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School and Aboriginal Community Context

Stage 4 – Technology (mandatory)

School and Community Context

This unit of work, Enviro-traveller, was written by Janet Cairncross, Head Teacher TAS, Casimir Catholic College in Marrickville. The College is located in the traditional lands of the Cadigal people of the Sydney region. The College has an Aboriginal enrolment of nine students. Casimir College is located in a very multicultural part of Sydney and a large proportion of the students come from diverse language backgrounds. This unit of work caters to their learning needs, incorporating explicit literacy activities.

Aboriginal involvement in the preparation and teaching of this unit included, in the first instance, consultation and advice from the Diocesan Office Aboriginal Education Consultant and members of the Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group. The Aboriginal Education Worker in the school, Allana Taylor, was involved in the implementation of the unit, and made a significant and positive contribution to the students’ learning and their engagement with the unit.

Excerpts from an interview with Janet and Allana

  • Writing the TAS unit
  • Aboriginal perspectives in the unit
  • School support
  • Team teaching the unit
  • Student response to the unit
  • Unexpected outcomes
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    1. Writing the TAS unit

    JANET: Ok, I started off by looking at the cross curriculum content, and I wanted to choose an issue that was positive, so that’s why I chose the issue of custodianship. So, and custodianship links so well with environment and ethical considerations, so it was a natural one, to fit in with TAS, so I was really pleased. The whole unit is based around the design-make-appraisal paradigm, so all of the elements of Tech Mandatory are incorporated within the unit.

    2. Aboriginal perspectives in the unit

    ALLANA: I think this helps teach non-indigenous students and indigenous students, about the Aboriginal history of the area, and it definitely taught them, and showed them what life was like before colonisation, and that they were aware that there were certain areas that were specifically important to the Aboriginal people, specific to this area, who are the Gadigal people.

    JANET: My first port of call was our consultant at the CEO [Catholic Education Office]. So I asked him for a lot of advice, which he didn’t give me, but I say that in a positive way! His advice to me was, “You need to go away and learn about this”. And at first I was a bit affronted by that, but I realised that it was actually a really wise thing to say, because the learning that I’ve been able to undertake through the process has been incredible, and it’s added a real richness to the unit. But, other people that I consulted along the way, of course was Allana, and I talked to the Marrickville Council Cultural Liaison, as well as our local AECG.

    3. School support

    ALLANA: Well, first of all, I’m employed here, so that’s one thing that the department and the school has done to contribute, is employing someone who is Aboriginal into the school to be able to give Aboriginal perspectives, first hand, well, not first hand, but, you know, from an indigenous person. And it makes a little bit more sense, and it makes a little bit more important to the children, with what they’re learning about.

    JANET: And also for Allana to be released from other duties to be able to come into my classroom.

    4. Team teaching the unit

    ALLANA: Well, to start with, Janet spoke to me, to tell me what she was doing, and I thought it was a fantastic idea, this whole program, it just, every idea that came out, I was just, “Wow! I wish I’d thought about that!” or, you know, “I’m really glad to be a part of it!” because it was just great outcomes for the children. The activities that were involved were just, you know, something they enjoyed. They loved the research, they loved the presentations, and they loved the excursions that we were able to do along with this topic because it involved so much. There were so many areas we could cover.

    ALLANA: We chatted all the time. I mean, we never had a specific meeting. We always had a very informal meeting and everything was able to be nutted out during those times.

    JANET: We were talking about that earlier, that it’s important that consultation doesn’t need to be a hard thing. You know, we have got a good enough relationship that we could work together and sometimes the meetings even happened within the classroom, where we could change the course or direction of the lesson. So I’d sort-of have a whisper to Allana about, “Ok, do you think you could talk about something around this area…” and she was able to do that really successfully. So she’s a great person to work with!

    ALLANA: And generally, when Janet gave me maybe a little bit more time, I would try and think of some things that I could bring into the classroom, and then I would just bombard Janet on that day, and say, “Is it OK if I do this?”; and sometimes, she would say “Yeah, yep, that’s fine” or “Can we do that next lesson?”, and so I’ve always got something planned for the next time that we come together with the children.

    ALLANA: It’s straight away looking at the program, everything that I’ve been taught, what should be being taught within the school, about Aboriginal people was throughout this whole program. I just loved every aspect of it; learning about the traditional culture, the ceremonies, the importance of land, the kinship with land. All the things that are important to Aboriginal people are in this program, and that’s what I love about it. It’s just covering all these areas of Aboriginal history, that I am just dying for the children to learn, and I know it’s not taught much in schools, especially after the research I’ve been doing, not many of the schools have an opportunity to learn stuff like, you know, what Janet is teaching.

    5. Student response to the unit

    JANET: I’ve talked to the kids a lot along the way about what they’ve enjoyed. One of the comments that I’ve had a lot is that it’s been really fun. They’ve liked the variety of activities, but they’ve also found it really challenging, but challenging in a good way! So they’ve enjoyed being extended, and made to think about different things. But the definite highlights, if you ask the kids the two key things that they’ve loved the most, was the excursion to our local park, where we did our time travel journey, back in time. I was amazed at how the kids engaged with that – they really believed that they had gone back in time, and when they came back, and we talked about it, it was such an enriching experience for them, they got a lot out of it. The other thing that they’ve really liked is learning the new technology; they are so excited about learning the animation. So they’re, I guess, the two activities that have, that stand out the most.

    JANET: And the other thing that they talked about was how much that they enjoyed meeting Allana, and to have a reason to talk to her, and to find out more.

    ALLANA: And that’s been great too because then, I, there’s a whole new group of children who come up to me on the playground, and say; “Hey Miss, how are ya?” - and I love yarning with the children – that’s my thing – I like to be on the playground and have a talk to them. And just the work that they come up with; I have never had a group, I mean, I have tried to do similar things with other children, but, you know, some are just not interested, it just wasn’t planned fun enough. Everything was planned, it was fun, it was exciting, the kids were interested, that was the main thing, and I find myself, if there is something you are interested in, you’ll do really well at it. So, and the animations that they have come up with are just amazing. I need to learn – I want them to teach me. So that could be a good thing! A two way thing – I could teach them, and they could teach me!

    6. Unexpected outcomes

    JANET: One of the things that I didn’t anticipate was how confident I would feel teaching this subject matter, because I’ve, I’ve always been very cautious about how I treat Aboriginal perspectives, that I want to do it really properly, and often, it leads to a lot of inertia; that you don’t tend to do it, because you don’t want to offend people.

    ALLANA: That’s fantastic – that’s what we want! You know?

    JANET: But to have that confidence that with talking to someone like Allana, and the other support that I’ve been given, it gave me so much more confidence. And to go into the classroom well prepared, and to be able to teach a topic area that I feel very passionately about, has been great. But the quality of the kids work has been so good.

    ALLANA: The standard of their work is just amazing. I did not, I expected some great things, but I didn’t expect extraordinary work. It was just amazing. And even the stories that they’ve written, some of the stories that they typed up, and some of their presentations – I want them! I would love to keep them for my own resources to use for, for other students in the future. It’s just amazing – they’ve been a great group.

    JANET: They have-

    ALLANA: -to do it with

    JANET: They’ve definitely engaged with the whole process, so we’re so delighted with the outcomes.

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    School and Aboriginal Community Context