The St Michael’s educational program is designed to offer students a broad range of experiences. These experiences underpin their capacity to become successful learners, both during their school years and beyond. The program addresses outcomes specified in the Australian Curriculum and by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.
In Years K–6, our learning is inquiry-driven with a commitment to the values of the Reggio Emilia Educational Project. The day begins for Kindergarten students with a morning meeting. During this time, plans for the day are discussed. The children then engage in a range of different learning experiences that have been planned for them. Following lunch and a siesta, the afternoon program builds on the morning’s learning, enabling depth and breadth of concepts and thinking. Students meet with specialist teachers to further enrich their learning experiences.
From Preparatory to Year 6, we focus on the development of literacy and numeracy skills, developed both separately and in the context of a rich Transdisciplinary Learning Program. Our diverse curriculum includes English, Mathematics, Transdisciplinary Learning, Wellbeing, Information Communication and Learning Technologies, Sacred Stories, Music, Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Education and Sport, Languages (Japanese and French), Literacy and Research Skills, and Outdoor Education.
From Years 7 to 12, students are offered increasing choice in their academic program. The strong core developed in Years 7 and 8 are offered in increasing depth, as students progress until they select their VCE program from over 40 VCE Studies.
Flourishing as a K–12 School
St Michael’s has evolved its approach to teaching, learning and caring for 21st century education to build upon our strengths as a Kindergarten to Year 12 (K–12) school.
Introduced at the beginning of the 2016 school year, this new approach offers students greater support and guidance, as well as increased diversity of opportunities. Staff positions were retitled to facilitate the new structure, which focuses on four key learning stages:
- Kindergarten to Year 1
- Years 2 to 5
- Years 6 to 9
- Years 10 to 12.
Each key learning stage takes students through a journey of excitement, challenge and increasing confidence, with ample opportunity to consolidate skills and learning before progressing to the next stage of their educational journey.
Each of the four stages of learning is overseen by a particular team of staff, who are responsible for fewer students enabling them to build better connections, knowledge and relationships.
There is also a stronger vertical alignment from K–12, allowing greater integration in teaching, learning and caring. All staff work together to ensure richness, continuity and flexibility in K–12 academic, co-curricular, wellbeing and enhancement programs.
The development of literacy is central to the English curriculum. Literacy involves the skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking and viewing across a range of social and cultural contexts. Literacy enables us to recognise and select language appropriate to different purposes and audiences. It enables us to connect to our society and culture, and to think about and change our world.
Our curriculum is framed by four overarching questions:
- Who am I in my world?
- How do I make sense of the world?
- How do others represent our world?
- How do I represent our world to others?
English courses at all year levels aim to develop:
- Abilities to read, write, listen, speak and view language with enjoyment, purpose, effect and confidence in a wide range of contexts
- Knowledge of the grammatical structures and features of language, and the capacity to assess the social, cultural, political and geographical influences on standard and non-standard forms of English
- Knowledge of language variation according to context, purpose, audience, form, content, and the capacity to apply this knowledge
- Knowledge of linguistic patterns used to construct texts and the capacity to apply this knowledge – especially in writing
- Broad knowledge of a range of texts and a capacity to relate this knowledge to aspects of contemporary society and personal experience
- Capacity to critically discuss and analyse texts and language
- Knowledge of the ways in which textual interpretation and understanding may vary according to social, cultural and political and personal differences, and the capacity to develop reasoned arguments about interpretation and meaning.
- We aim for a broad curriculum that is creative, challenging and interesting, and we develop courses that invite thoughtful engagement and result in well-informed speakers and writers. Emphasis is placed on student choice within a curriculum that builds a genuine connection between students and their world.
We believe speaking and listening form the foundation for future literacy experiences. Each day we plan specific times for sharing ideas and engaging in dialogue about issues of interest. Students debate and discuss local and international issues, problem-solve and reflect on their learning. Listening is encouraged as it shows a respect for and consideration of others in our learning community.
Speaking is only one of the means by which children communicate, and we value other modes of expression such as drawing, writing, movement and dance, art, music and drama.
