The school in the fields: An insight

AS the farming community shrinks, and opportunities to work and study draw young people further afield, East Loddon P-12 College is facing new challenges. We spent a day at the campus.

SCHOOL was different when Richard Hicks was studying, more than 30 years ago.

It was a place where the Calivil dairy farmer and his peers got an education in subjects such as numeracy and literacy.

“The basics are still the same,” Mr Hicks said.

But, in addition to teaching the curriculum, schools are preparing students for the realities of globalisation, of increasingly technology-driven lives, and for the challenges faced by their communities.

“I suppose it’s mostly changing in reflection of the times,” Mr Hicks said.

East Loddon P-12 College council president Richard Hicks.

East Loddon P-12 College council president Richard Hicks.

About 40 minutes north of Bendigo, East Loddon P-12 College is surrounded by paddocks as far as the eye can see.

For years, the school has educated children from traditionally farming communities.

Mr Hicks attended East Loddon P-12 College.

The father-of-three is now president of the school council.

Principal Steven Leed believes the college is different from many others, in that it’s not based in any one community.

It’s at the heart of many.

Each morning, more than 230 students arrive on buses from communities such as Serpentine, Dingee, Mitiamo, and Calivil.

Before they’re of age to vote in an election, or become full licensed drivers, they have opportunities to explore other cultures and communities.

Jessica Demeo, one of a number of students grasping the opportunity to experience new cultures.

Jessica Demeo, one of a number of students grasping the opportunity to experience new cultures.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Demeo is preparing to spend 10 weeks in Germany – her first trip abroad.

“I’ve always wanted to do an exchange,” she said.

But her desire to travel has intensified since hosting her exchange sister earlier in the year.

Sheep had been on her exchange sister’s list of things to see while in Australia.

“She was exposed to them every day she was here,” Jessica said.

“We live on a farm just out of Raywood and run sheep and cropping.”

Jessica has fond memories of her exchange sister’s stay, including making their debut together at the school’s debutante ball.

Now, she’s looking forward to gaining an insight into her exchange sister’s world.

“It will be different living next to neighbours,” Jessica said.

The school she’ll be attending will be much larger than East Loddon P-12 College.

Having studied German for the past 11 years, Jessica expects she will be able to communicate.

Students to embark on the 2018 Turkish exchange program.

Students to embark on the 2018 Turkish exchange program.

Students preparing to embark on a Turkish exchange are only just starting to familiarise themselves with the language, but are looking forward to experiencing a culture different from their own.

Of the six students involved in the trip, two will be going abroad for the first time.

The opportunity was open to students keen and able to commit to a fundraising campaign.

They are aiming to raise $10,000 by April.

Mr Leed said each student was expected to take on a leadership role as part of the pre-departure activities.

You do what you can for your kids.

Richard Hicks

The pupils and their families have so far staged a community mixed netball competition, a community day, a comedy night and several barbecues.

“I’m looking forward to the home stays” 14-year-old Will Stringer said.

The students will live with a local family for two weeks and attend a local school. 

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Will said.

Jasmine Lawry, 15, was interested in learning more about the Anzacs and Gallipoli.

In addition to Europe, East Loddon students are going on exchange to the United States of America.

Video conferencing has created study opportunities for Dana Bish.

Video conferencing has created study opportunities for Dana Bish.

Technology is enabling staff and students to broaden the scope of their studies and further engage families in what’s happening at school. 

Video conferencing has provided students like Dana Bish opportunities to complete subjects that might not otherwise be available at the college.

The year 12 student is studying business and legal studies subjects online.

“You have to be very self-motivated to get it done,” Dana said.

But the study style suits the aspiring primary school teacher.

Parent - teacher communication was front-of-mind for 17-year-old Ethan Lewis when he received an assessment during software development studies.

“I had an idea for a website where teachers can upload student work,” Ethan said.

Ethan Lewis with the website he created during software development studies.

Ethan Lewis with the website he created during software development studies.

The site enables parents of the school’s youngest students to see what their children have been producing in class, alongside remarks from the teacher.

Ethan was asked to present the project before the school council.

“They were pretty keen on it,” he said.

The school is now trialling the site.

The year 11 student started coding about three years ago.

While his experience helped with the project, it was still a challenge.

“Ethan only started to learn this particular language at the start of the year,” his teacher, Jackson Clayton, said.

The website took about two months to code, but about four months to plan and develop.

Ethan said having to meet a brief and pitch the project to stakeholders made it “very much like the real world.”

The subject is new to the college.

“Our focus is always on providing the best possible education we can to not disadvantage kids in this area,” Mr Hicks said.

There were times when he said it was a struggle for families to provide children with opportunities, such as international travel.

“You find a way,” he said.

“You do what you can for your kids”.

Expect to learn more about our adventures at East Loddon P-12 College in the near future.