Inspiring the next generation
Children's University students at Bonython Hall for graduation
Since 2013, the University of Adelaide has run Children’s University Australia to encourage the curiosity of schoolchildren through access to different educational activities. A key aim is to demonstrate that learning can and should extend beyond the classroom.
Based on the United Kingdom model, Children’s University Australia offers educational experiences for children aged 7–14 years and volunteering opportunities for 15–18-year-olds outside of school. The program recognises their achievements by awarding certificates and through a formal graduation ceremony at Bonython Hall.
Kiri Hagenus, Director of Children’s University Adelaide and Children’s University Australia, says that many children come from families who have never attended tertiary education, so this is their first contact with a university.
“We aim to help students, and their parents, realise that university study is possible, practical and achievable, and raise their interest in higher education,” she says.
The program leverages local activity providers, such as school and sporting clubs, museums and galleries, to deliver educational activities which place emphasis on experience as a learning tool.
“Children are encouraged to take on as many varied experiences as they can, to try new things and discover new interests and passions,” says Kiri.
“For many young people the opportunity to be a part of a club outside of school or to visit a museum, art gallery, library or zoo can make a powerful difference to how they understand, interpret and interact with the world around them.”
The program also opens children’s minds to different activities and how they can be linked with areas of study and eventual career paths.
“We make sure that a link is established between the experience and an area of study at university,” says Kiri. “For example, a visit to a football club could be linked to courses in sports engineering, physiotherapy, management, teaching or sciences.”
An important part of the program is acknowledging achievement and this is marked by a graduation ceremony for students and their families in the University’s Bonython Hall. Dressed in gowns and with all the tradition of a university graduation ceremony, children step onto the stage to receive their certificates. The ceremony is followed by a barbeque and a celebration on the lawns.
“The ceremony is one of the most powerful aspects of the Children’s University initiative,” says Kiri.
“It raises aspirations, opens up conversations about children’s futures and engages parents in the emotional moment that inspires pride, confidence and a new sense of what is possible.”
In 2016 more than 1000 students attended a graduation ceremony in Bonython Hall as part of Children’s University. It is hoped the experience will play a part in increasing their ambitions and inspiring further academic achievement.
Children’s University fast facts...
>95 South Australian schools are involved
>6500 (approx.) South Australian students participate
>9000 children are enrolled
>1875 children have attended a graduation ceremony at Bonython Hall
Find out more about Children’s University Adelaide.
Story by Kelly Brown
Photo by Scott Goh