Reading involves the students understanding, interpreting, critically analysing, reflecting upon, and enjoying written and visual texts. Students develop an understanding of the importance of reading and viewing a wide range of media.
Through active engagement with texts in a variety of curriculum areas and for different purposes, students develop a range of strategies for reading which extend across all the curriculum areas and consolidate the foundations for lifelong literacy.
Writing involves the students in the active process of conceiving, planning, composing, editing and publishing a range of texts for different purposes. Students develop an awareness of appropriate language for particular purposes or occasions, both formal and informal, to express and represent their ideas.
Health & Physical Education ▾
The rush we get from exercising did not arise by chance – it is part of the ‘thank you’ package our body sends us when we move. This is the message we share with students – being active is its own reward, physically, intellectually and emotionally. Appreciating and understanding the importance of physical movement, as well as finding an activity you enjoy, is the key to exercising regularly and engaging in lifelong physical activity.
Throughout the K–12 Physical Education curriculum, we provide students with a diverse and innovative curriculum that offers choice and exposes them to as many forms of movement as possible.
Building this lifelong love of being active begins in the early years, when we allow students to develop and refine their locomotor, spatial awareness and foundation movement skills through non-competitive, fun and challenging activities. We then build students’ sharing, communication and teamwork skills, while technically refining their fundamental motor skills.
Students are then immersed in the ‘Teaching Games for Understanding’ concepts, taught through small-sided games using Game Categories in a variety of environments and with an assortment of equipment. Towards the end of K–6, students prepare for Years 7–12 by partaking in units including Water Polo, SEPEP (Sport Education in Physical Education Program), and Fitness.
Our Years 7–12 curriculum is also designed to facilitate learning in a safe, enjoyable and challenging environment, where participation is encouraged for students of all skill levels. Our reporting and assessment reflect aspects of skill level, personal improvement, and effort. In this way, students are acknowledged for their input and progress rather than a ‘gold medal’ performance. They are reminded that a person’s skill level is not fixed, and that practice can improve performance.
To build on the skills learnt in the junior years, students are exposed to a wide variety of activities. These include traditional sports such as netball, swimming, and football, as well as less mainstream sports such as Parkour, diving, yoga and martial arts.
We are very lucky to boast excellent facilities at St Michael’s, including the Francis Newson Oval, Gym, full equipped weights room and aerobics room. In the senior years, we are also very lucky to be able to engage with many community providers and local facilities.
To complement our Physical Education Program, students benefit from a Health K–12 curriculum that develops strategies to build emotional intelligence, health literacy, complex problem-solving, resilience, coordinating with others, judgement and decision-making. These are all skills that have been identified as vital for success now and in the future.
The dynamic teachers within the Health & Physical Education Faculty set high standards in developing and delivering an innovative and contemporary curriculum. Faculty members are regular assessors for VCE exams, and many of the faculty members are also actively involved in their own sporting pursuits. This ensures St Michael’s Health and Physical Education teachers are abreast of changes in education, and can act as strong role models for their students.
The Humanities is a multidisciplinary subject that challenges students’ perceptions of the world in which they live by encouraging them to think critically and creatively about how some of our current and future problems can be resolved.
The Humanities encompass Accounting, History, Geography, Civics and Citizenship, Economics, Business Management, Law, Politics and Philosophy, all of which require students to inquire into the world around them, and to become better informed and more active citizens. Humanities is a discipline that encourages students to use their imagination and curiosity to question and explore the shaping effects of human and natural forces on society and their interaction with the environment. To achieve this, the Humanities Faculty has continued to implement an innovative curriculum.
The Humanities are grounded in the teacher-directed, student-centred inquiry model, where ideas are open to challenge and learning is more equitable. This model demands that students be critical, creative and reflective thinkers about the human experience. Students learn to pose and refine big Humanities questions, embarking on a process of inquiry that makes the learning journey visible, motivating and meaningful. This is achieved by a highly qualified and specialised team of teachers, who create and oversee a flexible and mobile classroom, a quality curriculum, an extensive range of incursions and excursions, quality pedagogy, and meaningful assessment and reporting.
