At Alatus, we learn by…









Thinking deeply and asking open questions; and… 









by exploring our own unique pathways.

A day at Alatus...

Given the dynamic nature of our approach at Alatus, each day will be a little different. Learning experiences will be tailored to meet the needs of each individual, to ensure that every learner is challenged and developing at their own pace.

Here is an example of the typical daily activities at Alatus:

girl with dragonfly wings

Every day except Wednesday

9:00am - 9:20am: Morning Gathering
Every day at Alatus begins with a gathering of everybody involved in the School. This is a time for our community to come together and maintain and build relationships and the culture of Alatus.

9:30am - 11:00am, 11:30am - 1:00pm and 2:00pm - 3:10pm:
Workshops 
Most of our learning happens within Concept Learning Activities (CLAs) where learners can authentically apply their understandings and skills. We use workshops to teach new concepts and skills that will be required to complete CLAs. Workshop groups will usually be small. Workshop teaching will include explicit teaching plus open-ended and problem-based activities.
As workshops target the individual needs of each learner, participants will be assessed to determine their current levels and which workshop/s they need to attend. With the guidance of their mentor, learners will also be able to opt in or out of workshops based on self-assessment.
Some concepts that are required as part of the curriculum will not logically fit into a CLA. Workshops will also be held to develop these concepts and ensure learners master all aspects of the curriculum. This learning will also be designed to be authentic and purposeful.

Self-directed Learning and 1:1 Mentoring Sessions
This will be a time for learners to apply their workshop learning to large and small CLAs they are working on. Learners will typically complete one or two big projects per term, a smaller project and several tasks. For instance, learners may be working on a personal CLA which will represent how they personally relate to the learning unit concept and they could be working an a Make A Difference (MAD) project in which they will make a valuable difference to someone or a community as a result of completing the CLA. All CLAs will be self-directed with guidance from mentors. Mentors will assist each learner to plan their work and achieve their goals. There is an average ratio of eight learners to each mentor thus providing ample opportunity for individual time with a mentor.

3:10pm — 3:30pm: Communal Maintenance
Adults and children work together to maintain the physical environment, which will include cleaning the buildings and grounds. Children will work together with their cluster (a persistent, small group of children) and mentor during maintenance.

Wednesday’s are different!

Wednesdays will be a less academic day for Alatus learners. It will still start and end the same with a school gathering and communal maintenance, however the activities in between will be different:

9:20am - 11:00am: Interest-based Learning
Learners will pursue an interest of their choice. This may be academic or not: it is the learner’s choice. Mentors will offer a range of activity groups or clubs for learners to choose from. Each activity or club will typically run the whole term. Examples are code breaking and making, maths tricks, re-inventing language, debating and art that makes you think.

The features of the activity groups and clubs are:
> Engaging – Lots of fun and inspiration.
> Complex – You’ll do some interesting thinking.
> Exhibition – You’ll exhibit your learning or products at the end of the term.
> Reflection – You will reflect on your experiences in Interest-based Learning for the term.

Learners will also have the option to pursue a personal interest, with the guidance of a mentor, rather than participating in one of the offered groups.

11:30am - 1.00pm:
The middle session on Wednesday will include activities such as Philosophical Discussion and Social and Emotional Skills.

2:00pm - 3:10pm: Strategy Games
The afternoon session on Wednesdays will be for activities such as strategy games.

Learner’s journal

Monday: I started at Alatus last week and already it feels like home. I love my group mentor, Jane, but all of the mentors help me as well. There is always a mentor around when I need help. There are only 7 other kids in my cluster group. It is great being with kids of all ages. I thought I would hate communal maintenance every day but Jane makes it fun for us and Jack makes me laugh. Today at clean up, when we were sweeping the floor he started dancing with the broom! I laughed so much I could hardly breathe!! 

Tuesday: This term our focus is identity. Everything we do is about identity...even maths! I already have an idea for my MAD (Make a Difference) project. It is huge and a bit scary but I know with so many mentors around who understand me, I’ll be good. All I know is that I need to work out how to show who I am with my personal project. Today I did maths nearly all day! I love maths! Thomas and I went to a workshop with Jane because we needed to understand Trigonometry for our personal projects and I started drawing up the map of my family’s hometown using what I learned about scale last week.

