The McDonald College: a high-performance education

When I’m performing it’s like I’m so much more confident. In that moment, I don’t have any worries in the world. It’s like heaven. I love it.Meg Mac, chart-topping singer-songwriter and graduate of The McDonald College

Does that sound like your child? Do you want to support your child’s natural abilities but find it hard to fit lessons/training/auditions around school and homework? If so, The McDonald College in Sydney’s Inner West might be the solution to your dilemma.

Peak performers … The McDonald College has a strong dance program including ballet, modern and musical theatre streams.

Centrally located in North Strathfield, the independent co-ed performing arts school nurtures talented students from years 3 to 12.

Its unique immersive approach emphasises academic excellence while allowing students to pursue their passions for two hours every day with dedicated tuition in either acting, ballet, dance, music, musical theatre or elite tennis. With all the coaching provided in-school, students can focus intensively on their training free of the demands involved in commuting to far-flung extra-curricular activities.

To develop their gifts fully, students often need to perform or compete at an elite level. The McDonald College offers students flexible schedules to help them meet their out-of-school commitments while ensuring that they maintain their academic studies.

Many students have the gift of natural ability but require specialised support to convert their gifts into the talent necessary for outstanding performance.

Reaching for the stars … The McDonald College offers specialised support to help students hone their gifts into talents.

These students do best when their exceptional qualities are cultivated and sympathetically managed says principal Maxine Kohler.

“Gifted and talented children are uniquely special and are often acutely aware of their difference in relation to their peers.

“Teaching these students requires a deep understanding of the personality traits that feed their creativity,” she says.

The school’s success is evident in the achievements of its performing arts alumni including pop star Meg Mac, Romper Stomper star Sophie Lowe and Heath Ledger scholarship winner Mojean Aria.

In 2013, the college added tennis to its roster of specialist programs partnering with Voyager Tennis Academy. With two international championship wins this year, the school won the NSW Tennis Award for Most Outstanding School.

Focus … The McDonald College is the Most Outstanding School in the state as awarded by NSW Tennis.

Powering every star is a deep well of creativity. In supporting and celebrating this characteristic the college produces not only excellent performers but high academic achievers well prepared for the modern workplace.

Once considered the preserve of artists, performers and advertisers, creativity is of increasing practical value throughout our fast-changing global economy.

At the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, it was named, along with critical thinking and complex problem solving, as one of the three primary skills requisite for success in the next decade.

With the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence entailed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, humankind’s unique creative capacity is of greater importance than ever, the WEF predicts in its 2016 The Future of Jobs report.

“Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need. With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes,” the WEF says.

21st century skills … creativity will be the key to success in the next decade, says the World Economic Forum.

This WEF’s prognosis is borne out by Year 10 acting student and entrepreneur Ali Kitinas who, at 16, is believed to be the nation’s youngest CEO.

Her beauty product company Freedom Scrub recycles coffee grounds to produce an ethical and sustainable skin cleanser. A portion of the profits is donated to the Hope Foundation Hospital providing health and medical services to impoverished children in Kolkata, India.

The social enterprise has attracted wide media attention and Ali counts Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson as a mentor but performance remains her first love.

“I’m a very passionate performer, but I always knew that it would be really hard to gain financial security in that field,” she told Mamamia. “That’s why I went into business, so that I could have the financial security to pursue my other passions.”

Talented, accomplished and ambitious: Ali’s self-assured dynamism is emblematic of the The McDonald College ethos.

“Our environment is supportive and nurturing of creativity enabling us to graduate students that are lateral thinkers and excited about life beyond school. Whether their chosen career is on the stage as a performer or in the world of medicine, law or global business, our students are confident communicators, distinguished leaders and diverse role models,” says Principal Kohler.

References:

Meg Mac interview – Poncho TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQQaw8MJpkU

Iconic Australian film Romper Stomper to be recharged as Stan original TV series — Media release, Screen Australia, August 1, 2017
https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/sa/media-centre/news/2017/08-01-stan-romper-stomper-starts-production

Mojean Aria awarded 2017 Heath Ledger Scholarship — Inside Film, June 2, 2017
https://www.if.com.au/Mojean-Aria-awarded-2017-Heath-Ledger-Scholarship/

The 10 skills you need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution — Alex Gray, World Economic Forum website, January 19, 2016
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/

At 16, Ali Kitinas is Australia’s youngest CEO (and her mum’s boss) — Belinda Jepsen, Mamamia, June 15, 2017
http://www.mamamia.com.au/ali-kitinas-16-year-old-ceo/

The Hills District Think Tank for Gifted and Talented Students

Hands on … Hills Grammar teacher and elite sportswoman Alyssa McMurray shares the secrets of athletic success with Think Tank workshop students. Credit: Hills Grammar

An exciting new initiative is bringing together the Hills district’s best and brightest primary school children to intensify their learning potential.

