Our new junior High School basketball team took a great leap forward this term by signing up for the winter competition run by Basketball Byron at the Cavanbah Centre. They play every Wednesday after school. The team are still looking for some extra players so, if you're a basketball fan, or are keen to give it a try, come along and have FUN. Also, every Thursday from 4 to 5pm there is a free basketball training session at the High School ball court for students from Class 6 to Year 9. We thanks Josie Banens, for donating her time to organise the team.
This term, our Year 11 Standard English students are studying Steven Herrick’s critically acclaimed verse novel ‘The Simple Gift’. The novel’s focus on homelessness and the disconnect between generations inspired students to compose imaginative and reflective pieces on these topics. Here is a selection...
T H E O T H E R S I D E O F T H E S T R E E T
by Tara Kyle
Many in our society have grown up seeing homeless people as dirty, lazy substance abusers. That picture might describe some homeless people, but each person has more to their story than what we see from the outside.
Homeless people live in most towns, big or small. They may choose to sleep on the street on a bench, visible and out in the open, or choose to be more secretive and avoid letting the outside world see where they live. Personal safety is a constant concern for a homeless person.
There are many reasons why people become homeless. It may be that there are not enough available jobs, inadequate income, high rental payments, issues with family or other relationships, or the person might be escaping domestic abuse, as is the case for many homeless women. In these instances, people are forced to leave home. In ‘The Simple Gift’, Billy needs to leave home in order to survive and, eventually, thrive.
In other cases, some people leave home to escape memories. Their home may hold too much sadness for them and they believe that leaving the memories behind and living a simpler life will be easier than having to face the past every day. Sometimes, however, having more time to dwell on their thoughts may result in them being stuck in a depressive head space. This can lead to an abusive relationship with substances that is not healthy for a person’s body or mind. Like Old Bill in ‘The Simple Gift’, they want to drown out the past in order to feel better, but doing this actually stops them from getting better.
Every person is an individual. Every person has different life experiences and a different story. So next time you’re walking along the street and see someone who is homeless, don’t be so quick to judge them on their appearance. Instead, take some time to consider all the possible reasons why they might be in that position and the hardships they might have gone through.
Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. – Rudolf Steiner
The Shearwater Senior Studies Certificate is an alternate pathway for Year 12 students, on offer at Shearwater. The program provides an opportunity for students to create and execute a self-directed project in an area of personal interest. Participants develop a project proposal, present their idea to a panel of peers and teachers, and work with mentors in the wider community, as well as School staff. Time management, organisation and communication skills are an important part of the learning process. Students must also document their project development in a process diary (see images above).
As well as their project work, Shearwater Certificate students must take a number of HSC subjects, including one of the English courses and two or three other subjects of their choice. They complete these subjects alongside their peers, including sitting any external exams and completing major works.
This year we have seven Year 12 students engaged in the Shearwater Certificate, developing a range of projects including: choreographing a ballet; designing a swimwear brand; creating a magazine; making a film; putting together a creative and performing arts portfolio; developing a business to raise awareness of, and funding for, youth mental health, and starting a free-range egg business.
Here are some of their reflections on the process thus far...
“The Shearwater Certificate is challenging because you have to manage your individual project and your other school subjects as well. It’s definitely not just an ‘easy option’ like some people think.”
“It’s a personal development project that gives you the opportunity to do something that you’re passionate about and interested in.”
“It offers you a taste of what life outside of school is like, through giving you independence and responsibility for your learning.”
“Being able to do a Shearwater Certificate has given me the opportunity to follow my passion, and it’s great to be able to have some guidance along the way."
“I like the fact that I get to use my imagination and make something good for others to be inspired by, and that I can share what I have learnt with others.”
“It really helps me get through school, doing something I enjoy and with a bit of extra pocket money and a wealth of information.”
The culmination of the year-long project is a presentation and display which will be held in the School Hall on October 23, 4.30-6.30pm. Please save the date and watch this space.
