Well prepared for the world beyond our walls

| June 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY BRONWEN MARCON

St Columba’s was founded in 1909 by the Dominican Sisters and was called Benoni Dominican Convent.

Situated in the East Rand in Gauteng, it is one of the oldest schools on the Reef and features several historical buildings. In 1983, the school changed its name to St Columba’s, reflecting the marriage of a fine tradition of religious education and culture and a new era in meeting the educational requirements of the community. St Columba’s became a member of ISASA in 1996.

Our littlest people

St Columba’s is one of many schools in South Africa that provides a continuity of education from three years of age right through to Grade 7. From early pre-primary, which puts the child in a “big school” environment that introduces them to a broad spectrum of learning skills, to senior primary, where they are prepared for secondary school, the continuity of the quality of the child’s education is assured.

St Columba’s pre-primary has six qualified teachers, plus two assistants who help the teachers with the children as they go through their day. Small classes mean that each child is known and loved by the staff. The national Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS)1 are followed by all teachers, and are supplemented by continuous in-service training courses that take the teaching staff to new educational heights. A structured programme is followed in all classes (at the particular level for that age group) in which creative activities, fantasy play, life orientation and language enrichment all play their part in the schooling of the child.

Reading, mathematical and technology skills are all enhanced in the various “baking and making” activities undertaken every week, while a supervised outdoor programme offers water play, sand play, wheeled toys and a variety of gross motor activities. Movement activities are essential in improving the gross motor control of each child, and the Eagle Tumbling team2 helps the children to develop their gross motor skills in a fun and active environment. Computers are used in all classes to reinforce mathematical and reading skills, to emphasise left and right, and in memory and concentration extension work.

Class music is part of the weekly programme. In this fun environment the children, including the Grade R class, are taught singing skills, as well as percussive instrumental expertise. Chess lessons are given to the Grade R children once a week, and are an optional extra for those who want to participate. Little Kickers3 also provides an optional extra for budding footballers.

An educational psychologist, speech therapists and occupational therapists are on board to help the children, and a fully supervised after-care service is available during term time to assist working parents, while a holiday care centre caters for their needs during the April and August school holidays for those parents who are unable to take time off. Extramural activities are provided for Grade R pupils – ball skills for the girls and cricket and football for the boys.

Innovation through technology

At St Columba’s, we have enthusiastic, qualified teachers who are able to explore innovative ideas in our progressive technological era.

St Columba’s School moved forward with Google Education and Chromebooks with regard to our e-learning in the Grade 7 group. We chose the Google Apps for Education Suite, as it is available to schools at no cost, has an uptime of 99.9% and contains useful applications that we feel benefit teaching and students with easy means to create, share and edit files in real time, and store them in the cloud.

Acer Chromebooks are the choice of hardware for our school. This choice enables us to save time instead of using multiple, expensive technology platforms that require ongoing technical support and slow down teaching with long start-up times and constant updates. Our Chromebooks boot in eight seconds and immediately wake from sleep mode to connect to our Wi-Fi network, using the Google Education system. If a student accidentally damages their Chromebook, they can simply log into another unit and continue right where they left off. Data is stored in the cloud or the student can save their current work offline to their Chromebook and continue at home, if they have no access to the internet.

Spotlights and spirituality

We believe in developing the children culturally. Music, art and speech and drama are important parts of our curriculum, with school concerts and musical evenings held every alternate year. Our children are also involved in choral verse and choir competitions.

As St Columba’s is a Catholic school, we attend Mass every week, with each class having an opportunity to prepare the Masses. Children in Grade 3 are also prepared for their first Holy Communion, which takes place at the end of their Grade 3 year. Our Catholic tradition ensures a good moral grounding, and the religious education lessons give the children the opportunity to enrich their own faith and to learn about and respect the beliefs of others.

A helping hand

The children support various charities and outreaches in the wider community. We assist the Avril Elizabeth Home4 with donations raised by the Grade 7 class on Entrepreneur’s Day. We also supply other needy institutions with warm clothing, second-hand books and equipment, and our Grade 5 class contributed gifts to the Santa Shoebox project.5 The Grade 6 class donates shoes they have outgrown to a project called Shoes for the Shoeless, and the pre-primary school runs a programme called Love Bites, providing food for an informal settlement close to Benoni. The Grade 4s provide Easter eggs to the same informal settlement, and each child in the entire school donates a small toy to our annual Advent Liturgy. These toys are then distributed to those in need.

Our green fingers

Going green” is an important part of our strategic plan, both from an environmental and an educational point of view. Our preschool takes great pride in looking after and maintaining its veggie patch. Seasonal vegetables are grown each term, and are watered from one of the numerous water tanks we have on the school property.

Outside the box

To ensure our children have a well-rounded education, they are encouraged to participate in a variety of sporting and extramural activities. A dedicated sports teacher controls all our sporting activities, which include cricket, football, netball, tennis and swimming. Added to this, coaches trained in different sporting codes assist to ensure St Columba’s pupils get a thorough grounding in their chosen sports. Many of the children are involved in more than one sport, due to our small numbers. The attitude we foster is one of healthy competition as well as participation.

Ready for the world outside our walls

Our children must have a plethora of qualities, such as confidence and resilience, to face the world that awaits them. Our aim, therefore, is for the children to leave the grounds of St Columba’s not only having appreciated an education that has been paid for, but cognisant of the responsibilities they have to the greater community and environment. We endeavour to ensure that their view of the world outside of the walls of St Columba’s is broad and tolerant. Our agreed responsibility here is to ensure that all pupils are well prepared for a world that has not yet revealed itself.

References:

1. See: http://www.education.gov.za/Curriculum/ CurriculumAssessmentPolicyStatements/tabid/419/Default.aspx.

2. See: http://easterngautenggymnastics.co.za/eagles-tumbling-club/.

3. See: http://www.littlekickers.co.za/.

4. See: http://www.avril.org.za/.

5. See: http://www.santashoebox.co.za/.

Category: Winter 2017

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