Established by Hills Grammar Junior School, the Hills District Think Tank compounds the intellectual, creative and athletic power of high-ability students from seven independent schools in the local area, including: Tangara, Pacific Hills Christian School, William Clarke College, Rouse Hill Anglican College, Adventist College and Australian International Academy.

The Australian Curriculum (AC) defines gifted students as those “whose potential is distinctly above average” intellectually, creatively, socially or physically, whereas talented students are characterised by their demonstrated outstanding skills in any field of human endeavour.

While the AC acknowledges the influence of a number of factors on student achievement, it emphasises the transformative role of schools in helping gifted students to translate potential into talent by “giving students appropriate opportunity, stimulation and experiences.”

Born to run … Sports Science workshop participants learned how to hone their gifts to achieve even better results. Credit: Hills Grammar

The Think Tank series of workshops meets this imperative by providing deeper and broader enrichment opportunities to supplement classroom learning, says Hills Grammar Gifted and Talented Coordinator Deborah Wightley. “Gifted programs are often just an extension of existing studies. We wanted to expand on what was already on offer and bring in students from different domains of learning: academic, creative and athletic so we can cater for the learning needs of all high-potential students.”

“Research shows that these children need to work with like-minded peers to maximise their learning,” says Mrs Wightley.

Last term’s inaugural Think Tank event focused on physical prowess. Led by elite sportswoman and Hills Grammar teacher Alyssa McMurray, a group of 28 athletically-gifted Year 5 and 6 students participated in a sports science workshop examining performance-optimising strategies.

Students analysed the impact of diet, fitness, technique, skill, and strength and conditioning on athletic outcomes to create a personal training regimen, which they then compared to that of an elite athlete from their chosen sport. Utilising the Hudl app on iPads, these students were able to log their results and can continue to record their progress as they incorporate theory into practice.

Multi-dimensional … the Sports Science workshop examined the many factors required for optimal performance. Credit: Hills Grammar

The collaborative nature of the workshop was enthusiastically embraced by students. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They really enjoyed making connections with like-minded kids from other schools and working together on their area of passion,” Mrs Wightley says.

And it’s not just the kids who are loving the opportunity to take a deep dive into their favourite field. Teachers too are excited by the prospect.

“We asked our staff to self-nominate to design a workshop in their own area of interest,” Mrs Wightley says. “They’ve been very positive, especially as the students’ feedback has been so good. Teachers from the network stayed for the entire day at the first event and were really impressed by the level of engagement of the students.”

Peer perfection … the Think Tank brings gifted and talented children together to maximise their learning potential. Credit: Hills Grammar

This term’s workshop, Debating Skills and the Secrets of Adjudication, was designed for Stage 2 students by Hills Grammar Debating Coordinator Fiona Khoo who is also an adjudicator, “so she’s perfect to run the workshop”, Mrs Wightley says.

In Term 4, Creative Writing and Cookie Characters will bring high-ability students together in a literary bake-off.

Students will be tasked with creating a fictional character and then designing and baking a cookie representative of that character.

“It’s a stimulus to creative writing,” Mrs Wightley explains. “The idea of the workshops is to be engaging for students who have a strength in that area already. It’s about engaging them in higher-order thinking and adding some complexity to the task so they’re challenged.”

After the biscuit-making, participants will spend the afternoon dramatising their characters. The action-packed day is calibrated to match these students’ natural aptitude, says Mrs Wightley.  “The fast pace is deliberate because the kids acquire knowledge so quickly.”

With every member school scheduled to run a workshop for each learning stage, the Think Tank will eventually comprise a multifaceted set of learning tools designed to turn propensity into proficiency.

“We will have a lovely collection of workshops,” Mrs Wightley says. “The schools are really engaged with the vision and see the opportunity for their own school. Between us it’s a very positive network aimed at providing more opportunities for our high-potential students and staff members.”

Interested parents are encouraged to contact their school about this program and other enrichment activities available to their children.

For more information on independent schools in the Hills area, visit the Hills School Expo on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Where: Federation Pavilion, Castle Hill Showground, Showground Road, Castle Hill
When: Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10, 2017
Time: 10am to 4pm both days
Cost: Free admission
Parking: Parking is free and plentiful at Federation Pavilion
Contact: Dorothy Willoughby on 0412 233 742