Everyone is involved and everyone is doing the planning
The suburb of Rosetta is in the City of Glenorchy, overlooking the Derwent River and about ten kilometres north of Hobart. The area includes a mix of housing, from established family homes to clusters of units occupied by senior citizens. New housing developments are close by and young families are moving into the area.
Rosetta Primary School opened in 1960 and today has about 400 students from Kindergarten to Year 6, of whom about 30% receive government assistance with school fees. About 20 students identify as Indigenous. The school has strong links with Rosetta High School, which is the high school of choice for most Rosetta PS students.
Principal Eleanor Scott made a presentation at the launch of the Dare to Lead Coalition in Hobart in 2003. In her speech, she outlined how a school could re-orient itself to more appropriately cater for its Aboriginal students and incorporate aspects of Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal perspectives into its curriculum. Here are some key elements from the presentation.
We have needed to do two things.
First, develop a school community in which Indigenous students and their cultures are accepted, valued, respected and celebrated.
Second, develop explicit interventionist strategies within a curriculum and pedagogical framework that is cohesive and coherent for all students.
All this is dependent on quality professional development for teachers. Improved learning outcomes for Indigenous students come at the intersection of curriculum and pedagogy with cultural awareness and celebration.
In 2002, Di Cleary's Year 5/6 class worked with the Australian Government's Discovering Democracy unit called 'People Power'. The class was aided in the process by Nola Lenthall and covered issues of cultural identity and social justice in relation to Aboriginal people.
For many teachers in the school, this initiative was just the beginning of more concentrated curriculum development about Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal perspectives.
Subsequently, the school received a small grant, through the Australian Government's Discovering Democracy Program, to further develop a curriculum unit linking civics and citizenship with Aboriginal culture and history. Detailed descriptions are available on the Discovering Democracy website.
The Toorittya Trail is a whole-school curriculum project, which is intended to run from March to October 2004. It is based on a Tasmanian Aboriginal story called 'Toorittya', which can be found in: Ransom, R. (re-teller), Taraba, Department of Education, Community and Cultural Development Tasmania, 1997. The project aims to link Aboriginal perspectives with Essential Learnings [Tasmanian curriculum guidelines].
Nola talks about the project.
We can all now write units using Essential Learnings and we've determined our through-lines. So our conversation is about things like 'is what's good for Aboriginal children good for all children?' We're looking at good, inclusive, cooperative pedagogy and we want to focus on using Essential Learnings in the context of a whole school curriculum project focusing on Aboriginal culture and perspectives.
Last year, we basically did a unit which focused on Aboriginal issues. This year we worked with the Aboriginal community more and tried to incorporate their perspectives in the style of teaching. To do that we [teachers] had professional development with people from Aboriginal Education and the Margate Aboriginal Centre. Sometimes we worked with the [Rosetta] High School and we developed some little units but now we want something bigger, that can go from Kindergarten to Year 8, or even to Year 10.
At the last professional development day we had a big brainstorm session. We were looking for a topic that would be able to generate activities from Kindergarten to Year 10 and we settled on the Arts as a focus area, because we thought it could do that. You can have it in Maths and Science and it can be right across the curriculum. Then we needed an idea that would get us into the project. Now, because next year is bicentennial year and because walking is a big focus in this district here and because we share a wattle bird with an Aboriginal group further up the walking track we decided the wattle bird could be the common theme. And we remembered the story of Toorittya, in Taraba. Toorittya is the little wattle bird and he's very greedy but in the end he learns a very serious lesson.
We wanted something that everybody could do and be involved in, something that could flow up to Year 6 and then up into the high school. So it could assist with Year 6 to 7 transition as well.
Then we started planning, according to the Essential Learnings ideas, our unit-long goals and understandings and the sort of subject areas that we could integrate. We also had to look at who could be involved and what funding was needed. Eventually, we came up with a program which can run from March to October 2004. It's still a draft, a work in progress, but we know it will culminate in an artistic extravaganza.
And each class will have a booklet, with pictures of what they've done, and a write up. And then when we showcase those things, we can walk the trail. So it might start here and you could pick it up and walk with it and then we'd end up on through the parklands out near the foreshore.
The good thing is that instead of just one or two teachers taking an interest in Aboriginal perspectives, this way everyone is involved and everyone is doing the planning. We're getting a sense of community.
Rosetta PS has Andrew Cuthbertson, a specialist Information and Communication Technology (ICT) teacher for three days per week. He works throughout the school to assist teachers and students to integrate ICT into their teaching and learning programs.
The focus is on ICTs as tools rather than for their own sake. A particularly powerful way that ICT is used at Rosetta PS is in multi-media publishing, which can range from creating a PowerPoint presentation to using a VHS camcorder and computer-based editing to create a video. ICT and multi-media are great ways to deepen understanding of a topic because students have the opportunity to access, transform and share ideas in a powerful and meaningful way.
As part of our Aboriginal Cross-Cultural Awareness project, a number of our classes visited the Margate Aboriginal Centre. Students from Year 4/5 used Kidpix and Microsoft PowerPoint to retell their experiences. To do this, the students worked in pairs and combined images taken with the digital camera on the excursion with their own re-tellings of the events and original artwork.
Rather than have the students use their PowerPoint themes for their slide backgrounds, we decided that they should create their own image, inspired by Aboriginal artworks. To do this, the students used the Internet to research characteristics of Aboriginal art, focusing on colour, texture, shapes and imagery. After examining a number of paintings and discussing them in the terms above, the students were asked to use Kidpix to create an image that included these features.