KALINDA Primary students Maddi Ainslie and Calan Eastham spent hours this term painstakingly making teddy bears from scratch to donate to needy children at Christmas.
They discovered templates on the internet, which they printed and cut out.
Calan enlisted the help of his grandmother. ''She sewed all my jumpers and pants and everything,'' she said. ''So straight away when I had some hard bits I asked Nan how to sew with a sewing machine.''
The years 5-6 class was responsible for contacting charities to find out what sort of toys were wanted.
They faced some knockbacks. ''The Royal Children's Hospital said they didn't want anything, they wanted professional toys so they won't break and won't give anyone pain,'' Maddi explains.
But they also had success. ''My mum went through breast cancer so we thought of giving it to the Cancer Council,'' Calan says. The Salvation Army came to collect some toys and others were donated to the Warrandyte Community Centre.
It might all sound old-fashioned - donating to charity, sewing teddy bears - but Kalinda Primary, in Ringwood, is one of a few Australian schools pioneering a new approach to education, called challenge-based learning.
Challenge-based learning, which was developed by Apple education staff and is, in part, based on the educational theories of the American philosopher John Dewey, involves students working together to come up with solutions to real problems.
Students are posed with a challenge - in this case ''to give something to someone who has less than you'' - and have to come up with a solution that they then have to pitch to staff.
''In exploring this, the students came to the idea of creating toys to donate to children at Christmas,'' assistant principal Richard Lambert said.
The previous challenge given to the year 5-6s had been to run the school fete.
A delegation of children knocked on Mr Lambert's door to ask if they would be responsible for public liability insurance if they had a petting zoo at the fete.
He said students gained a wonderful sense of achievement but there were often ''real life'' setbacks along the way.
In one challenge - helping a community recover from a disaster - the students learned that some Black Saturday bushfire survivors had moved on and did not want to relive their experiences.
''They get some harsh realities - it's not Hollywood,'' Mr Lambert said.
He is a passionate advocate of challenge-based learning, which will be taught as part of the curriculum in every year level at Kalinda Primary from next year.
''What I was finding with traditional curriculum is it's killing all the things that kids need most, it's killing creativity, questioning, the desire to find things out,'' he said.
The story Not child's play: the school that challenges young minds to get real first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.