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Using STEAM skills to solve real-world problems at Clunes

The time Year 9 students spend at Clunes is often a highlight and something they remember long after they leave Wesley College. But this eight-week residential program is much more than just time away from the traditional classroom, providing students with the opportunity to explore Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) concepts to solve authentic real-world problems.

Clunes is an eight-week residential learning program for Year 9 students set in the heart of Victoria’s Goldfields region, in and around the township of Clunes. Wesley students from all three Melbourne campuses experience shared living, community engagement and unparalleled social and emotional learning opportunities.

The learning program at Clunes follows the Year 9 International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IB MYP). The program blends experiential, academic and social and emotional learning, with community engagement, outdoor exploration, fitness, the arts, and sustainability. The curriculum pivots around three key concepts; Self, Place and Community.

Inquiry-based learning: the heart of teaching and learning at Wesley

'Students at Clunes explore the concept of ‘Place’ by identifying a local problem or a need and then setting out to find a solution,’ explains Dan Lukies, Head of Wesley at Clunes.

‘Students choose topics based on their own interests, which reflects the inquiry-based learning approach of the International Baccalaureate (IB). This gives students agency and improves their engagement in their learning, which is particularly important for adolescents.

Linking learning to real world experiences and places also provides an anchor for students to delve deeply into often quite complex lines of inquiry, which can sometimes be a challenge in traditional Mathematics and Science classrooms,' Lukies adds.

Recent projects include redesigning existing community recreational, medical or commercial facilities such as:

  • Designing a mountain bike trail course to boost local tourism
  • Flood-resistant design of bridges
  • Playground construction
  • Creating a hundred percent environmentally sustainable village using Minecraft
  • Studying the installation of wind turbines at Clunes
Putting the ‘A’ in STEAM

Students designing their STEAM projects at Clunes have a keen sense of ownership of their work, and an eagerness to explore different avenues and solutions, and as a result, extend their creative and critical thinking skills.

The ‘A’ in STEAM is particularly important as it incorporates the broad concept of ‘The Arts’ into the more traditional STEM model, bringing a level of creativity into student learning.

Creative solutions to the real-world problems are crucial in the workforce as we face increasingly complex and interconnected challenges.  Learning to identify issues, engage peers and colleagues, conduct analysis and find recommended solutions are all skills needed within the workforce and independent life, so vital in preparing students to transition to post-secondary education and into workplaces.

The Clunes campus boasts dedicated art, woodwork and design technology spaces, with the latest in laser cutters, 3D printers, design software and arts equipment to facilitate the application of creative thinking and innovation to real-world topics.

Find out more about the Year 9 Clunes program here.

Dan Lukies, Head of Wesley at Clunes