The dynamic teachers within the Humanities Faculty set high standards in developing and delivering a thinking curriculum that demands meaning over memorisation, and has been nationally recognised for its excellence in teaching and learning. Examples of assessment methods and students’ work samples have been used as exemplars of best practice in integrating ICT into the Humanities by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).
The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has recognised the faculty’s success in designing and implementing the Australian History Curriculum, a recognition which continues to provide a focus for our innovative teaching and learning program.
Faculty members are regular assessors for VCE exams, are actively involved in VCE curriculum design and consultation with the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), and regularly participate in subject-specific associations within the wider educational community. This ensures St Michael’s Humanities teachers are abreast of state and national changes in education and are often leaders of that change – a strong commitment reflected in the consistently high achievement of our VCE students in Humanities subjects.
Learning a language at St Michael’s is a conversation between teachers and students, rooted in learning one’s native language and integrated with the development of literacy. St Michael’s teaches French and Japanese from Years 1 to 12, and Italian from Years 7 to 12.
The St Michael’s Languages Program offers students the chance to begin learning a language as early as possible, with richly detailed lessons in French and Japanese from Year 1, and Italian from Year 7. For more than 25 years, our resources and international contacts have been developed around the teaching and learning of these three languages.
The Languages Program in Years 1 to 6 has three major strengths:
- Broad focus – Students at St Michael’s begin learning two languages – French and Japanese – as early as Year 1. This substantially increases students’ practical language experience, giving them a unique perspective on learning. In Year 4, students make their own decision to continue with Japanese or French, and from Year 7 they have the option of learning Italian.
- Frequency and consistency – We insist that languages should be taught often and regularly – ideally every day, or as close to it as possible. St Michael’s students take 15-minute Japanese and French lessons several times a week. Students learn a studied and proven number of high-frequency words used in everyday interactions – for example, greetings, conversation and interaction, and asking and responding to questions.
- Gesture-based learning – The innovative system is based on AIM (Accelerative Integrated Method), a Canadian-born, internationally used language program. Each gesture corresponds to a specific word or concept, allowing the students to move their body while they’re hearing and speaking new words. In the early years, learning a language is essentially a memory activity that involves the whole body.
This innovative program has many positive consequences on the teaching and learning of languages at St Michael’s in the senior years. ‘After three years of implementation in the junior years, we have noted a marked difference in the confidence and language level displayed by our Year 7 students,’ notes Ms Mangeot-Hewison. ‘Apart from an obvious ease with pronunciation, it is impressive to observe the degree to which students, unfazed by the sound of their own voice in another language, naturally slip into the French or Japanese mode of interaction.’
Senior years students are also able to draw on the School’s considerable long-time resources and international contacts in the languages on offer by choosing to embark on a Learning Exchange Program to Le Bon Sauveur in France or Japan’s Keio High School, each of which has been developed around more than 25 years’ experience of teaching and learning these languages.
Consisting of three connected pathways (the Classroom Music Program, the Co-Curricular Music Program, and the Instrumental Music Program), St Michael’s holistic and extensive Music Program caters for all skill levels and engages students from Kinder to Year 12. Students are able to play a diverse range of instruments, explore new forms of musical creativity, and perform in a variety of ensembles and choirs.
The sounds and sights of students singing, playing, dancing, creating and making music is part of the soundscape of St Michael’s. The Music Program aims to foster students to become competent and confident musicians, who are musically literate, technically proficient and have a love and appreciation for music.
Students from Kinder to Year 8 engage in weekly Classroom Music lessons. The Year 3 students also engage in small group instrumental lessons as part of the Year 3 Instrumental Music Program. The instruments offered in this program include the flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, violin, viola, cello and percussion. Students in Year 5 also participate in the Year 5 Performing Arts Program in which they engage in a weekly Dance, Choir or Beginner Band lesson.
The Instrumental Music Program offers tuition in a huge range of instruments, coupled with frequent public performances of a diverse range of repertoire. Our Music staff are equally at home in the classroom and on the stage, with many actively involved in performance. Their dedication to the craft inspires and nurtures students’ musical abilities. At every level of the curriculum, musical concepts are explored, developed and connected through classroom music, instrumental lessons, ensemble and choir participation, and performance.