Year 12 Guardian
The children in our Banksia Rose Room have been very busy making special gifts for their mothers this term.
Our first group made a care package filled with treasures. First of all, we grated beeswax and lemon with coconut oil to create a lip balm with a dash of honey. Then the children cut up rosemary with scissors, and crushed lavender with a pestle and mortar. The mix was used to create a fragrant body oil. Finally, our busy workers crushed up dried chamomile for a relaxing compress or cup of tea. Rachelle (Isabelle's mum) kindly gave us some lemons, from her abundant tree, for a nourishing foot bath, and we finished the package off with sprig of rosemary for a face wash in warm water.
Our second group carefully hand painted pots into which they planted some beautiful flowers.
It was wonderful to see the love and care the children brought to these tasks. One of the children said, "My mum is so kind and takes good care of me, she cooks for me, she plays with me and gives me big hugs!".
Moving from Kindy to the "Big School" is an enormous step for our Class 1s but they are beginning to settle into the different rhythms.
In Term 1, we began our journey together through the stories that have unfolded all the consonants. We drew pictures and began writing our letters, surrounded with rainbow colours. Now in Term 2, we have been looking at the Quality of Numbers. Reading the book of nature through number and unfolding the consonants from the world around us, has been a great privilege.
Painting, games, walks, handcraft and modelling have been with us on our journey. Play is full of joy and fun. Nadia has helped us learn about the School by giving us the opportunity to do practical jobs with her. We have also had Katsuko come to sing Japanese songs, teach us about Japanese festivals, and do something we all love... origami.
Joining with everyone in the "Big School" for the Winter Festival will be another step towards a feeling of belonging - to the School and each other, as "One Whole Class".
Class 1 Teacher
Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition, drawn from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Biodynamics has much in common with other organic methods, using manures and composts instead of artificial chemicals. However, according to the Biodynamic Association of North America, biodynamics is "not just a holistic agricultural system but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life". Biodynamics informs much of the work that happens on our amazing 52 acre property in Mullumbimby.
One of the events that takes place each year, in partnership with Biodynamic Northern Rivers (BNR), is the preparation of horn manure, in which cow horns are filled with fresh cow manure and buried in a pit for the winter, to harvest the earth forces. These horns are then dug up in spring and the manure is diluted with water to make a potent soil activator known as 500. Every year, we spray 500 on the school grounds with the assistance of children, parents and staff. A thumbnail-sized piece is enough to treat one acre of land. How does it work? By encouraging soil microorganisms and helping build top soil. This is a very potent and inexpensive way to heal and fertilise the earth.
On Friday, May 24, all students from Preschool, Primary and High School are invited to join in with the filling of the horns and the singing of the songs. We also would like to extend this invitation to the wider Shearwater community, especially parents. If you don't want to get your hands dirty you are welcome to just come and watch. The burial will happen at the back of the School property, near the big Coolamon tree between 9am and 12 midday.
To became a member of BNR email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nadia de Souza Pietramale and Kaye Groves
At Humming Bee Kindy we celebrated our beautiful Autumn Festival at the end of last term, sharing songs and dances with our families, and enjoying a feast together. Our Sunny Sunflowers reached for the Sun and grew as tall as our roof!
This term we have done lots of work in our garden, harvesting sunflower seeds to nibble and to share with the birds who visit our garden, and watched as our watermelons grew bigger and bigger, until we harvested them this week.
Bobber Blue Wrens have been nesting in our ever-growing garden and raised their family of babies, who even came to our lunch table to find crumbs to eat. We have just started planting vegetables in our veggie gardens, and are busy going around and around making rainbow pompoms to decorate our tie-dyed craft bags. Father Sky has sent many autumn rainbows to arch over our beautiful Kindy home.
Over Easter, the students of Shearwater Steiner School's IT Multimedia and Photography classes gathered outside the media gates of Byron Bay Bluesfest. Nerves and excitement for what lay ahead pushed us forward into the festival, guided by our teacher Endre.