Wednesday: Today is Wednesday and it is my favourite day. My friend Maxine calls Wednesdays fun day but it is really called FON day. FON stands for Follow your Obsession Now! We all think it sounds like fun...and it really is fun! Maxine wants to be an author so she is writing a book. She is up to chapter 3. Next week her favourite author is coming to Alatus for her individual mentor session. She just won’t stop talking about it. Lots of the other kids are doing group activities run by the mentors like the code breaking club. They sound great, but I decided to use FON to categorise my fossil collection. I am obsessed with fossils! My mother said all she ever does is take me to the beach to collect fossils. But I know she loves it too!

Thursday: After the workshop on genetics to help me with my personal project my brain felt like it was going to explode! I used 10 minutes of my relaxation time reading Magyk in the beanbag corner. I’ve got 15 minutes left for the rest of the week – we get 30 minutes every week to use whenever we like. I want to save it to use Friday after recess because I know I’ll be tired then and besides Maxine pleaded with me to save it because she wants me to teach her how to do a cartwheel.

Friday: On Wednesday we practised ‘having your friend’s back’ in the Being Social workshop. This morning at morning gathering I volunteered to do the role play. I was so nervous because parents were there too but I didn’t stutter or say too many ums and everyone clapped and cheered. I was very happy about that. I don’t think I’ll be so nervous next time I have to do a role play like that, which is great.

Mentor’s journal

Monday: I need to re-plan the next 6 sessions of Trigonometry for Alice and Thomas. They progressed much faster than I expected. They finished 10 sessions in 4. So I need to take them to the next level. I’ve made a note to revise it all with them in a couple of months to check they really got it. As part of their personal project some children will need to understand coordinates for their family maps. They will be doing pre-tests in preparation for the coordinate workshops to be held next week. I think we will probably need 3 different workshop groups.

Tuesday: Caden picked it up faster than the rest of the children in our workshop today. I’ve decided that after lesson 6 I will work with him individually so he can progress at his own rate. I have given him some problems so I can see how well he can apply the concept. The accelerated pace is matching the other 5 in the group but I will keep an eye on Jess who may need extra time to consolidate.

Wednesday: Today I have 3 individual mentor sessions. I’m working with Isla (10) who is having trouble maintaining friendships because of her intolerance of other people’s way of doing things. Isla loves cooking and we have been researching healthy snacks in our past sessions. Milly is coming along for this session as a one-off because Milly is very patient with Isla. The girls are going to cook one of the recipes and share it with a group of children after lunch. The discussion I’d like to develop with Isla while Milly is there is about how to accept different opinions and approaches to tasks.

Thursday: Yesterday when I saw Jack (8) for his individual mentoring session he expressed an interest in Shakespeare. Today we did some research and found a theatre company nearby is presenting a Shakespeare play - I’m hoping the theatre will allow us to meet the actors afterwards. Jack has decided that he’d like to write and direct his own play in a Shakespearean style. Jack is going to present at tomorrow morning’s gathering to find five other children who would like to act and they will come to the performance with us. I’ve contacted Alison who runs VCE literature at the local High School because she has offered to mentor any of our students with interests in literature. I will ask her to come for a session after we’ve been to the play to help Jack to understand the Shakespearean style to enable him to write it authentically. I’m anticipating lots of cloaks and daggers as he loves a tragedy! 

Friday: This afternoon we are had a community lunch and games afternoon. The children were very excited about cooking for their families and showing them some strategy games. It is fabulous that we have such an involved community here at Alatus.




Alatus Learning Approach™ 

At Alatus, we have developed a unique Learning Approach that is based on Levels rather than age. This means that each learner learns at levels appropriate for them personally whilst still meeting the Victorian Curriculum Achievement Standards across the prescribed Learning Areas.

Learners will not belong to a class based on age, but, rather, they’ll be part of a small cluster of children and one mentor. The mentor for each cluster will get to know each child personally, guide them in their learning and write their reports. Children will also participate in some communal activities.

contemplating boy

The Alatus Learning Approach is specifically designed for gifted learning.

In this short video (2 min, 40 sec), Alatus Co-founder, Penny Willoughby, explains the Alatus Learning Approach and contrasts it with that of many other schools.

3-Years' of Units


Learners at Alatus will move through two phases. Children will be in each three-year phase based on their age:

> Phase 1 - Learners turning 7, 8 and 9 years during the year
> Phase 2 - Learners turning 10, 11 and 12 years during the year

The learning concepts below will repeat each three years:

An example Unit

Here is an example Unit from the table above: “Identity”:

Identity

This unit will run for a term and will build a rich understanding of the concept of ‘Identity’. For this unit, learners will undertake a range of Concept Learning Activities (CLAs). All CLAs will include a range of requirements and options. In addition, learners will attend workshops to develop a range of understandings and skills from the Victorian Curriculum Learning Areas and Capabilities. Workshop learning will directly enable learners to complete the requirements for the CLAs.

