been designed to meet the current and future needs of the students.
“I have asked my children several times if they would like to go back to a classroom with desks and each time get an overwhelming ‘NO WAY!’ – they love having the flexibility to learn in a space that suits them without the restrictions of a conventional classroom,” tells Alicia.
“With the exciting new approach to learning, teachers are so enthusiastic and motivated to help our children reach their goals. Together with St Joseph’s digital learning platforms, they are thriving in the new school format which allows them to work at their level.”
Learning, love, community and respect
While the school now boasts a makeover and fresh approach to learning, the rich history and vision of mercy has been maintained alongside the core values of learning, love, community and respect.
“We are so lucky to be part of the St Joseph’s community. With progressive leadership and a team of committed teachers and support staff, we leave our children each day in the care of kind and loving people who are genuinely committed to their learning and development – what more could we ask for?”