By Casey Neill
World-class robots, crypto-currency, breaking cultural barriers and student empowerment – it was all in a year’s work for Wooranna Park Primary.
The Dandenong North school made headlines throughout the past 12 months with its innovative and thoughtful approach to education.
Its wide-reaching and inspirational projects have earnt the Wooranna community the Journal’s People of the Year nod for 2017.
The school has made ripples in recent years with ‘enigma missions’ – student-led explorations of complex subjects – and its strong tech-focus.
But it was during 2017 that it made a splash across the state – and even overseas.
In August the Journal met Seth, 8, whose father enrolled him at Wooranna following an online search for the world’s best school.
The family relocated from Singapore and Seth is not only excelling in his studies, he’s teaching other students.
Principal Ray Trotter said people remembered only a small portion of what they saw and heard.
“We remember 95 per cent of what we teach,” he said.
He said teaching coding to other students – many older than him – was building Seth’s confidence and social skills.
“And to introduce all of our children to the digital world is absolutely crucial now,” Mr Trotter said.
“What Kieran is doing is way out there.”
Teacher Kieran Nolan started his working life in network engineering, which took him into schools about 10 years ago. Then Wooranna Park was looking for “a computer geek”.
In November, the school welcomed HCash CEO Dallas Brooks to teach students more about cryptocurrencies.
Mr Nolan said the school was excited about the possibility of building a mentors program between students and the HCash team.
On building, nine students built and programmed a robot to perform specific tasks in the Australian First Lego League Championships in December 2016.
Judges invited the team, dubbed Roborannas, to compete in the First Lego League Open European Championship in Aarhus, Denmark, against more than 1000 students from 40 countries.
The school set up an online donation page to fund the trip in May. They finished 12th out of 118 teams.
In September, two Grade 2 students from Wooranna Park the People’s Choice Award and a $250 prize in the Greater Dandenong Council’s Healthy Waterways Video Competition.
Bethany and Luka produced Protecting Our Dandenong Waterways, which followed a group of young students as they tried to improve the health of waterways and the environment.
In June, the school held its second Youth Empowerment Conference.
In the past, student leaders attended a conference in the city at the school’s expense but the cost increased to the point where it was unaffordable.
So the student leaders decided that the school should host its own conference and open it to neighbouring schools, free of charge.
Nine schools were involved on the day, hailing from as far away as St Kilda.
Students secured sponsors and donations from local businesses and organisations.
Grade 6 student Daniel, 11, said the day helped kids “to believe in themselves for the future and no matter what, no-one can knock you down”.
“We could be the entrepreneurs of the future and you shouldn’t have to pay money to be those people,” he said.
In August, Daniel and other students hosted children from China.
“It’s a good chance to get a bit more multicultural minded,” he said.
“You can be friends with anyone no matter what language they speak.”
Mr Trotter said: “We want our children to be global citizens and this is a good step.”