Students not only play music, but are also encouraged to interpret and arrange music and to create, notate and perform their own works. Students are able to join a wide range of ensembles and choirs appropriate to their skill level. Students learn musical skills and apply them in practical and creative ways. These skills are developed throughout each year of the junior years and form solid grounding for their future musical experiences.
St Michael’s encourages students to explore their own musical passions as they progress, whatever these may be. In recent years, Rob Clifford (OM 2009) successfully petitioned the VCAA to include the ukulele as an official instrument on the VCE Music syllabus; and Vincent Dodd (OM 2011) became the first-ever Victorian student to sit his VCE music exam in Tabla, a set of Indian drums.
Performing Arts ▾
Running in tandem with our acclaimed co-curricular Performing Arts Program is our highly creative and professional academic stream. We are proud to be one of only very few schools in Victoria to offer all three Performing Arts subjects to VCE level:
- Drama – the study of acting (with an emphasis on writing, creating, producing and performing self-devised dramatic works)
- Theatre Studies – the study of theatre and stagecraft, including set design, lighting, make-up, sound, directing and acting (with an emphasis on the interpretation of scripts)
- Dance – with an emphasis on creating, choreographing and performing any style of dance.
Our staff includes many theatre professionals working as teachers and technicians, who bring not only industry experience, but also a profound understanding of artists and artistry to their roles. Our students learn to:
- express and communicate original ideas through writing, choreography and performance
- analyse dance and drama as art forms and examine their impact on society
- use Dance and Drama to explore and communicate ideas
- embrace both naturalistic and non-naturalistic styles of performance.
Past St Michael’s students include such celebrated performers as Silver Logie winner Asher Keddie and her Offspring co-star Dan Spielman, Anna O’Byrne (star of Love Never Dies), and Hollywood movie actor Radha Mitchell, who have gone on to receive national and international recognition.
Each year a cohort of graduates from St Michael’s pursue tertiary studies in the performing arts, from costume construction and stage management, dance and drama, through to composition, performance and music technology. We are also fortunate that many graduates return to us as mentors, providers and resident artists working with current students.
STEM at St Michael’s
Science is a means of asking the important questions about the natural world. The knowledge of science has been developed over the centuries, built upon experimentation and questioning. Investigation skills refined over time form the basis of the scientific method. Science influences our society, and the direction of research is in turn influenced by our society’s needs.
In each year level, students study topics of Chemistry, Biology and Physics. The two main stands of science, Science Understanding and Scientific Investigation Skills, grow in complexity each year.
Science units are taught using an inquiry-based philosophy, in which students are given the opportunity to develop their curiosity about the universe, asking questions and seeking answers. This often takes the form of self-designed experiments, excursions, research, and personal interactions with scientists.
These investigations are often conducted in groups, showcasing their learning in a variety of modes, including visual displays, interactive presentations, research papers and creative essays.
Students who wish to continue with the sciences at VCE can choose from Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Psychology. In the Year 10 program, students are taught by a team of teachers who are experts in their field, smoothing the transition to VCE and setting them up for future success.
There is an opportunity for highly able students to accelerate by undertaking VCE biology Unit 1 and 2, including a two-week research field trip at the Orpheus Island Research Station on the Great Barrier Reef. Here, students undertake their own project also under the guidance of a Marine Biologist.
Students also benefit from a variety of enrichment activities – the student-run COSMOS science club, as well as competitions run by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI), which include titrations and a quiz. Externally run Big Science Competitions present students with a significant challenge in the area, also leading students to the Australian Science Olympiad Qualifications, providing further intellectual scope and depth.
Our dedicated Science teachers assist students in many ways. Help sessions are held at lunchtimes, and the hands-on approach taken in the classroom ensures that all material is presented in a highly accessible form.
The Gipson Commons, which opened Term 1 2016, presents students with the opportunity to independently engage in inquiry-based VCE subjects within specially designed areas, which is a key feature of VCE Science.
At St Michael’s, Technology is a key learning area for all students. Technology is an integral aspect of the world we live in, and a vital component of our children’s education. Technology skills are developed within many study areas, with a focus on Product Design and Technology, Information Technology, and Food Technology. Students develop design thinking skills within these study areas, as they explore and develop inventive solutions to important and real-life issues.
