The teach­ing life at the Mt Buller an­nexe


WHEN I grad­u­ated, in the late 90s, the al­ter­nate ed­u­ca­tion land­scape was pretty bar­ren.

Sure, Tim­ber­top ex­isted and schools had camp pro­grams where stu­dents would leave the class­room for a week or so at the time, but op­por­tu­ni­ties to pur­sue pas­sions while con­tin­u­ing study were few and far be­tween.

In the last 15 to 20 years this has be­gun to change.

Due to the longevity and suc­cess of Tim­ber­top and sim­i­lar mod­els some schools be­gan to look for creative pro­grams for mid­dle years.

Schools moved year nines off cam­pus, set up year-long off site camps and even sent groups over­seas for a term - the ben­e­fits of these ‘al­ter­nate cur­ricu­lums’ be­came well doc­u­mented.

I’ve worked at the Mans­field Sec­ondary Col­lege Mt Buller An­nexe for three years and can hon­estly say it has been one of the most re­ward­ing and sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had in my 16 years of teach­ing.

For the unini­ti­ated let me give you a lit­tle his­tory on the MSC An­nexe - it was set up five years ago with the goal of al­low­ing lo­cal stu­dents to pur­sue their love of Alpine Sports while con­tin­u­ing their study.

Three years ago we wrote our unique @Al­ti­tude cur­ricu­lum - a cur­ricu­lum doc­u­ment that en­com­passes all sub­ject ar­eas, is Ausvels com­pli­ant but builds all of its tasks around Ski­ing/Snow­board­ing and the Alpine en­vi­ron­ment.

Top­ics in­clude “Physics of Ski­ing”, “De­sign a to­tally Sus­tain­able Ski Re­sort” and “Nu­tri­tion of an Alpine Ath­lete”.

A day in the life of an An­nexe stu­dent is jam packed - many of our MSC stu­dents (we now take stu­dents from many other schools around the state for the term) catch the 7am bus from town to make it to their 8.30am train­ing ses­sion.

Stu­dents are en­rolled with ei­ther Race Club, TBR or TSC and work with their coaches from 8.30-9 un­til 12.

Af­ter 12, they are wel­come to come to the class­room to make lunch, play cards with friends or catch up on some study - this is a re­ally so­cial hour and is a vi­tal part in form­ing the ca­ma­raderie within the group that is al­ways so strong.

Class runs from 1-5 ev­ery week­day and time is spent on teach­ing and com­plet­ing tasks from @Al­ti­tude.

We are also vis­ited by many spe­cial guests ev­ery year.

Guests this year have in­cluded Olympians Jac­qui Cooper and An­ton Grimus, Lou Per­rin - en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cer for Mt Buller/Mt Stir­ling - and BioLAB - one of Vic­to­ria’s ded­i­cated Maths/Sci­ence cen­tres.

The 5.30pm bus gets stu­dents back to Mans­field by 6.30pm; a big day in­deed.

The pos­i­tive ben­e­fits stu­dents gain from this pro­gram are un­de­ni­able - the small group who ski/board and learn to­gether be­come in­cred­i­bly tightknit.

Stu­dents are to­tally en­gaged in the course­work be­cause ev­ery­thing ties back to some­thing they love - snow.

As the class in­cludes stu­dents from years 7-10 we see a re­ally or­ganic men­tor­ing sys­tem take place where the older stu­dents help those younger with their tasks - and of course their ski­ing/board­ing im­proves.

We had many stu­dents this year per­form ex­cep­tion­ally at both Vic in­ter­schools and the Na­tion­als.

If you are in year 7-10, love ski­ing or board­ing and are look­ing for a to­tally unique ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence I couldn’t rec­om­mend the An­nexe highly enough.

Any en­quiries should be di­rected to Mans­field Sec­ondary Col­lege.

PHOTO: Pam Zierk-Ma­honey

LET’S PRAC­TICE: Al­though they live ‘out of town’ Char­lotte (left) and So­phie Mars en­joy walk­ing and over the school hol­i­days prac­tised ‘walk­ing to school’ fol­low­ing a map of the town­ship streets.

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