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Pride of Penola


When Mary MacKillop Memorial School officially opened its innovative Woods Learning Centre in April, it expanded its educational offering to the regional community of Penola.

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The new, purpose-built space provides a dedicated place in which to teach science, visual and media arts, and food preparation.

The official opening and blessing held on April 12 was attended by a number of dignitaries including Federal MP Tony Pasin, State MP Nick McBride, mayor of Wattle Range Council Des Noll, executive director of Catholic Education South Australia Dr Neil McGoran, and chair of the South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools John Neate.

Archbishop Patrick O’Regan also travelled to Penola to bless the impressive new learning centre and the renovated and refurbished Early Years learning space.

Established in 1866 by Australia’s first saint Mary MacKillop who, with the help of two Sisters and local priest Father Julian Tension Woods, Mary MacKillop Memorial School has been educating children of Penola and the surrounding areas for 159 years.

“As one of the oldest continuing Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Adelaide, we are proud to be embracing innovation whilst honouring the tradition envisioned by Saint Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Tension Woods in 1866,” said school principal Nicole Coote.

“We’re thrilled to be providing a purpose-built learning space in which to continue the specialist curriculum areas on offer to our community. This building will benefit all students at our school.

“By creating dedicated spaces for teaching science and visual and media arts we hope to be able to offer a far greater breadth of learning opportunities for the students.”

The contemporary centre includes specialised learning areas for the school’s Science and Visual and Media Arts programs. It also has a kitchen which is fully equipped to support the school’s Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. This program provides Year 4
to 6 students with opportunities to engage in hands-on learning by cooking produce grown in the school’s vegetable patch.

“The veggie patch and kitchen deliver two vital steps in our learners’ development of gross and fine motor skills through practical application,” Mrs Coote said.

“We would love to see our students go home and expand on the knowledge that they have acquired here at school.”

May is a particularly exciting month for the Coonawarra region and the town of Penola. The annual Penola-Coonawarra Arts Festival is held from May 16 to 19 and events are held at cellar doors, restaurants and community spaces. This year, Mary MacKillop Memorial School is involved with the Sunday kids’ program and barbecue held on Petticoat Lane.

“Our MacKillop market stall sells local produce from our Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden and also from donations from families,”
Mrs Coote said.

“Each class also makes items to sell on the day and we have a free activity for kids. It is such a wonderful community event and we love being a part of it.”

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