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Moving education away from the traditional ‘process of learning’ and turning it into a ‘partnership of discovery’ is an exciting concept.

That is exactly what the BHP-sponsored Mining Minds project in South Australia is all about and the results so far are impressive. It’s one of the many ways we support communities across Australia.

Teacher development, student wellbeing and parental engagement are the three focus areas.

“The success of the project so far can be measured by teachers, students, parents and the local communities engagement in learning, which has increasingly surpassed expectations,” Mining Minds manager Angela Thompson said.
 
“Ongoing professional development programs for teachers focus on partnership with colleagues and research to develop teaching skills,” Angela said.
 
She said that teachers are taking the opportunity to look closely at their current practice and make changes that improve the ways they work in schools in Roxby Downs, Woomera, and Andamooka.

“Raising the quality of early education translates to greater success in the latter years because of the foundational strength and greater interest in learning.” For this reason the program also focuses on working with families and teachers in children’s services, from birth such as childcare and preschool.

Research shows that working in partnership with parents has a direct effect on whether children are successful at school, so Mining Minds involves and works closely with, parents in a number of areas.

The program is built around a dialogue with the families. “Some families want to improve their own learning so they can assist their children, while others want to understand what effective parenting including having high expectations, looks like,” Angela said.

Overseeing all aspects of a child's education and developing partnerships with everyone involved has produced strong results.

“Students reported to us that they wanted their learning to be more engaging and fun,” Angela said. Authentic learning is central to the program and uses real life examples to engage the students.

“So in the case of a finance and economics subject, the program allows children to focus on their own town of Roxby Downs, BHP and the effect of international copper prices on its business,” Angela said.

“Instead of just learning maths, students apply it to things that are relevant to their lives, their parents, local businesses and the community as a whole.”

The teachers are encouraged to invite local people with expertise in specific subjects to visit the classrooms where they might, for example, share the economic realities of running a business in their town.

 “We know from research that children learn better when they are engaged and this is more likely if their learning has real world context."

“You can apply this approach to any area of learning,” Angela said. “It reminds us that partnerships are the foundation of a good education.”

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