Sprung out of the Department of Education’s Academic Select Entry Network Gifted and Talented Outreach Program, which has since been discontinued, Mac.Rob and Stile Education (Stile) have joined forces to reinvent the initiative’s Gifted Outreach Program, and deliver it on their own.

The program allows exemplary Year 10 Mac.Rob students to mentor primary school students in rural and remote areas who have been identified by their teachers as gifted.

Using Stile’s digital platform, the Year 10s deliver lessons in science and maths, to students in schools as far away as Mildura.

Mac.Rob was involved in the government-funded program, but when funding was revoked, Vani Manokaran, science teacher and gifted outreach coordinator, was determined to keep the program going, at least in her school.

“There are so many benefits from it, we’ve received such great feedback from all of the schools that were involved,” Manokaran says.

So with Stile allowing students to use its platform free of charge, Mac.Rob students have been busy uploading their lessons, developed by Manokaran with help from colleagues.

Manokaran describes the platform as “very user-friendly … very engaging and very inviting... “It’s very easy to deliver the lessons and it allows me to kind of split the group up.

“Because at the moment we have about 60-odd primary students, so it allows an online classroom for individual schools.

“And then the students are kind of grouped in smaller groups with their mentors, so that can make it easier, because if there’s just one large group in one big discussion forum, that will be very difficult.”

The primary students use the program as an extension activity, to stretch their academic legs and push their learning beyond what is already delivered in the school day.

And for their mentors, the program offers great opportunities to develop a range of new skills, and attributes.

“They just enjoy being able to communicate with people of different ages, many of them probably have younger siblings, but this is just in a whole different context,” Manokaran says.

“It helps them to develop skills like empathy and understanding and communication, how you communicate with someone who’s much younger than you and, how to communicate with someone who is from a different school.

Just being receptive to other people’s needs and also leadership.”

While the program is primarily run online, Manokaran organised a ‘meet and greet’ session, so mentors and mentees could put a face to each other’s names.

The Mac.Rob teacher put her students in charge of running the day, including getting-to-know-you activities and science experiments, to further develop their leadership and organisational skills.

“... it [also] helps them develop all these soft skills in other areas that are otherwise really not covered in the classroom.”