Narrabeen NEST hatching new ways of learning

A collaboration between four schools in the Narrabeen area is benefiting teachers and students. Jim Griffiths reports.

Teachers holding certificates in front of a banner. Teachers holding certificates in front of a banner.
Image: Principals Adam Hughes (Narrabeen North Public), Heidi Currie (Narrabeen Sports High School), Lisa Phillips (Elanora Heights Public) and Rob Zappia (Narrabeen Lakes Public), with Andrew Stevenson, Director, Educational Leadership, Belinda Norrie (R/Deputy Principal, Narrabeen North Public) and Jacqueline Hampson (Head Teacher, Secondary Studies, Narrabeen Sports High). The schools  received a NSW Department of Education Executive Director Award for jointly initiating the NEST.

An idea to enrich and enlarge learning opportunities has seen three public schools and a sports high school on Sydney’s northern beaches join forces.

The Narrabeen Elanora Student and Teacher Collaboration (NEST) unites Narrabeen Lakes Public School, Narrabeen North Public School, Elanora Heights Public School, and Narrabeen Sports High School and aims to foster student growth and opportunities.

Belinda Norrie, the Relieving Deputy Principal of Narrabeen North Public School, said the idea behind the NEST was to create a united education pathway from Kindergarten through to Year 12.

“Collectively across the four schools, we looked at how we can provide really great learning and curriculum opportunities for our students,” she said.

By combining approaches, students in a smaller school like Narrabeen Lakes Public School, benefit from the resources available at the much larger Narrabeen Sports High School.

“A good example is ‘Cracking the Case’, where students learn onsite at Narrabeen Sports High School for 90 minutes a week to solve a mystery ‘crime’,” Ms Norrie said.

“They learn about the art of observation, critical thinking, and problem-solving through DNA extractions and fingerprint analysis. They also dissect sheep brains to understand how neuroscience can impact an investigation.”

Ms Norrie said other examples included an advanced sport and agility program, where representatives from various sports worked with primary and secondary students on nutrition, fitness and resilience, and a Year 3 ‘Hatchery’ program, where students took part in a STEM challenge with Taronga Zoo to create an animal feeding machine.

Narrabeen Sports High School students also visited local primary schools to complete practical components of their HSC Child Studies course, while Year 10 students visited NEST primary schools for work experience.

“We also have a NEST Combined Band, where 90 students from the four schools formed a large concert band to perform for parents and community last term,” Ms Norrie said.

Jacqueline Hampson, Head Teacher Secondary Studies at Narrabeen Sports High, said the NEST had also created a dynamic hub of educational empowerment.

“One of the hallmarks of our NEST Collaboration is its emphasis on cultivating a sense of unity and shared purpose,” she said.

“Teachers from the four schools collaborate through professional learning across the schools in the new curriculum and are working together to plan, program and share effective teaching strategies.”

Ms Hampson said students benefited from wider learning opportunities, but also developed a strong sense of belonging.

“It prepares them for the challenges of higher education and the workforce, as well as giving them valuable life skills such as teamwork, communication, and adaptability,” she said.

Ms Norrie said the NEST had seen improved academic outcomes, as well as increased enthusiasm for learning and greater family engagement.

She said parents were more engaged and wanted to know more about the NEST.

Ms Hampson said there had been an increase in applications for the enrichment program at Narrabeen Sports High as a result of NEST activities.

“When we invite the parents in, the students have such huge shining smiles on their faces as they guide their parents through what they've been learning,” she said.

“It’s really made a connection with the high school and become a driver to send their kids here to continue that known education pathway they’re already on.”

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