We encourage students to create ‘human-centred’ design solutions for a better world – a challenge which has been taken up by many of our students. One St Michael’s student designed a transportable water carrier for the use of people in developing countries, solving real-world problems through imaginative design.
St Michael’s students experience a variety of technology-based projects and challenges, with those in the early years demonstrating technological and engineering principles on a range of practical projects. Students in the junior years also have the opportunity to master basic machines, including pulleys, levers, planes and axles.
This practical experience prepares them for a range of challenges – for example, collaborating on a bridge made only from dried spaghetti that will withstand significant loads. In the Year 6 Billy Cart project, students test out their design principles in the most enjoyable way possible – a race to the finish line against the staff!
Many other early opportunities are available for St Michael’s students to put design and engineering principles into practice. One example is the Natural Disaster unit, which offers Year 6 students the opportunity to understand how physical phenomena impact people’s lives. This challenging unit enables students to utilise knowledge about natural disasters to solve real problems – for example, a student who lives near the beach may choose to design an effective flood prevention system.
Robotics is used as a gateway to coding skills, as St Michael’s students learn to program increasingly complex robots to perform a series of tasks. This area is introduced in Year 5, where students have to program a small spherical robot called a ‘Sphero’ to roll across the room and come to a complete stop on a bullseye. Students in the same year can choose to compete in the RoboCup Challenge, where they compete with other schools to navigate a robot around an obstacle course.
Coding and robotics at St Michael’s expands from there, as students engage with intuitively designed and progressively more complex robots appropriate for a range of year levels – including Bee-Bots, Makey Makeys, Ozobots and LittleBits and online coding programs such as Kodable, Tynker and Hour of Code. These programs build towards the Lego Mindstorms program, where students design a programmable robot capable of carrying out a complex series of instructions.
By Year 10, students interested in Technology can choose subjects as diverse as Product Design, Fashion Design & Textiles Technology, Food Technology, and Information Technology.
Students studying Food and Technology learn an advanced set of culinary skills in preparation for a career in the industry, gaining the skills to plan a range of delicious and nutritionally balanced meals. Areas covered include Barista skills and Safe Food and Handling, within the expansive industrial-grade kitchen of The Gipson Commons.
In Product Design & Technology, students create and construct products using a variety of materials, tools and techniques, including computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing and routing. Students can choose to construct a variety of objects – including the Year 10 speaker project, in which they design, engineer and manufacture a set of high-fidelity speakers.
Fashion Design is another highlight of Product Design, allowing students to design and construct simple fashion accessories such as designer Tote bags and pyjamas. In VCE, students engage in self-selected projects addressing real needs, including dresses made from recycled materials.
The year-long ‘design and make’ VCE project is taken up with enthusiasm and imagination. This year, student projects include a pop-up emergency disaster shelter, an adjustable and portable DJ work station, and a compact folding carbon fibre skateboard.
Information Technology students engage with a range of applications and platforms, from Game Development to Web Design. Students use industry-standard software in real-world situations to design games, moving on to more complex control structures using text-based coding to create their own software solutions (e.g. Flight Control).
At St Michael’s, studying Technology opens a world of possibilities in a continually evolving environment of technology.
At St Michael’s, we pride ourselves with our commitment to excellent teaching and innovative thinking. The Mathematics Department staff are passionate in the belief that Mathematics should be fun, relevant and taught at a level consummate with their cognitive ability.
The Department has implemented a genuinely innovative program which places the needs of the students first. In short, we teach students at the level of their ability. It is therefore not unusual for Year 7 students (after a process of pre-testing) to work at a Year 9 level. Each new module or concept offers the chance to change group and excel in a particular topic. There are no limits to learning or barriers to discovery.
Student engagement and growth are critical to success, and the Mathematics Department strives to build students’ confidence. Students celebrate not just their achievements, but also their growth in each module studied. Comprehensive work has been done with wellbeing experts and psychologists to ensure that we cater for each student’s academic and emotional needs. Changes in teacher facilitate different teaching styles and a richer educational experience.
