O'Connor News

Stem Leadership


STEM leadership Recognised at the Regional Development Australia – Northern Inland Innovation Awards

The STEM team from O’Connor, consisting of Jon Hawthorne (Technology & Engineering ), Stephen Chapman (Maths) and Daniel Fittler  (Science ) were finalists in the Research & Education section at the recent Regional Development Australia – Northern Inland Innovation Awards. The STEM team were nominated by Principal Regina Menz for their work in promoting and facilitating STEM learning across the college. Ms Menz nomination included the following citation:


O’Connor introduced an integrated STEM elective in Year 9 2015. Since then STEM has been fully integrated into our school. In Year 7, as part of the technology rotation students undertake a unit called ‘FutureTech’. This rotation involves students in STEM skills such as coding, electronics and problem based learning.


Three of our teachers, Jon Hawthorne (Technology), Dan Fittler (Science) and Stephen Chapman (Mathematics) took part in the Sydney University STEM Academy, the only school from our region selected, from this they developed a program for Year 8 students called UpSTEM. This is a cross curricula project involving Maths, Science and Technology teachers working with Year 8 students on problem based learning.


In Year 9 and 10, STEM as an elective is offered. This is a very popular course and involves real world problem solving using STEM principles. It includes robotics, coding, aerodynamics, and 3D prototyping and printing. In Year 11 and 12 the pathway for STEM students includes Engineering Studies as well as the traditional Mathematics and Science subjects. The way STEM has been integrated into the school is an innovative way of addressing students’ need for skills in problem solving. It also addresses the issue facing Australia today, that is, not enough students are studying these subjects or have the skills needed for our changing workforce requirements.


Bell Shakespeare Work Experience

Recap written by Maria Alkhouri


From the 6th to the 11th of November, I was privileged enough to attend the Bell Shakespeare 2017 Work Experience Programme. Earlier in the year, my English teacher, Mrs. Simpson, suggested that a few students out of our class apply for the programme and it was quite fitting that we had been studying Macbeth at the time; in Shakespearean moods, we were. It felt extremely surreal to be accepted into the programme, and I would spend the following five months questioning if I would fit in with eleven other students who likely devoted their lives to theatre. Indeed, a few of them did, but little did I know that this would be no barrier to bonding with some of the most interesting and intelligent people I could have met. The growing comfort that bloomed amongst the twelve of us felt a little reminiscent of sitting in the old drama room whilst trying to produce a novel in twelve hours with my English class. I imagine these close-knit and hard working occasions tend to brew quite the friendships.


On the first day (after scurrying around The Argyle like lost mice) my mum and I arrived at the rehearsal room to equally apprehensive faces. This is where we met Caitlin Brass, the Education Company Manager at Bell Shakespeare, and she would look after us for the week. We started that morning with a welcoming of croissants and other pastries, followed by an ‘introduction to Shakespeare.’ This was the moment that I realised I had forgotten to bring a notebook. Despite this, I found the briefing to be really profound, especially after gaining a much deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s historical context which also refreshed memories of Bell’s performance at school earlier in the year of ‘Shakespeare is Dead’. This also tied into the directing and casting briefing which is when James Evans gave us our first task of the week: to select plays to be performed and cast in a hypothetical Bell Shakespeare season run by us. We formed groups of three and would gather more tasks to fulfill our imaginary seasons which would include marketing, education programmes, and sponsorships. These tasks would pile up as we attended their corresponding briefings. Whilst I could type away a Bible’s worth of details, I found three of the activities the most engaging and useful. Huw McKinnon’s acting and language workshop was perhaps the best way to begin the week. I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to learn about the small details of Shakespeare’s writing which repelled me from reading his work for years. Realising that we understood most of Shakespeare’s writing, but that it was the “thy”s and “thou”s which created such a barrier made us question why we had never been taught these small language conventions at school. I am, however, grateful that I eventually caught the swing of it through Mckinnon’s  well renowned “Thy Ball” game.


