Students Design Emergency Shelters for Homeless

30th July 2022

The Girton VCAL programme, delivered via our Pathways Hub, is in its second year of operation, and already, students are solving real-life issues and growing academically and personally in the process.

A group of students from Year 9 to Year 13 are immersed in the Shelter for Youth Homeless project. Head of Senior School Inclusive Education, Mr Nigel Vernon, co-authored the project content with Dr Aime Sachrez, STEAM Education Researcher at La Trobe University. The project sits under the auspice of a national programme called The Learner’s Journey, which is administered by Learning Creates Australia.

“We co-designed an immersive programme with representatives from Bendigo youth support services and the local construction industry.

“The students have been charged with the responsibility of designing mobile emergency shelters for homeless youth. It’s a ‘live’ project replicating the process of getting a product to market, and we hope that is exactly what transpires.

“The starting point was an investigation of youth homelessness in Bendigo. Students made direct contact with local youth services to understand the issue from various perspectives, ensuring that their shelter design would provide a practical and relevant solution to a real-life problem.

“Students have been liaising with Bendigo-based construction companies on their shelter designs and, in the process, learning about cost-effective design that meets a specific purpose for a particular user,” Nigel said.

Girton’s Pathways Hub, Shelter for Youth Homeless project was the sole industry pathways prototype reported and showcased at the Learning Creates Australia event in Sydney in June before members of Government, State and National Education representatives and philanthropic funders. Now, the students have engaged the voluntary services of a locally based graphic design and advertisement agency and are working on a product pitch for their re-defined shelter prototypes in readiness to present to Council, Government, industry and potential funders.

“The Shelter for Youth Homeless project reports on an individual’s capabilities relevant to the marketplace outside of a secondary school setting.

“Projects like this that are co-designed with industry positively affect academic, social and future pathways options for students.

“The Girton Inclusive Education staff believe strongly in what we were doing, and importantly, we believe in this group of students for whom, previously, academic and personal growth has not been straightforward,” Nigel said.

“The most significant growth within each student, in addition to the VCAL course of study, which includes core literacy and numeracy skills, has been the considerable development of personal agency.

“It is a teacher’s dream to watch these students grow their confidence and become more articulate problem solvers.

“The project supports the practical demonstration of employability skills, which are also explicitly taught through our study of the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority,” Nigel said.

The Pathways Hub hosted a week-long exhibition of the students’ work on homeless shelters and invited representatives from youth support services and the construction industry to critique a presentation of their work. The students received constructive, honest feedback, formulated as if in response to a job interview. In addition to individual progress mapped against the VCAL Literacy, Numeracy, Personal Development and Work-Related Skills units of work, the direct feedback from industry representatives gave students the real-life guidance they will need for the project to succeed in making it to market.

“Immersing students in a project like the Shelter for Youth Homeless makes it easy to believe in each individual’s ability. We see students shine, and they have become such a collegial group, working on exploring themselves and matters of local and societal significance.

“Inclusive Education staff work to support the students, coaching them to be thoughtful and curious. The improved thinking and achievements of these students are a privilege to watch,” Nigel said.