Growing Little Learners

By Greg Whitby, 9 July 2020
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

What a term! We started out with students being supported in their studies at home. Then we saw the return to the classroom well before many of us expected. As the Winter holidays begin, things still seem a little topsy turvy.

As an educator, I want to reassure parents and carers who are concerned about how their children are learning that schools are working really hard to meet student needs. As a grandfather, I want to share my admiration for the thoughtful ways that families are providing all sorts of learning experiences for their children.

My grandkids, who live in the Northern Hemisphere, have been unable to attend school for six months. Their father has taken a leading role in looking for interesting ways to keep them growing as learners, including planting a veggie garden that is now ready for harvest and going walking in the woods. Of course, it’s a little warmer there at the moment to support this outdoor learning.

I believe more strongly than ever that education is learning how to learn. When we teach children how to learn with a focus on content that’s interesting to them now, we’re onto a winner. Needless to say, an activity like planting a veggie garden (or even some beansprouts in a jar for those with less space) can be a great way to learn together. This may be a project for the break: many families will be struggling to keep kids busy with some of the usual school holiday activities still off-limits.

We’re seeing more edible gardens at school too. There’s so much to learn here, and I’m not just talking about agriculture, science and cooking. Gardeners learn about hard work, time management, hope, failure, resilience, persistence and reward. Gardening can also teach us to accept the things that are beyond our control, and make what provisions we can to adapt to circumstance.

When we return to school for Term 3, we’ll be heading towards Spring, new growth and hopefully better times. These strange circumstances have seen us all become more resourceful, hopefully resilient and make the most of what we have. There’s learning in that, and I suspect that many of these lessons will be enduring.

And just one more shoutout to teachers everywhere: you have been amazing. Enjoy your break.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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