We collected our wristbands and prepared for our first experience in the pit at the media tent. As school students, we haven’t had much exposure to professional creative projects and we all gained insight and perspective into the realities of being a professional photographer. Our experience at Bluesfest was a priceless one that we will never forget, it inspired and evoked creativity within all of us.
We were sat down by David Harris, a music industry photographer since the 80s. He taught us some basics to the cameras and gave us a few personal tips. For example, he only uses AV (aperture value) when taking photos. The lovely crew around us all separated to different stages to capture the singers under the magnificent lights. What really sets the vibe of the atmosphere is the crowd screaming, dancing and cheering to their hearts' content.
The coloured stage lighting travelling through the dust and smoke added drama to our photographs. The smoke caused the images to appear full of energy and helped to diminish the hard shadows in the background, minimising the need for editing, other than a few touch ups using exposure and shadow tools.
As well as being able to experience taking photos of talented artists, we also had allocated free time when we were able to enjoy the music.
As one of the student media crew gushed: “Immersed within the crowd of people from all walks of life, the sound seems to connect and unite us. The music helps to remove any judgment or prejudice we might feel toward one another."
"As the sound emerging from the speakers vibrates my sternum and travels through me, I can’t help but feel at peace. Everyone is on the same wavelength, we are all touched by the sound waves of the same artist.
"Iggy Pop, at the age of 73, rocks the stage, for two whole hours - a powerful and emotional performance; creating an unforgettable atmosphere. The music is insane and Iggy Pop himself is an inspiration.”
The first semester of Class 6 has been one of governance and discernment, challenge and achievement.
As a group, we support one another to face our fears and work towards resilience and courage. Polishing the qualities that will help us to serve our task and one another. Please read about the highlights and experiences written by some of the students in Class 6S...
Year 6 has been really fun but has not been all sunshine and rainbows. When we first came to school we learnt about Rome - it was pretty fun. We did lessons where Sonia, our teacher, would write on the board. But we also got to do our own work. We could go to the library and find information. Then we could work in groups or by ourselves to make a piece of writing.
For our second main lesson we did a self-directed lesson, which is my favourite type because we get to do research and come back to the classroom and write it out. It was a math main lesson. we learnt about percentages and made it like a business where we had to pay rent and sell our products.
Every year we do a main lesson on Australian history. This year for Australia we learnt about Federation, which happened in 1901. We are also making a mosaic which we will put on the canteen. In Term 1 we did a surfing program where we went to the Pass for three hours and learnt surfing with Beau, one of the school's assistant teachers with hidden talents. It was definitely my Year 6 highlight so far.
At the end of Term 1, me and some friends were in the school netball team and went to regionals in Tweed. We didn't win but it was still a great day. Another interesting thing about Term 1 was Bush Dance. We did a dance with the other Class 6. We used poles and hit them to make music.
This term, we started having homework. We have done home projects before, but that was only once or twice. Now we have to give it to Sonia every Friday. But I guess we're lucky. At my old school, we started homework in Year 3. My favourite thing about Year 6 is the position of our classroom. We have the best place to play at lunch. We have a big fig tree, swings and monkey bars. It's next to the library and it's in a nice quiet crook, so we can make noise without being a disturbance. We are very close to the canteen, so always have good smells wafting through the classroom, and we are close to the bus stop.
Last term, our Year 12 Standard English students studied JK Rowling’s 2008 commencement address to the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. Titled The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, Rowling’s speech inspired the students to compose articles that explored issues they are passionate about. Here is a selection of their work...
T H E F E A R O F F A I L U R E
by Zali Spinner
For many young Australians across the country, Year 12 is a challenging and highly stressful time. Undertaking 13 years of schooling and then, at the very expiration, undertaking a series of cut-to-the-bone three-hour examinations, which will determine one’s future.