Because Mathematics is more than just the acquisition of skills, it is taught as a coherent body of knowledge at St Michael’s. Concepts steadily build in complexity across the modules, giving students a solid grounding in core concepts. Problem-solving is treated as a key stepping-stone on the road to mathematical learning.
Mathematics classes strongly emphasise collaborative learning. Students work on problems in small groups or individually, then reflect on their learning. Year 6 classroom teachers also teach Mathematics in Year 7, offering continuity and depth of knowledge across year levels.
In the senior years, Mathematics uses laptops for statistics and graphing, and CAS (Computer Algebra System) calculators for mathematical investigations and applications. CAS calculators are introduced in Year 9, enabling students to gain confidence with their use ahead of VCE Mathematics.
The full range of VCE Mathematics subjects is offered, with Year 12 students also able to enrol in the University of Melbourne’s Enhancement Mathematics course.
Evidence of the level of care and support for Mathematics is seen after school, when the Mathematics Faculty hosts Maths Help sessions. These encourage students of any age to turn up with questions. All are welcome – from those seeking a quiet corner to do homework, to those wishing to discuss the wider implications of differential calculus.
St Michael’s strives to make Mathematics a subject which students find enjoyable and fulfilling.
Visual Arts & Design ▾
The location of St Michael’s in one of Melbourne’s art and design hubs means we can use local galleries and artists to support and enhance our programs. With specific studios for a variety of media and techniques, students are inspired by each creative space when executing their artworks.
From the traditions of ceramics, sculpture and painting, the studios also house digital media and a fully equipped darkroom, where black and white photography is still thriving as a process in the senior years.
The Art programs focus on the process of design and the development of concepts, with students taught to consider social, emotional, cultural and historical contexts through which to navigate new ideas and value the visual language of others.
Visual Arts and Design provides opportunities for creative, imaginative and innovative thought and action. We allow students to create, express and interpret; to seek out authentic connections in their immediate community; and to recognise the power the visual image can play in their lives.
Year 7 and 8 students develop experience in printmaking, painting, ceramics and sculpture. Focusing on the traditional arts, tools and techniques in the lower years, students interpret themes and ideas in 2D and 3D to ensure informed choices can be made in later years.
Courses expand in Years 9 and 10, where students can opt to work in the fine arts or move into digital media, still using the same processes of development, but with different aesthetic outcomes.
Year 10 further diversifies into design and a more focused multimedia program, while still offering the traditional arts. The Year 10–12 courses broaden out in to Art, Visual Communication and Design, Media, Studio Arts Photography, Mixed Media, and New Media.
Having set the foundations of good design processes and creative interpretation, our VCE students are challenged to generate their own problems and then endeavour to answer them. They are expected to be autonomous in their thinking and experts in the execution of the techniques related to their chosen medium.
Using the teachers as a sounding board for ideas and achieving their objectives, their media can range from digital and analogue photography, biro drawings, oil painting, resin castings, book sculptures, model making, graphic design, film and animations.
VCE Subjects Offered ▾
At VCE level, our belief in diversity extends to the impressive subject selection our students can choose to study, encompassing a broad range of disciplines across all areas of interest.
The following is a list of Year 11 and 12 subjects offered at St Michael’s.
Year 11 subjects
- Australian and Global Politics
- Business Management
- English Language
- General Mathematics
- Health & Human Development
- History: Ancient History
- History: 20th Century History
- Legal Studies
- Mathematical Methods
- Music Performance
- Physical Education
- Product Design & Technology
- Specialist Mathematics
- Studio Arts (Mixed Media)
- Studio Arts (New Media)
- Studio Arts (Photography)
- Theatre Studies
- Visual Communication Design
Year 12 subjects
- Business Management
- English Language
- Extended Investigation
- Food & Technology
- Further Mathematics
- Global Politics
- Health & Human Development
- History: Ancient History
- History: Revolutions
- Legal Studies
- Mathematical Methods
- Music Performance
- Physical Education
- Product Design & Technology
- Software Development
- Specialist Mathematics
- Studio Arts (New Media)
- Studio Arts (Photography)
- Theatre Studies
- Visual Communication & Design