The Learning Co-operative has been in operation for nearly 50 years. In that time, we have developed a number of traditions that help keep our close knit community strong. They help enable children and parents to feel part of a close, extended community, and to enjoy all the benefits that come with that. Families whose children have moved on to high school are often welcomed back to join in celebrations and events. Often the treasured memories of these events form the highlights of children's experience at Co-op. They typically remember and talk about them long after they have left. As new parents come, they may bring new traditions that become part of the Co-op tradition. Some of our current traditions include:
During the first term each year, we have a weekend family camp, usually at the beautiful Cape Patterson. All current families are encouraged to come and often ex-families come too. It's a great bonding experience for families, particularly new families. We play together, eat together and talk together. A communal kitchen and gathering area is set up if you want to use them. The children always enjoy playing on the beach and in the evening 'Cops and Robbers' is a favourite.
Each September, we host a concert that we prepare for during term 3. There are plays, various acts and musical performances. All the children take part, often writing plays, making props, designing sets and of course performing on our school stage. We usually do a Shakespeare play, with each child taking a role. There are also shorter plays, including an Italian play, performed in Italian.
Each year, older children at Co-op usually takes part in the inter-school Boite schools chorus performance at the Town Hall in Melbourne. This involves choir practice at school and two weekend rehearsals culminating in a 300+ choir performance at the Town Hall. The music is typically from different cultures around the world and gives a great opportunity to develop a greater understanding of different cultures and well as an opportunity to work with other schools around Melbourne and Victoria.
We have an extensive camp program at the Learning Co-operative, this culminates in Touring Camp in term 4, where the biggies plan all aspects of a week long camp, visiting different locations in Victoria. During the camp they take it in turns to cook and clean and choose the activities for the day. They are responsible for setting up and taking down their tents. They are able to achieve this due to the experience they gain from regular camps through their Co-op experience. The camps are a fundamental part of our health and wellbeing program and we see the benefits they give in terms of social and emotional intelligence, resilience, independence, and self confidence.
Teddy Bears Picnic
Each year, when the big kids are at touring camp, the children back at Co-op have a Teddy Bear's Picnic. The middlies are responsible for organising the day and food preparation. All the kids bring teddies from home and after a picnic lunch the teddies enter into various competitions and are awarded medals, which the middlies judge to ensure everyone gets a chance to win. A popular award category is 'best teddy vehicle', littlies often spend the morning or previous day designing and building different 'teddy transport' creations.
Each term we usually hold a 'cafe day'. Each child takes on a different role, for example shoppers, cooks, decorators, and waiters/waitresses. Together they plan and design a menu of food to share, shop for the ingredients, decorate the room and tables and prepare and serve the food. Lots of cross curricula learning takes place for example budgets, healthy eating, art and design, and teamwork, but most of all it's fun, with a great sense of achievement at the end of the day.
Christmas at Co-op is always especially fun. In the lead up to Christmas, we always spend a day making gingerbread constructions in small teams. Each creation has a story that the children share with everyone. On the last day of term the older children put on a very special surprise for the younger children, organising a surprise visitor and gifts for each child at Co-op.
Throughout the year we have sleepovers at school to help prepare younger children for the camping program and because they are great bonding experiences. We usually arrive at Co-op at around 5pm and have a shared meal together and then activities that children have asked to do like star gazing, spotlighting, movie nights or 'Cops and Robbers'. We set up sleeping bags inside or tents and share breakfast the next morning.
When our Grade 6's leave at the end of the year we hold a very celebration evening for them and present them with unique and individual gifts that parents have spent a long time creating especially for them. It's a beautiful evening where we get to express our love and appreciation for them and all that they are. Often past parents come to celebrate too.