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Game Changer Challenge winners: the future is here

A ‘wellness’ glass dome where anxious students could stay engaged in their learning and a sustainable school for drought-affected NSW are the winning visions in a school of the future challenge run by the NSW Department of Education.

Carenne School students

Carenne School students at the Game Changer Challenge. From left to right: Callan Derwent, Connor Drewe, Mitchell Allan, Kade Muldoon, Keith Pracy, Will Tatnell.

Carenne School in Bathurst was named the secondary school winner of the inaugural Game Changer Challenge competition for its ‘wellness biome’ in a natural environment with learning pods, calming water features, comfortable furniture and the school counsellor and therapy dog nearby.

Cudgegong Valley Public School was crowned winner of the primary school division with its plans for a sustainable school self-sufficient in power, water and food.

Almost 100 students from 16 public schools – eight primary and eight secondary - participated this week in the Game Changer Challenge at the Department of Education headquarters in Parramatta. Each team was challenged to answer the question: ‘How can tomorrow’s school help create the future?’

Individualised and self-directed learning, global student collaboration, sustainability, seamless integration of technology into learning, and improving student engagement and teaching, both in and out of the classroom, were common themes explored by the teams.

The Secretary of the Department of Education, Mark Scott, said Carenne School had identified how to help students with anxiety or depression to cope and thrive in a school setting, supported by intuitive technology and professional assistance.

“For students who have depression or anxiety or somehow are concerned in the classroom, we need to create a space where they can safely engage in school and they can learn,” he said.

The Carenne School team said students could not learn if they were anxious or depressed and “so it is vital that our future schools provide safe, calm and relaxing spaces for happy and healthy students to learn and grow”.

“Studies show there is an increasing number of school-aged students who experience anxiety and or depression, despite increased knowledge and initiatives to address mental health.”

But research pointed to the benefit of spending time in nature to reduce anxiety and depression. The natural wellness biome was complemented by intuitive technology. Smart watch technology would alert a teacher if an anxious student’s heart rate was elevated and the student needed to go to the wellness biome to calm down. The technology would then track the location and heart rate and send information back to the classroom.

Carenne School is a school for specific purposes with 121 students. Its Game Changer Challenge team, aged from 12 to 18, were school captains Will Tatnell and Mitchell Allan, Keith Pracy, Kade Muldoon, Callan Derwent and Connor Drewe.

The judges paid tribute to two other secondary schools – Hurlstone Agricultural High School for its graded, sequential ethical learning framework; and Armidale High School for its ‘Jigsaw Learning’ concept that used apps to guide students along a personalised learning program.

Cudgegong Valley Public School’s team ‘Cudge Crew’, focused on sustainability and technology with the impact of the drought being the core focus of their ideas for a sustainable school environment.

The team of Tahlia Cooke, Tara Wilson, Estelle Purkiss, Adam Travis, Ben Jeeves and William Buckley will be flying back to Mudgee on Thursday afternoon ahead of showcasing their idea at a whole school assembly on Friday.

Oakhill Drive Public School and Thirroul Public School were awarded equal second place with Cherrybrook Public School awarded third place in the challenge.

Murat Dizdar, Deputy Secretary School Operations and Performance, praised the teams involved for the range of ideas and collaboration on display throughout the challenge.

“There was great energy, deep-thinking and presentation of ideas from our young people,” he said.

The students, accompanied by teachers, were involved in three-days of problem solving, design thinking workshops and prototyping. The challenge culminated in a pitch session where each team was required to perform a 5-minute presentation to a panel of industry and department experts.

Across the three-days students heard from industry experts and tapped into their knowledge and expertise to help develop their solutions. Using technology including Amazon’s Alexa, Adobe’s Spark and Microsoft’s Minecraft, the teams developed prototype solutions, including using LEGO EV3 to create a sensor to detect moisture levels in the ground, linked to voice-activated devices to learn data on water levels and activate sprinkler systems.

Bronwyn da Roza, assistant principal at Cudgegong Valley Public School, said the Challenge gave the students and staff a good insight into the design process and strong engagement with industry leaders.

“The experts really enabled the student’s ideas to come to fruition,” she said.

  • The NSW Department of Education would like to thank the inaugural Game Changer Challenge supporting partners Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Modern Teaching Aids, and OfficeMax.

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