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Moruya Public School

School context

Moruya is a small coastal town 28 kilometres south of Batemans Bay. In 2006 the school had 432 students of whom more than 10% were Aboriginal. The Moruya area has had a long association with the rural sector. Over many years, local Aboriginal communities along the South Coast have contributed extensively to both the timber and fishing industries. The history of employment in these two sectors led to the development of two of the school’s K–2 Mathematics teaching units. A third unit, The Dreaming Track, which focuses on local community spiritual beliefs, formed the basis of the third unit of work.

School learning team

The school learning team consisted of four classroom teachers and the Aboriginal Education Assistant. They were supported by a regional DET Quality Teaching (numeracy) consultant and the Board project officer. The teachers used a buddy system for many of the Mathematics activities. The buddy project was the pairing of students from the primary classes with students in Early Stage 1 and Stage 1.

Aspects of language

The importance given to local context in the units of work and the aspects of language highlighted during the lessons allowed students to find meaning in their learning. They made connections to real-life situations and the aspects of ‘home’ language that were embraced in the classroom consolidated their explicit learning in Mathematics.

One of the major successes of the project was that students developed increased knowledge and use of mathematical terminology and appropriately blended ‘home’ language with mathematical language.

Working with the community

Development of contextualised units   

Initial consultation with the Aboriginal community on the units of work began in 2003. An informal public meeting was held, where all the Aboriginal families were invited to participate in the consultative phase of the project. Community members who were either unable to attend or commit to ongoing meetings were given the opportunity to contribute information and feedback through a survey. Invitations were then directed informally to individual members of the school community by class teachers and executive staff. The Aboriginal Education Committee was formally invited to participate during the consultative phase of the project, and the local Lands Council was informed of the project.

Several meetings were held during this consultative phase, with the initial meetings being held at school during school hours. The project teachers were released from their classes to attend the meetings. It was at these meetings that three ‘local’ contexts for the units of work were identified by community members.

These were:

  1. Fishing – A significant number of local Indigenous families have maintained local traditions and have long held professional fishing licences or maintained family and clan associations by fishing in the many local creeks and rivers, lakes and ocean.
  2. Woodcarting – Many other families have had a close relationship with the surrounding towns and have, over the years, worked in the forests cutting, gathering and carting timber to local sawmills.
  3. The Dreaming Track – This unit of work has been based on a local traditional song line or walking track between Bingi and Congo (the important coastal localities south of Moruya).

Once these three topic areas were workshopped a small number of community members were invited to participate in the planning phase of the project. These meetings took place in the homes of project members rather than in the school environment. During this phase of the project the role of the community members was to contribute their expertise and any information they had regarding the traditional and cultural aspects of the mathematics in the unit of work.

The proposals for the units of work were then presented in draft form to the Aboriginal Education Committee for their endorsement.

In the latter stages of the project the teachers worked collaboratively to finalise the units of work so they could be adopted by other staff members.

Concurrent mathematics activities undertaken with the community

As part of the Indigenous Mathematics project the regional Mathematics Consultant was invited to conduct a series of workshops for staff, AEA, Aboriginal classroom support tutors and local community members.

The purpose of these workshops was to review the Number Framework and identify elements of the Count Me In Too Program.

Follow-up workshops were in the form of informal visits by the AEA to the homes of Aboriginal families, working with them on enhancing their understanding of the project and its purpose. During these visits the AEA assisted community members to identify ways in which they could support their children at home. The AEA also reinforced the school’s invitation for all community members to participate in learning experiences in the classrooms at any time, but particularly for the contextual units.

The NAIDOC celebrations provided an opportunity for our local community to participate in our school activities. ‘Drop Everything and NAIDOC’ was an initiative implemented each afternoon during NAIDOC week. Mathematics in Context activities were an option for staff during these sessions.

The role of the AEA in the project

The newly appointed AEA at Moruya Public School had come to the position with many years experience working with young Aboriginal adolescents. His role in the school extended well beyond dealing with family welfare issues.

The AEA’s role in the Indigenous Mathematics project has been two-fold. Firstly, he made links with families and fostered partnerships with the community which were needed for the success of the project. Even with his strong ties to the area, however, aspects of this process were difficult to effectively manage due to some broader community issues. Contact with the community was on an informal basis, which meant following up with families out of school. This gave the AEA an opportunity to discuss matters related to students and how parents could support their children’s learning.

Secondly, the AEA played an important role throughout the project by supporting the learning taking place in the contextual units in the classroom.

Reflections on the project

From the teachers

‘This project offered the opportunity to review/refine/further develop these units and better meet student needs.’

‘Our parent representatives responded positively to the community partnership issues, giving very honest answers to some confronting issues.’

‘I was much more focused on and mindful of the language students were using when describing how they measured length, which informal unit was more appropriate.’

‘We work in “buddy class” groups, our Year 2 class working with Kindergarten.  This approach towards the unit was most successful. Children make connections with older/younger students.’  

‘The hands-on activities worked very well. Boys just felt at home. Watching them operate was fabulous. … During MiIC lessons they are engaged, confident and displaying deep understanding and knowledge.’

‘I have deepened my understanding of some terms that I used to bandy about (not really applying their true meaning to my classroom practice).’

‘Inclusivity – so much more than just including all children in groups!’

‘Equity – This project has opened my eyes to its true meaning. Not enough teachers accommodate for individual differences appropriately – students’ needs are then not adequately met. Differentiating the curriculum not a difficult thing to achieve with a contextual unit.’

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