Girls’ futures look bright

2019-06-04 06:00
Wynberg Girls’ Junior School launched its Linguistic Zone last week. PHOTO: Earl Haupt

Wynberg Girls’ Junior School launched its Linguistic Zone last week. PHOTO: Earl Haupt

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Solving tomorrow’s problems today.

It is a mantra which has been adopted at Wynberg Girls’ Junior School after launching their specialised “Linguistic Zone” on Tuesday 28 May.

The Linguistic Zone comprises of three areas, namely the literacy lounge, language lab and digital den.

The literacy lounge is an upgraded, modern version of the conventional library equipped with books, a reading area as well as a tree of knowledge where research and self-learning is encouraged, instead of relying exclusively on traditional teaching methods. The language lab is where girls will showcase and express themselves in the various languages found globally, while also creating a space where different cultures can find a sense of belonging.

Looking to the future, the digital den encourages the use of coding as an additional language, with girls from as young as six taught computer coding. This means that by the time they are in Grade 7, girls are able to code simple computer programmes – which allows them to excel in these skills at both higher and tertiary education levels.

The school’s principal Dee Cawcutt says language is one of the school’s key focus areas, citing that poor literacy levels in South Africa combined with unemployment continue to prevail and that it was necessary for the school to align their interests with the global community.

“We know that they are our future because they are going to guide us into the unknown – the fourth industrial revolution. Finding solutions to problems,” she says.

Cawcutt is encouraged by the fearlessness shown by her learners in embracing technological advances in an ever-changing world, and that the school has embraced this by providing the space to adapt to these changes, rather than merely create awareness around them.

“We are not content-driven. All the information is available to us. It is about how we access, process and use it to build up our knowledge base rather than to just the regurgitation of facts. That is the world we are guiding our children into – the enthusiasm to find out the knowledge rather than a teacher presenting it. It is creating learning spaces rather than teaching spaces,” Cawcutt adds. The school’s governing body chairman Mark Hess echoed Cawcutt’s sentiments. He described the new facility as an exciting move toward shaping minds for future careers.

“The world is changing, and new careers are being discovered all the time – our children are entering fields of work and study that we would never have comprehended many years ago,” says Hess.

Meanwhile, one of the teachers working closely with the development of the multi-faceted zone Katrina McFarlane embraced the idea, gleaning what she could from the input received to transform the already functioning classrooms.

“Now it is a case of just building skills in such a fun way. In my room specifically, it is making confident communicators who can go out into the world and communicate clearly in the space that they need to be in, the jobs that they need to get because they have had the practice, time and developed the vocabulary to communicate so clearly and appropriately. The basics of speaking and talking confidently also builds on those writing skills which are needed in the world,” says McFarlane.

She looks forward to seeing the girls grow up and adapting the skills gained in the linguistic zone to the new world they will find themselves in the future, while at the same time ensuring the school keeps adapting.

“The one good thing about it is that we are not focussing on a technology or something that is going to go out of fashion – it is on working on the skills which are necessary at the moment. As far as décor and things, I am sure it will stay like this for quite a while. The zone is also designed in such a way it is not going to go out of fashion very quickly, which is great.”

Cawcutt hopes other schools become brave enough to also actively change their spaces. 

“I just think I would love to see more schools embarking on a journey of adventure rather than a journey of ‘we can’t’ and ‘we’re stuck’. Let us find solutions to problems. That is what we are teaching our girls. It is the fear of the unknown. It is extra work for my teachers, but they are passionate about what they do and that translates in the outcome we see in our children.”

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