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Story Writing in Remote Locations 2015


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 SWiRL 2015 – Bulman Community School,  Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

 

The Story Writing in Remote Locations (SWiRL) Program provides 4th year pre-service teachers from Victoria University unique opportunities to experience Australian education in an Indigenous context, and to develop valuable teaching strategies responsive to local communities and their cultural backgrounds. It has been taking VU students to remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory for 20 years with continued success.

The main aim of SWiRL is to empower Indigenous students though shared success and re-engage them with learning via meaningful literacy projects – writing story books and making short movies relevant to their lives, environments, interests and experiences. It creates opportunities for mutual learning and cross-cultural information transfer that greatly benefits both the students we interact with and our future teaching practice.  

In 2015, I was fortunate to participate in the SWIRL Program. This allowed me to undertake my final six-week teaching placement at Bulman Community School, NT, alongside a university colleague Ben Snaith. In addition to my daily classroom duties - delivery of the Literacy and Numeracy curriculum, being a specialist science and art teacher to students from primary to high school (which I regard the highlight of my experience), developing classroom/school resources, participating in staff meetings and internal PD sessions (Visible Learning) as well as engaging with the community (students and their families) outside of the school hours, I took charge of the delivery of the SWiRL Program, collaboratively producing over 30 story books. We printed and bound a hard copy of each for the author to take home, as well as made these available to the wider community via a dedicated website that has become their permanent home: Bulman Stories – SWiRL 2015

We felt that this would not only allow each child to share their story with their family and friends, but also provide easy classroom access via the Internet. This we considered the long term success of our efforts – teachers actively using the website by allowing students to practise reading with it. Additionally, encouraging storytelling and practising reading with each other's books we saw as a way of meeting the learner where they are right now, with their own unique skill set and worldview. This is regarded an important aspect of a democratic approach to teaching and learning. The impacts of this project reached beyond the classroom, to the immediate and wider community – our true success was evident on the day of sharing, where parents and community members joined their children for school-wide celebration of our collective efforts. It was an inspiring, encouraging, empowering and joyous occasion of shared success for all. In its entirety, we believe that we succeeded in what we set out to achieve!

 

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Working 'round the clock to print and bind all Swirl Books.

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Sharing Bulman Stories, SWiRL 2015

Thank You Bulman :
The School – for housing me for six-weeks; Ben – for putting up with living with me; students – for your respect and hard work; thank you Irene and Rob Singleton – for being the best hosts I could have ever asked for (you guys have made a huge impact over the past 7 years); Ben and Meg – thanks for entrusting me your students; Indigenous staff –  for caring and sharing your knowledge and stories; Bulman community and the Northern Territory – for sharing your landscapes and culture; thank you Lawry; the SWiRL crew;  friends and family – for making this happen... For making my experience unforgettable! 

 

Week 1: Getting started on SWiRL books - making progress. Helping Norrisha draft her story and plan illustrations that will support each page.

Week 1: Looks a bit out of hand? NO! Just having fun, searching for story ideas and inspiration by reading past SWiRL books.

Week 2: Engaged - Middle Years begin drawing their stories. Illustrating and then telling a story based on the image became our formula for success! 

Week 2: Norrisha from Middle Years - personally drafted, typed up and illustrated the most elaborate of all SWIRL books - Congratulations, amazing effort!

Week 2: Each page of Norrisha's book was carefully illustrated to visually support her story.

Week 3: Middle Years Film Crew - in action, on location; SWiRL Ben was cast as Slenderman. Great work team! 

Week 4: Illustrated stories such as this one formed the basis of students' storytelling. Imagination and creativity may well be the foundation of all knowledge and understanding.

Week 5: Sonia's little helper - engaging students in the SWiRL book publishing process.

Week 5: Last day of school - Ben presenting Bulman Stories website to the students, staff and community! Joy, pride and empowerment was palpable all around! 

Week 5: Celebrating success - each student received a personalised card from myself and Ben, congratulating them on their efforts in making their SWiRL books.

Getting amongst it! Bush tucker - collecting mussels with the kids, at Biggeti.

Local women - removing the freshly cooked juicy mussels from their shells. Ready to eat!

Thank You Bulman Country and Your Children! 

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