Published on 17 January 2024

Inspiring young minds in Woodcroft

Woodcroft Library, in collaboration with the University of Adelaide, is making significant strides in fostering young minds down south, thanks to the popular Children’s University initiative.

Aimed at children aged five to 14, the extra-curricular ‘passport to learning’ program is more than just an educational venture; it's an effort to instill a love for learning, resilience and a sense of belonging among youth in the City of Onkaparinga.

Traditionally run only in select schools, Woodcroft Library recognised a gap—many local children were missing out on valuable learning opportunities and struggling with resilience in conventional academic settings.

This insight led to the library's involvement, transforming it into an accessible learning hub for all children and representing a groundbreaking shift to a more inclusive, community-based approach.

After a successful pilot program in 2015, the library became a fully accredited student hub by 2016.

It was the first library in the state to become involved in this innovative program, broadening its impact and bringing together a diverse mix of children from various schools and backgrounds.

The initiative sees children engaging in extra-curricular activities, earning credits in a passport style system that’s based on hours spent across diverse learning experiences, ranging from practical and hands-on to more community-based, social activities.

This melting pot of learning activity allows for a broader exchange of ideas and perspectives, in a unique and engaging way, and underpins a holistic approach to education.

To celebrate the achievements and personal growth of each child, the program concludes with a graduation ceremony each year. Alumni are encouraged to volunteer with the program, as part of an additional ‘passport to volunteering’ initiative, until they turn 18.

This not only aims to provide graduates with an ongoing supportive and nurturing space, but also helps cultivate a volunteering mindset within the community.

Angela Berney, Team Leader at Woodcroft Library, emphasises this inclusive ethos.

"Our goal was to ensure that every child in our community had equal access to the enriching experiences of the Children's University initiative, regardless of their school's participation,” Angela said.

“Since the beginning, we've witnessed tremendous growth in the kids' confidence, and get a real sense of pride when they’re celebrated for their achievements.

“Seeing kids from different backgrounds come together, learn from each other and grow is our biggest reward, and evidence of the program's success.”

Both current and previous participants agree.

Charlotte, 7, a current participant, offers a glowing review.

"I love being part of the Children’s University. I've learnt lots of new things, like science and music, and made new friends from different schools. It’s fun graduating at Bonython Hall and getting to wear a robe and hat too—I felt very proud,” she said.

While James, a previous graduate who has gone on to obtain his advanced diploma in interior design and runs his own business, directly attributes his academic direction to his experiences in the program.

“Children’s University at Woodcroft Library was absolutely pivotal for me. It was a community that embraced every child regardless of background, and believed in our potential,” James said.

“Being homeschooled, Children’s University gave me an avenue to connect with other kids, it built my confidence and helped me develop an interest in subjects that otherwise wouldn’t have appealed to me.

“Being exposed to a wide range of passionate individuals meant I was not only able to learn with enthusiasm, but am now able to pass this passion onto the next generation of kids coming through.

“The program helped shape my path, instilled in me the belief I could go on to pursue the career of my choice, and now offers many opportunities to volunteer within the community—something I love to do."

The City of Onkaparinga continues to be a steadfast supporter of this valuable initiative as 2023 sees the University of Adelaide celebrate its 10th successful year.

“The council’s commitment is testament to the program's value in building a resilient, well-rounded future generation in our region,” Angela said.

“It’s far more than a simple funding matter; it's a reflection of their dedication to see the program flourish and nurture the potential of every child. The council's support allows us to reach and engage more young minds within our southern community.”

For more information on the Children’s University initiative visit the council’s website or call Woodcroft Library on 8384 0050.

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Two young current Children's University participants sit alongside an older previous participant with two chessboards on a table in the foreground.