Key Concepts
> Who I am is a result of many elements, including genetics, traits, experiences, family, community and socialisation.
> Individuals, communities, cultures and other groups have recognisable identities.
> Our identity affects our lives in numerous ways.
> Everyone is valuable, worthwhile, respected, loved and appreciated for who they are.
> Identity is central to self-worth and a sense of how you fit into the world.

Intriguing questions
> What is identity?
> What makes me, me? (Values, perspectives, beliefs, traits, learning styles, memories, my
relationships, where I fit in my community ...)
> What is my purpose in life? (Now, future, past)
> How is identity different between humans and animals?
> How is the identity of a group (school / community / country) different to the identity of an individual?
> How do important relationships (meaningful connections) affect my identity? Why do they
affect my identity and what would life be like without them? eg. Family / friends / mentors / local community / broader community (country / world)

Concept Learning Activities (Large) 
Representation of you
Produce a representation of you that shows, in-depth, who you are. Include a timeline with your (and your family’s) history and a timeline of a typical day in your life. eg. Puppet show, game, musical composition, book (memoir), artwork, film, play etc.

MAD (Make A Difference)
Set up and carry out a project in which you MAD to or benefit others. Your project should reflect who you are in some way as well as helping others in a real and practical manner. eg. Interest club, community meeting, event, seminar, exhibition. Answer the question: Why and how does this help others?

Role Model
Learn about someone who is a role model for you. Find out about their values and beliefs and how these affect their life choices. Create a story about a fictional character who holds the same values and beliefs as your role model and show how these affect the character’s actions and decisions. Draw a timeline of your story. Show your story through a coded robot ‘journey’ with props. An option is for your initial story to be recorded any way you choose; eg. Writing (hand or computer), video, voice recording, pictures etc.


Concept Learning Activities (Small)
History Comparison
Find out about Australian life in the past and find a way to compare it to life now. In particular, consider what was important for communities and how people celebrated. Produce a timeline of a series of events in Australian history. Choose a method to show how life in the past compares with life now such as a Venn Diagram or a Ranking Ladder.

Poetry
Learn about five forms of poetry, writing at least one original example of each. Choose your preferred form of poetry and create a poem about yourself that shows how moods and friendships affect you. You can present your poems in any manner.

Community Tree
Create a piece of art to add to our community tree. Your artwork should be about 20 cm tall by 20 cm wide. Choose and learn a new form of art to practise then use it to create your community tree artwork. Your artwork needs to show something specific about the community that you wish to represent. eg. Friendship. 
Community Tree - Requirements:
> Record your creative journey to show your learning as an artist. Include at least
one entry each week and at least five entries in total.
> Develop some instructions for how to do your newly learned form of art.
Community Tree - Options:
> You can choose how to share your instructions, eg. Video, written, audio, pictorial
> Your journal of your artistic learning can take any form you choose. eg. Written,
typed, video recording, audio recording, pictures with descriptions.

Victorian Curriculum Learning Areas
In this Unit, learners will develop understandings and skills from the following Learning Areas:

The Arts
> Drama
> Music
> Visual Arts

English

The Humanities
> Civics and Citizenship
> Geography
> History

Mathematics

Science
> Digital Technologies

Assessment and Reporting

Mentors will dynamically assess learners (before and during learning) and adjust their learning pathways responsively. Adjustments could include changing the curriculum learning level, moving the learner to a different workshop series or altering the focus of one-to-one mentor sessions.

Parents will receive twice-yearly reports based on the Victorian Curriculum, including:

8 Learning Areas:
> The Arts
> English
> Health and Physical Education
> The Humanities
> Languages
> Mathematics
> Science
> Technologies

4 Capabilities:
> Critical and Creative Thinking
> Ethical
> Intercultural
> Personal and Social

In addition, children will be assessed in other development areas:
> Social and emotional
> Self-directed Learning

Separate to reports, parents will have ready access to information about their child’s current levels, progress and development. We encourage parents to touch base with their child’s mentors regularly for more informal feedback.

seagull in-flight

Copyright © 2018-19 Penny Willoughby per the Co-founders. All rights reserved.
The name "Alatus School” and the integrated butterfly device are Registered Trademarks®. The name "Alatus Learning Approach” is a Trademark™.
Alatus School® is subject to registration as an Independent School.