In 2021, Suncoast Christian College announced its move towards a more collaborative teaching style. Fast forward to September 2023, and the innovative college has unveiled its new world-class primary campus building. It is marking a new era of learning at the college, ready for the next 40 years.
“The school has always had an interest in contemporary approaches to learning and seeking ways to best meet the extraordinary diversity of interests, needs, and abilities of the children in the classroom,” says Suncoast Christian College Principal Greg Mattiske.
“So, when we began thinking about how the next 40 years would look, we started envisioning how we would like learning to be.”
Over several years, the team visited other schools – in Australia and overseas – thinking and dreaming of what was possible, and it has all culminated in this state-of-the-art project.
What’s in the new building at Suncoast Christian College?
The new campus will offer the most advanced facilities on the Sunshine Coast, replacing classrooms with flexible spaces designed to support the school’s ‘team-teaching’ pedagogy.
With an approach focused on stage rather than age, the new layout will provide collaborative environments where the school’s team of dedicated Christian teachers will provide the best in contemporary education.
The classrooms feature a range of functional design features, such as bleachers, breakout rooms, and curtain and acoustic treatments throughout to facilitate a wide variety of learning modes. These features allow teachers to modify and tailor lessons to individual student’s specific abilities and needs and varying group sizes.
Teachers and teacher’s assistants will work together over two levels with students in groups of five up to 75 in Years 1 through 6.
“It’s easy for children and staff to move through spaces. You aren’t fixed in one classroom. Depending on the learning you’re going to do, you’re going to move to a zone, a learning space designed for different learning. For example, there’s a kitchen in each zone, and there’s also a maker space, which is for those STEM-type learning subjects,” says Mr Mattiske.
Heralded as a game-changer in educational design, the new building has been brought to life by renowned architects m3 Architecture, who are known for pushing the boundaries when it comes to intuitive buildings and modern design.
“By providing teachers with a collaborative, modern space that allows them to cater to a wide range of student needs, we are facilitating the best social, emotional, and academic outcomes for our pupils,” says Mr Mattiske.
What is ‘team teaching’?
Team teaching is at the core of Suncoast’s learning pedagogy or framework.
“Teaching is such an interesting, complex, and rich job. Nowadays, it is too much for one teacher to be expected to meet all those needs. I’m certain that the needs of children are best met by a team of people working together as a unit,” says Mr Mattiske.
Team teaching works hand-in-hand with the College’s ‘stage-based learning’ approach.
“Stage-based learning is where we can group teachers into teams of stages. A stage is two years levels. Year one and two teachers are stage one, for example. Then children learn in small groups, working at their ability level.”
This allows children to be accelerated if needed, and those who need more support can have that support and be working at a level appropriate to take them forward. These groups change depending on the focus – literacy, numeracy, and science.
Instilling a sense of belonging in a flexible space
To ensure students still have a solid understanding of belonging, all students have a homeroom of course for familiarity.
“Familiarity and belonging is still fundamental here at Suncoast,” says Mr Mattiske.
“Students still have a specific teacher that they connect with daily. But when they do literacy and numeracy, they may go to a different group of children with similar abilities. And then come back together with their home class.”
“When they have a different type of lesson, a science lesson, for example, they would go to the maker space. Or if we’re doing something involving presenting learning, they would go to the bleacher stairs for that. If we’re doing some quiet reading or research, we will go to a zone in the building conducive to that.”
And with facilities such as this, the possibilities for learning are immeasurable.
“I just think about the possibilities for learning. We had so many adults come through, saying, “Oh wow, to be a primary school child and have the opportunity to learn in this space, I’m so jealous,” says Mr Mattiske.
“I’m just so delighted our children can learn in this wonderful facility. It is quite a milestone in the history of the college.”
“Now we will turn our attention to some refurbishment and refreshment of the facilities in the secondary school. We’re looking forward to adopting the same approaches throughout the rest of the college.”
Raising independent learners
One of the key goals of this shift to stage-based learning is to create independent learners.
“We know that children need a lot of support. And we provide that. But we also want our kids to graduate from Suncoast ready to be lifelong learners in the truest sense and to have that love of learning,” says Mr Mattiske.
“Learning’s not always easy; it’s a challenge. You get stuck, and there are things to overcome. We want the kids to have the tools and the confidence to give it a go.
“We are already seeing that growth of independence as learners and resilience, which is feeding through into our secondary. You look at the capability Suncoast graduates have today and their aspirations. It’s inspiring,” says Mr Mattiske.
“Now it is up to our wonderful educators to harness the building’s full potential for the benefit of every student.”
About Suncoast Christian College
Founded on reclaimed farming land in 1979 as the Suncoast Christian Academy, the school’s first building was an old pineapple packing shed. It has since become a prestigious educational facility with almost 1,000 students, boasting among the most advanced school buildings on the Sunshine Coast. The new campus is phase one of a 25-year master building plan as the school looks to add 100 students in response to a growing student population.