Who are our Horizon students?

My last blog post Outside The Square introduced our independent learning program, Horizon. In this post, I explore how the planning team came up with the criteria for the applicants, which year levels were invited and the application process. I also introduce you to each of the 13 students that we were so lucky to work with at Catholic College Wodonga. 

Initially, we set out thinking that this program would be for high achieving students who were looking for a challenge in their school day. However, after many conversations with the team and some healthy disagreements, it became clear that the opportunity to work on passions and learn in an authentic, independent, way should not be limited to those who have already learnt to play the school game. It would have been much easier to manage and plan, if the program was for high achievers, but at a large regional Catholic secondary school, we cater for all students, and so, Horizon did too.

We thought long and hard about the year levels we would invite to participate in this program. We decided to focus on students in Years 8 – 11. Our thinking was that students in Years 8 – 11 have experienced enough traditional learning in school to decide if they would benefit from a different experience. Year 11 VCE students needed to have successfully completed 6 units before being allowed to engage in the program, ensuring enough units for successful VCE completion if they decided to return and complete the VCE after Horizon.

Students applied in any way they felt best able (written, video, interview, presentation) to answer these questions:

  • Explain your experience of school so far …
  • Why do you want to be a part of the program?
  • What do you think it will look like for you?
  • What are your areas of interest / what are you passionate about?
  • What makes a good team?
  • What motivates you? What do you put effort into?
  • Why would the program be beneficial to you?
  • Provide the name of two referees who can talk about you as a learner.

40 applied. We shortlisted. 21 were interviewed by the Principal and another leadership team member. 14 were offered a place. 13 accepted. We chose not to replace the student who decided not to participate.

After the application process we had the following students: 7 x Year 8s (3M, 3F), 3x Year 9s (2F, 1M), 2x Year 10s (2M), 1x Year 11 (1M).


Mr W (Year 9) – has struggled at times with motivation and engagement in the classroom. Applied to participate in Horizon to develop skills that would be useful for a career in agriculture. His ongoing project was to design, budget for and finally build a steel dog-box for the tray on the back of his ute.
Miss WP (Year 8) – enjoys school and learning. Applied for the Horizon program to allow her to more intently follow her passion of astrophysics. Projects included exploring quantum entanglement, light pollution and high altitude balloons.
Mr W (Year 11) – has a keen passion for Hospitality. He completed VET Hospitality throughout the program, in addition to solo-catering for 25 people on a 5 day business retreat. This catering opportunity was his ongoing project including recipe development, budgeting and creating a timeline for the event. Mr W has successfully obtained an apprenticeship as a chef and will not be returning to complete his VCE.
Mr G (Year 8) – has been making short films for many years. He chose to apply for Horizon to allow him more opportunity to develop his film-making skills. Mr G engaged with script editors in Melbourne through Skype, worked with media professionals on camera handling and completed a short film as his ongoing project.
Miss C (Year 9) – has a real interest in health and healthy living. Keen to explore the impact of different diets on her own body, Miss C prepared meals and lived through a range of different diets – paleo, Mediterranean, gluten free, vegan etc. all the while keeping a journal of her dietary adventures. A website presenting all her learning made up her ongoing project.
Miss B (Year 9) – couldn’t decide where her passions lay, so she explored a number of them – learning Italian and building.  Miss B engaged in active work experience to fully immerse herself in the building industry, took time to have Italian lessons and returned to playing the piano throughout the semester.
Mr G (Year 8) – listed his passions as: history, politics, geography and basically the world. Fascinated especially with World War Two, Mr G pursued this interest through 3 essays exploring the impact of that event on scientific and technological advancements, social movements and military advancements.
Mr S (Year 8) – loves the media and has an arsenal of equipment at his disposal that he wanted to improve his skills using. Developing a website as a means to showcase his skills and work was his ongoing project, but his drone footage of a whole school event that local media picked-up both in print and on TV was a highlight.
Miss P (Year 8) – came into Horizon listing her passions as Vet Nursing and agriculture. Miss P struggled to settle on an ongoing project, being too young for work experience didn’t help. In the end, she settled on exploring the different forms of agriculture and explored the impact of different soil types on crop growth.
Mr T (Year 10) – jumped at the opportunity Horizon presented as a means to explore his interest in programming and gaming more broadly. Working on both the hardware and the software, Mr T was able to produce a hand-held game device with two different games. Mr T also took the opportunity to explore other areas of interest such as diabetes and insulin.
Miss H (Year 8) – impressed the application panel with her interest in and knowledge of biology and genetics. Throughout Horizon, Miss H’s attendance at school increased exponentially and she explored a range of different genetic mutations and their consequences.
Mr C (Year 10) – is a keen animator, but had had little opportunity to learn the skills and master the craft of animation. Horizon allowed him to explore this interest and in the end, each of his weekly projects culminated in a fully animated short film incorporating movement, lip-synching, and all elements of feature length animations.
Miss S (Year 8) – is fascinated with toxicology and especially interested in the debate surrounding medicinal marijuana. Her ongoing project explored this through a film that zoomed out from the physiological impacts, the neurological impacts right to the social impacts of medicinal marijuana.

These were our first Horizon students, and we’re so proud of what they have achieved. I will continue to share this story through this blog, but please contact me if you have any questions or would like more information.

Shaun, November 2017.




  1. kdmullins · November 26, 2017

    A great program with results that exceeded my expectations. Well done in your innovative ideas and passion for learning and engagement.


  2. Anonymous · November 29, 2017

    It sounds like Miss H and Miss S might get along well. But how did the collaborative projects go because all of these students seem to have very different passions. Does any of the students work line up with the current curriculum above or below their grade level?


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