Alternate education choices meet a community need in the Hastings

Connecting to nature: The Nature School Primary students Samaya Jordan, Kaelahni Palmer and Anwen Pullen enjoy a spot of birdwatching. Photo: Catherine Oehlman
Connecting to nature: The Nature School Primary students Samaya Jordan, Kaelahni Palmer and Anwen Pullen enjoy a spot of birdwatching. Photo: Catherine Oehlman

Three small schools have growth plans in a bid to meet education needs into the future.

The Nature School Primary, Port Macquarie Steiner School and Nautilus Senior College are relative newcomers to the education landscape but are already looking to the future.

The Nature School Primary opened in 2018 with 22 students from kindergarten to year 2.

The school today has 38 students from kindergarten to year 3 and it has just received initial registration to introduce year 4 in 2020.

There are plans to offer up to year 6 by 2022.

The Nature School Primary head teacher Catherine Oehlman said the vision was to have a kindergarten to year 6 primary school which children, staff and families loved being at.

The Nature School Primary students spend as much time learning in the great outdoors as inside the classroom.

"We get messy and dirty as we learn and play, and we really protect the privilege of play in the primary school years," Ms Oehlman said.

"It's nice to see some alternate program schools popping up in the area and it makes sense because there is such an active community in that sustainable space," Ms Oehlman said.

Nautilus Senior College has been part of the Port Macquarie education scene since 2017.

Creative approach to learning

Port Macquarie Steiner School has 21 students from kindergarten to year 2.

The school has received preliminary approval to launch year 3 in 2020.

Teaching principal Kristy Barry said Port Macquarie Steiner School really catered to a creative approach to learning.

She said there was a lot of goodwill behind the fairly small school community.

The school, which operates in Table Street, has big picture plans to move to a yet to be identified permanent site.

That would open the door to kindergarten to Year 6 classes, in a staged approach, in addition to the early years playgroup.

"Ideally we would like to be in a new property by 2021," Ms Barry said.

Essential ingredients: Port Macquarie Steiner School students Sidney Ayriss, Sukey Stewart, Connor Hartshorn make a cake for a birthday celebration in kindergarten.

Essential ingredients: Port Macquarie Steiner School students Sidney Ayriss, Sukey Stewart, Connor Hartshorn make a cake for a birthday celebration in kindergarten.

The school has launched a building fund and a major fundraiser is planned in September.

Ms Barry said educational diversity in Port Macquarie attracted teachers looking for other education systems as well as families seeking different education options.

"Having more choice in our town is really good to meet the different needs of children and families," she said.

Individual approach to understanding student needs

Nautilus Senior College helps students overcome challenges to obtain their year 10 Record of Student Achievement.

Principal John Beaumont said Nautilus Senior College was a school for the kids which a traditional classroom environment just didn't fit.

The students' lives can be complicated and challenging or the students require a particular understanding to achieve success.

The school has forged relationships with community-based groups as part of its blended education program.

The students will have a number of certificates to their names as they pursue areas of interest from first aid to barista courses in addition to their Record of Student Achievement.

The school, which runs under the auspices of Mid North Coast Community College, has up to 38 students in years 9 and 10.

Mr Beaumont said they were looking to expand the school as the community need was definitely there.

He said the way things were shaping up, the school may well explore years 7 and 8 in the not too distant future.

"If we can get these kids in at an earlier age and provide them with this blended program, I'm hoping our successes will far outweigh the obstacles," Mr Beaumont said.

He said the students' motivation and enthusiasm blossomed with their achievements.

Education at home

Home schooling is another education option.

Michelle, mum of two homeschooled children, said homeschooling had given her kids the opportunity to follow their interests and be active learners.

"Being able to adapt the curriculum to allow the kids to extend themselves in some areas or come back to a topic they might not immediately grasp has meant they always love learning," she said.

A Wauchope mum of three children said she felt in many ways homeschooled children were lucky because they didn't necessarily feel "forced" to learn a certain way to fit the majority.

She said community was a huge benefit and having entire families involved in activities and events meant stronger relationships were developed and children had a community of people around them to support their learning and growth.

"One of the most common misconceptions about homeschooling is that children lack socialisation and it makes me laugh really," she said.

"All homeschooled children I know are highly socialised, and not just with peers the same age, but across a wide range of age groups."

Beechwood dad Andrew Lord has about 12 years' experience in homeschooling.

"It is a learning experience for the parent as much as it is for the child," he said.

Natural learning context: Jordyn Davies, Lily McCloskey and Lilyana Lord take part in the alternate education program, Adventure Quest. Photo: Kaidee McKerrow

Natural learning context: Jordyn Davies, Lily McCloskey and Lilyana Lord take part in the alternate education program, Adventure Quest. Photo: Kaidee McKerrow

Mr Lord also runs two programs involving homeschoolers.

The project space brings homeschoolers together every Monday morning.

Mr Lord likens the project space to the homeschooling equivalent of entrepreneurial hubs for people working from home.

"It's a way of training young people to be independent learners and to structure their own learning around something they are passionate about," he said.

Mr Lord also runs an adventure quest program which he says is an alternate way of addressing learning in the outdoors.

The program, which suits school children and home schoolers, blends nature-based, academic learning with life coaching principles.

Distance education

Camden Haven High School offers both face-to-face and distance learning for students from the Central Coast to Coffs Harbour, Armidale and Lord Howe Island.

Distance education is available for full-time enrolments and single courses.

The Port News contacted Camden Haven High School for comment.


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