During the late teen years, students are often already on a rocky path through adolescence. On top of this, family and social obligations, part-time jobs, self-development and pre-existing mental health issues can impact on students’ wellbeing. Students are told that their future depends on one final number and this adds exponentially to the fear and pressure we are already experiencing.
A study conducted by the University of New South Wales shows that out of 722 HSC students across Sydney, 42 per cent admitted to high levels of anxiety, 16 per cent severe anxiety and 37 per cent with above average levels of stress, while more than 50 per cent said they felt there was too much expected of them in Year 12. Some students described their experience as “the worst year of my life” and “the stepping stone for stress”.
On a national level, it is estimated that 30 per cent of students suffer anxiety, stress and depression during the HSC. Around 200,000 students will sit the HSC exams per year. Some will pass with flying colours, some will ‘fail’ and some will dropout, while others will exit the race before it has even begun.
According to NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes, "The stress and anxiety levels that students are going through is phenomenal and the irony is that 40 per cent of kids are getting entry to university through the early entry scheme and other methods. It's been 50-odd years; it might be time for a bit of a change.”
Currently there seems to be a lot of negative media surrounding the HSC specifically, and the education system in general, and people are beginning to speak up about it. In 2016, 14 Year 12 students self-documented their experience throughout the whole year by taking daily video diaries. The final result was aired as a series on the ABC entitled My Year 12 Life. This shows a very raw reality that students are facing.
For years, the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking) has been perceived to be the ingress of tertiary education. Some students fear it is the only option or the only determination of whether they will get into their dream university or job. However, to help minimise the fear of failure and the heat of pressure around the HSC, universities are finally offering alternative entry points. In fact, the ATAR is becoming far less crucial and a variety of other options are becoming more prevalent such as school recommendations, early entry schemes and mature age entry schemes.
Sharna Clemmett, a barrister and high school 'drop out’ from Lismore, struggled in school, particularly throughout the HSC year, and made the decision to drop out of school halfway through Year 12. Her ‘failure’ made her depressed and she even contemplated suicide.
However, after reaching the age of 21, she was able to apply to university as a mature-aged student and begin her tertiary education in law. She has now been a barrister for more than 20 years. "It is important that kids get the message that the HSC is just a period in their lives, and there is a whole world after it”, she said.
Early this year, Stephanie McConnell opened the doors to Lindifield Learning Village, an alternative school from K to 12 in Sydney’s upper north shore. She describes it as a public school with no classrooms, school bells, year levels or exams “as we know them”. There are no formal year levels; however, students will progress according to their abilities and at their own pace. Instead of classrooms, learning spaces are described as “caves, waterholes, campfires etc". And instead of formal exams, students will be examined at individual times. "A student might choose a particular point in time when they feel they can demonstrate the learning required to meet a particular learning outcome," Ms. McConnell explained.
This may seem extreme; however, alternative learning institutions are on the rise. Since the school was announced, Ms McConnell said she “had witnessed a hunger in the community for a more individualised model of education” and has already received thousands of applications. The NSW Government is on board and has provided the school with funding of $40 million to start building. “We are on the verge of an education revolution,” says Ms McConnell. "I think what people are looking for is something that's not that lock-step sausage factory of the HSC.”
The reality is that one size does not fit all. Stephanie McConnell, among others, has realised this and has begun putting this understanding into action. The HSC and higher school system is tailored to a small percentage of learning capabilities. It does not address one’s abilities or skills as an individual, nor should it determine one’s future and I think people are beginning to acknowledge and realise that
Students should be encouraged by people like Sharna Clemmett, and reminded that ‘failing’ or struggling at school is not a reflection of one’s ability to succeed in the real world and school is not some sort of competitive race for their futures that they need to buy into. If students achieve the result or goal they had manifested, that’s great; but if they don’t, they need to know that there are multiple pathways for them to achieve their personal and educational goals that are not limited to their performance in a set of exams.
© Shearwater The Mullumbimby Steiner School