Preparatory Academics

2021 and on… Always United & Always Serving

ST DUNSTAN'S COLLEGE

Preparatory Academics Report 2020

2020 Academic Year… An opportunity to celebrate what’s right with Education.

2020 has been a year like no other; a roller coaster ride to say the least! It is often said that teaching methods have not changed in over fifty years, but with no prior warning, our teachers, pupils and parents were forced to change their manner of learning in an instant. I would like to applaud my colleagues on the swift manner in which they were able to adapt to working online during Level Five Lockdown. Staff taught themselves how to record lessons, video themselves and post activities in a matter of days. The change in education that people had been calling for, happened overnight.

This new approach to learning benefited both pupils and parents in different ways. Whilst at home and online, pupils were introduced to a wide range of practical learning activities. From baking and cooking, to climbing trees and having family discussions to name few. The playing of board games and riding bikes enabled our pupils to be exposed to a more rounded education and gave them the opportunity to develop skills that were not previously taught at school.

Celebrating what is right with a situation gives us an alternate vision. Our vision controls our perception and our perception becomes our reality. Vision is a powerful force as it enables us to transform the bleak and desolate into something extraordinary. The positive attitude which encouraged our staff and pupils to successfully adapt to our continuously changing learning programme, is reflected in the manner in which pupils have adjusted back to campus life.

Throughout the course of the year we have worked to create a productive environment at school, whilst keeping safety protocols in place. Learning took place in all areas of our curriculum and we conducted assemblies, staff meetings and Chapel services online. Book Character Day and Pi Day were celebrated with enthusiasm by both staff and pupils. Formal assessments were reintroduced in the third term and the Grade 6 and 7 pupils wrote their end-of-year examinations at the beginning of November. The JP Prize-Giving, Honours Morning and Sports and Cultural Award ceremonies were all conducted online and streamed to parents at home and at work.

In our endeavour to move from ‘good to great’, I would like to thank the staff for their positive attitude and for their ability to remain ‘fluid and flexible’ during these challenging times. As 2021 approaches we pray that we may be moving towards normality and school as we know it. In hindsight we need to be grateful for all that we accepted as everyday life and we look forward to seeing the pupils playing at break and hugging each other as they exchange greetings.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. “Nelson Mandela

Biffy Symons

Deputy Head of Academics

ST DUNSTAN'S COLLEGE

Preparatory Academics Report 2019

As I reflect on the 2019 Academic year, it is with a sense of pride that I reflect on what our staff has accomplished. In an era where technology and the “pressure” to include new teaching methods is encouraged, many of our teachers have embraced the challenge. Being constantly reminded that we are teaching children for whom jobs have not yet been created, our aim at the Preparatory School is to try and provide our pupils with an all-round educational experience. We give children opportunities within our curriculum and extra-curricular programme to find their niche.

At the beginning of the year a new subject was introduced in the Preparatory School from Grades 1 – 7: STEAM. This is an educational approach to learning that uses a combination of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics as access points for developing student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking. Pupils are encouraged to take thoughtful risks, to engage in experimental learning and to develop creative ways of looking at problem solving. The emphasis and success of the lesson is based on the process, rather than the result, and children work at their own pace. Smaller groups offer more individualised attention and STEAM definitely has become a firm favourite among many of our children.

To summarise a poster that we have on our classroom wall: In STEAM we question like a scientist, we design like a technologist, we build like an engineer, we create like an artist, we deduce like a mathematician and … most importantly … we play like a kid! STEAM club this year focused on building spooky houses and our aspiring architects certainly created some special structures there!

Our pupils are offered a large choice of “out-of-the-box” activities, ranging from craft work and 3D drawings to catapults, bridges and structures. Egg dropping has become a great favourite from the upstairs balcony. Some lessons are structured while others allow the children more freedom to follow their own interests. Computer coding and robotics have played a large role this year, and recently we have begun to implement a 3D printer programme, which exposes our pupils to the more complex design and wonders of 3D printing.

“Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else.”

Sydney Gurewitz Clemens

At Creative Crafts this year, the Grade 3 children have had fun ‘becoming like themselves’ by expressing themselves creatively through experimentation with various mediums and techniques. Some of the exciting activities included origami, coffee filter art, blow painting, water colour and oil pastel artwork, baking, sewing and puppet making, creating surreal landscapes and pavement chalk art.

“Without laboratories, men of science are soldiers without arms”

Louis Pasteur

The Science Club provides promising young scientists an opportunity to embark on an exciting journey of discovery within the realm of Physics, Chemistry and Design and Technology.

The Grade 5, 6 and 7 pupils performed a number of scientific investigations during the year. A few highlights include:

  • Investigating the properties of bubbles and making concentric domes using bubble solutions.
  • Making Chlorine and Hydrogen gas using chemicals like magnesium and potassium permanganate.
  • Investigating the effect of surface area on the motion of an object by making paper helicopters.

Pupils are now using our new micro-science kits ordered from Radmaste, Wits University. They are building circuits using Micro-Physics Electricity kits and looking at specimens with our new Micro Bio-observation Kits.

All members are commended for their enthusiasm, dedication and love of Science. The Science Club invites all interested and budding scientists to join in the exciting activities we have planned for next year.

Grade 7 is the first year that the pupils are introduced to Biology as a subject and they embark on an exciting and interesting journey into a new field of scientific study. One of the highlights of these lessons was the hands-on dissection of various animal organs. This was the first real experience that the pupils had of using specialised equipment such as scalpels, dissecting needles, forceps and surgical scissors. The emphasis was on teaching them to use these tools safely and effectively, especially as this is a skill which they will use when studying this subject at high school. The pupils learned simple dissection techniques which allowed them to investigate the internal structure of the different organs and they particularly enjoyed working on the heart and kidneys, as well as inflating and deflating the lungs. This exercise complemented the theory covered in the section on Life Processes, particularly the Human Body. It allowed those pupils interested in pursuing careers in Medicine or Veterinary Science valuable insight into their suitability for this field of study.

The New Knowledge Club was initiated by Miss Leigh and Dr Burelli. The club is a place where those with different likes and dislikes interact and pupils feel like they can be part of something totally different. They have participated in a variety of activities, including murder mysteries, Kruger Park reports, karaoke, baking sessions and general knowledge games.

The establishment of the E J Butler Centre has enabled us to host the Natural Science, Mathematics, English and Social Science cluster meetings this year. As a school we were proud to be able to share our iconic auditorium with schools throughout Gauteng. It is at cluster meetings where we are able to connect with colleagues from other schools and share ideas. Thank you to all the teachers, as well as Mrs Emmett and Mrs Lachenicht who were a constant support in the organising of these meetings.

In August, thirty-nine Preparatory and Pre-School teachers attended the Proudly Primary Conference hosted by Highbury School in Hillcrest. We were addressed by well-known guest speakers and educators of a high calibre. It is at conferences such as this that we are able to compare our curriculum and teaching methods with schools throughout South Africa. The staff are exposed to new ideas and are reassured that we are on the right track.

Writing externally set papers such as the various Conquestas and Shared Assessment help the teachers ascertain if we are on par or above par with other independent schools in South Africa.

One of the highlights of our academic year was when Shane Mearns shared his journey of dyslexia. Shane’s confident ability to accept his gifts and be prepared to share his difficulties in front of an audience filled with peers, teachers and therapists was heart-warming. If as a staff we can learn from Shane and his mother and their experiences and adapt our teaching methods to include pupils with different ways of thinking, we can only move from a good sound academic basis to one of greatness!

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting pupils working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” – Bill Gates

Biffy Symons