“Whatever an education system is, it should create a unique individual and not a conformist.” John Taylor Gatto.
A moment of truth
I had been a teacher for twelve years the day I realised that schools were institutions designed to stifle learning. That the way I was trained to teach was directly opposed to how children learn. I remember feeling ill to the pit of my stomach, realising that I had been doing to the children in my care what I perceived to be a grave injustice.
Don’t get me wrong, I had been doing everything that Teachers’ Training College had drilled into me on teaching methodology. My students were thriving academically. I had the perfect methodology in my class for creating a behaviouristic teaching model: I fill children with knowledge, and they regurgitate it in a test or exam. Producing the perfect bell curve for my head of academics.
Putting two heads together
Then, a colleague of mine, André de Coning, handed me a book by John Taylor Gatto, The Exhausted School. A short, yet powerful read. It flipped my entire educational philosophy and belief on its head. André and I had long been engaging in lengthy debates about how children learn, what knowledge is, and why schools were designed to kill learning.
As a child, I had survived twelve years of the schooling system of the day as a child. Another four years of teacher training college where I was taught to teach in that same way as the system in which I was schooled. I could not see the obvious logic of André’s arguments. Then I read the book.
The journey begins
When I put the book down, I remember not sleeping that night from all the discomfort I felt. The realization that schooling as I knew it was defunct and that there needed to be an educational revolution across the world. My whole educational paradigm shifted, and that was the start of the journey that would lead me in joining André in starting our own school – Broadacres Academy.
Fast forward 10 years of talking, dreaming and planning. André and I found ourselves at the start of the Broadacres Academy journey. In 2016, we purchased a preschool of 110 children and started a Grade 1 class with 7 children. Six years on and Broadacres Academy is now 600 learners strong. We are living the vision of creating a schooling environment where children thrive and continue their love of learning with which they are born.
The next steps
That same Grade 1 class has grown up – and next year they move across to Broadacres Academy High School where our vision and dream continues. We are excited about developing a high school space that encapsulates our belief that schools need to be collaborative learning environments. Environments where children drive the learning process guided and facilitated by teachers who understand that learning is what children do, naturally.
The Broadacres way
Constructivist learning theory would be unfamiliar to anyone who went through the standard schooling system where behaviourist learning was the main driver. In short, constructivism is a way of teaching that is child-centred and not teacher-centred. Constructivist theory believes that each child learns in an individual way and that children have pre-existing knowledge that assists them in making sense of learning.
Children are not empty vessels that need filling with whatever the teacher and the curriculum deem to be important. Children need to be engaged in the learning process, where they can make sense of the knowledge and information around them. They need to understand how knowledge is not bound to subjects but interwoven and connected across all learning areas.
Keeping children engaged in learning is the key to ensuring that they never lose their love of learning. It is vital that the schooling environment stimulates curiosity and does not kill learning.
What waits for you
Broadacres Academy High School will be a natural progression of the Constructivist learning environment created at Broadacres Academy Preparatory School. The High School has been designed as a unique learning environment that promotes collaborative learning, free thinking, and individualism.
We understand the rigors of high school. We acknowledge the importance of obtaining an excellent matric result. We know that high schools are academically focused. That there is a mandate to complete the necessary curriculum and ensure that each child is prepared to enter university, should this be their goal.
The vision unfolds
Our vision is to also ensure that the High School promotes the sound ideology of Constructivist learning. Where each child understands the unique way in which they learn and has the skills to formulate knowledge and understanding of the curriculum content being taught. A school where we believe that “Self-knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge.” – Gatto
What this means is that children should be given the freedom to drive their own learning through their natural curiosity, and with the guidance of the teacher, make sense of the interconnectedness of knowledge. To create true understanding of what is being taught through the curriculum. This happens through collaborative and inquiry-based learning. Big questions are posed, and the learner is guided on a path where they discover beyond what the curriculum prescribes.
Broadacres Academy High School
Broadacres Academy High School is designed with Constructivist learning in mind, with movable learning spaces that promote collaboration and integration, with IEB curriculum delivery.
The buildings will follow the look and feel of our current campus, but with a more contemporary edge that will suit the older children. The school is designed around two sections – each a dedicated learning community for the specific high school phases, being the Senior Phase (Grade 7 – 9) and FET Phase (Grade 10 -12).
Our high school campus is operational from January 2022 and enrolments for Grade 7 – 9 are now open. Mrs. Colleen Traviss-Lea is heading up the High School and we are thrilled to have her at the helm, driving the Broadacres Academy vision.
If you would like to inquire about the high school, please contact her and her team on:
Email: HighSchool.Admin@broadacres.com or
We would love for you to be part of the continued Broadacres Academy vision.