By Jake Plaskett, Director of Learning Innovation, Ruyton Girls’ School
Change is constant and innovation is optional. The world of teaching has changed, as have the ways in which we engage with the global community.
Indulge me as I share some history about how schooling, as we know it, came to be. In 1892, a working group of respected educators known as The Committee of Ten recommended a standardised curriculum that would be delivered over a 12-year period and include instruction in the following areas: foreign language, mathematics, the sciences, and English – this structure sounds strikingly familiar. Fast forward to 1916, famous educational psychologist, philosopher, and reformist Professor John Dewey recognised a need to transition beyond an industrial model of education and said “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow”.
This proclamation was made more than 100 years ago, but education has yet to experience a significant re-imagination, which highlights the inevitability that change is constant and innovation is optional.
“As an independent, forward-thinking girls’ school we are committed to preparing girls to be lifelong learners and global citizens in an ever-changing world. We will build on our strong academic reputation through the development of signature learning programs that ignite intellectual passion and curiosity, challenging and empowering our girls as engaged citizens.” [An excerpt from The Ruyton Strategic Plan 2017-2020.]
Recently, our Year 8 girls embarked on the first iteration of Urban Escape, a one-week signature experience that challenged girls to build original escape rooms. Escape Rooms are a room, or series of rooms, that require players to solve multiple puzzles and riddles as they race against the clock. Our girls fearlessly conquered 15 different escape rooms across five separate venues in the Melbourne CBD. With advice from expert game makers and local escape room owners, our girls designed and constructed escape rooms for the school community to experience first-hand.
Through this process they were required to understand cryptography (the art of writing and deciphering codes), work within set parameters and physical spaces, monitor progress and create daily action plans, share resources and ideas within a group, and continue to develop as dynamic, agile, and flexible learners in an unfamiliar setting. The task was concrete but our girls were up for the challenge.
We invited the Ruyton community to join us for an interactive, public exhibition of our girls’ creations. More than 250 brave souls worked together in small teams to overcome the mental challenges and, in some rooms, terrifying surprises that awaited. The event was full of energy and our girls were so proud of their work; fellow students, teaching staff, and parents shared how impressed they were by the student’s ability to work collaboratively, resolve conflict, and creatively solve problems in such a short amount of time.
The Urban Escape Experience highlights the true capacity of our girls and illuminates the importance and necessity of striving to be more than an academic mark in standardised subject areas. It reminds us to celebrate both success and failure as a necessary and welcome part of a lifelong learning experience. As we move forward we shall continue to reimagine and redefine what successful and future thinking, teaching and learning looks like.