Each year St Brendan’s has a range of exciting initiatives happening across the school extending our Higher Ability learners. Our goal at St Brendan’s is also to provide extra-curricular opportunities for enjoyment.
Premier’s Reading Challenge
Each year St Brendan’s students engage in the Premier’s Reading Challenge to celebrate their love of learning and literature. The Challenge aims to encourage a love of reading for leisure and pleasure in students, and to enable them to experience quality literature. It is not a competition but a challenge for each student to read, to read more and also to read more widely.
Stage Three students involve themselves in the Robotics Technology challenge. Students spend lunch times building complex robots out of Lego. Students build their robots using motors, cogs, wheels and light sensors. Once unique designs are developed, students program their robots to move independently using NXT software.
Programming the robots requires deep thinking and problem solving skills, in order to make the robot move around a 1.5 square metre board. The use of light sensors is also extremely difficult to incorporate, as the “right” brightness of reflected light needs to be identified. This then assists the robot to register different degrees of light on the board and react to it, according to what the students program.
St Brendan’s students often enter a number of complex competitions against other local Primary schools.
The ICAS University tests are provided for students each year. The independent skills based assessments include Computer skills, English, Spelling, Writing, Mathematics and Science competition papers and are sat by over one million students in Australia and New Zealand annually. These assessments offer students the opportunity to explore extended content in each of the curriculum areas. Students are then awarded different achievement commendations ranging from Merits to High Distinctions.
St Brendan’s holds the annual Public Speaking Competition in Term Three. Public speaking is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge and clearly articulate their thoughts, ideas and understanding to their peers. Preparing a speech for public delivery increases a child’s knowledge of the topic and enables him or her to become more in tune with the subject matter, as well as, develop confidence. Every student at St Brendan’s learns the skills of public speaking during class and has several opportunities to practise delivering a speech to an audience. Our more talented and exceptional speakers are then invited to present at the whole school competition, where their talents are recognised more formally.
St Brendan’s participates in the Central Coast Debating Competition. Under the guidance of our expert in-school debating coaches, the team meet weekly to develop their arguments for each round.
Debating requires critical thinking skills and the application of this through writing. Debating involves more than naming reasons to support an argument. For each debate our students have to complete comprehensive research of the topic, problem solve how to write strong arguments that are not easily rebutted and put forward a strong, well aligned case. The team also work on developing counterarguments and ways to disconfirm the evidence supplied by their opposing team.
Stage Three students have the opportunity to enter the Maths Olympiad competition. This is an annual competition extending across Australia. This program is designed to strengthen students’ mathematical intuition and requires calculated problem solving strategies. Students sit a five problem test every month between May and September, competing against other likeminded students, as well as aiming to improve their own achievements. This high quality program produces critical thinkers and fosters creativity and ingenuity.
Our St Brendan’s team meet weekly to train for these contest problems. At these training sessions students strengthen their problem solving skills and learn different strategies that assist in speedy solutions. The focus is on strengthening students’ ability to solve mathematical problems in a creative manner. These gifted mathematicians are taught to use critical thinking to find the solution, as opposed to simply finding the answer using a prescribed method. Maths Olympiad not only requires a strong understanding of number sense, but relies on the ability to find shortcuts in order to find solutions.
Higher Ability mathematicians in Stage Two and Stage Three complete the AMC Mathematics Challenge. This extension opportunity is a four week program where students come together to discuss and solve problems on a weekly basis. Students are guided through different problem solving strategies to find solutions to complex, multistep questions. In order for students to be successful they are required to use abstract reasoning and creative thinking and apply this to different contexts. Students enjoy the opportunity to work as a Group with peers who share their mathematics strengths. As an addition to the Maths Challenge, students are given an extended Term Three challenge which will take the concepts explored in the Mathematics Challenge a step further. This is completed in class time.
Each week at St Brendan’s a talented group of Chess players meet to practise the game. Students will either play one-on-one games or doubles tournament rounds. St Brendan’s have entered the Central Coast Chess Club Competition, which sees our students visit a number of primary schools across the Coast. Chess is an activity that exercises both sides of the brain and demands concentration, planning and foresight. It also strengthens memory and problem solving skills. Chess provides our higher ability students with an opportunity to rely on their creativity and exercise some originality.