I also found an unexpected intrigue in the marketing side of the company, whilst before I had assumed that the actual running-a-business aspect would send me into a doze; we found ourselves analysing the visual effectiveness of posters, which marked the point where I realised that I had a lot to learn and nothing to assume about the ins and outs of a theatre company. All praise aside, it felt awesome to prep myself for the visual analysis section of my English exam. Later on, I also found interest in the production briefing. It was really interesting to watch the design process unfold for sets, costumes, and props. Production was the longest briefing, which ensured our reality check that whilst brainstorming ideas for a set is great fun, theatre doesn't exist without the accountants and schedulers in production.


We were lucky enough throughout the week to have a backstage tour (where a few of us secretly stole some of the leaves from the Merchant of Venice set as keepsakes) and watch a performance of the play. On the Thursday, we attended the screening of Kings of Baxter which is a film documenting Huw Mckinnon and James Evans visit to a juvenile detention centre attempting to teach the inmates Macbeth. It was an emotional film for all of us and really taught us a valuable lesson that Shakespeare is accessible to anybody, as long as we want it to be.


The week ended with all groups presenting their ideas for the assigned tasks to parents, employees and the artistic director, Peter Evans. The twelve of us then gifted Caitlin Brass with some gifts bought whilst scurrying around the Argyle markets, and we were all extremely grateful to each receive our own copy of the Merchant of Venice. We were really sad to go our separate ways, as we had become so close in the short time we had, but vowed to sustain our friendships through the common methods of group chats and Snapchat streaks.


Spending a week at Bell Shakespeare taught me really valuable lessons, not only about approaching challenges creatively, but also about the kind of business I would want to work for. Bell proved itself to be an almost impossibly nurturing and caring environment, in spite of the obvious stresses of running a non-profit organisation in the arts. It was also a testament to the vitality of education programs and how, despite the long trips around rural Australia, their commitment to reaching out to regional areas is totally worth it. Although many of the group were from cities, where theatre well and truly has a living pulse, I met others from as close by as Grafton and Glen Innes. Bell Shakespeare has since continued to cultivate an unfathomable respect from me (similarly to the other eleven, I’m sure) from their consistent efforts to include people from all corners of the country.


Despite the exams that followed my week, Bell Shakespeare was one of those things I really do owe my teacher for nagging me about. If I could write novels about my week, I can’t imagine I wouldn’t. I’ll never forget watching the incredible company’s craft, meeting the actors, having lunch in the green room, walks to the Opera House (and of course, avoiding swooping seagulls on the way back), touching the famous Merchant of Venice tree, and yes, in case you were wondering, panickingly purchasing a notebook during our first lunch break. And thus the very belated notebook leans against others on my bookshelf, next to a signed Merchant of Venice programme, and containing a very crumpled paper leaf. Not quite sure about what else will be written in there, but knowing that if I ever become intimidated by Shakespeare’s words again, I’ll know where to look.


Zonta Club

Z Club's last meeting for the year.

Members of the Z Club who received badges today for their continued service, presented by Mrs Terrie Crick, President of Zonta Club of Armidale:

Maria Alkhouri, Malia Bridge, Sophie Warner, Phoebe Biddle, Sophie Troon, Bridie Giles, Annie Swanson, Georgia MacMahon, Sammy Archer.

Mrs Channon and Mrs Crick.



Congratulation also to the newly elected executive for 2018:

President : Claire Giles (overseas)

Vice President: Maria Alkhouri

Secretary: Georgia MacMahon.


At the last Z Club meeting for the year. We celebrated with some shared food. Special guest was Terrie Crick. Ms Menz and Mrs Wooster came along too. 


The 'old z club executive' embracing the 'new'. Maria Alkhouri is Vice President, Georgia MacMahon is Secretary and Claire Giles is President. We congratulate these students and look forward to a great 2018, working for the good of others. Thank you to Sammy Archer, Phoebe Biddle, Sophie Warner, and Claire Giles for all of their hard work over the last 12 months.


Year 12 Formal Photos

Click on the link below to take a peek at the Year 12 Formal Photos. As you can tell Class of 2017 had a wonderful time.

Formal Photos

Year 11 Hospitality

Year 11 Hospitality students appetiser practical task. Mixed canapés and prawn shooters...impressive work!


Year 10 Food Tech

Year 10 Food Tech started with mini wedding cakes and worked their way up to these creations. Some wonderful work here!