Positive Education through AFL players’ stories

The Huddle is positioned perfectly to explore the values that guide people’s lives and help them to reach their potential. Using the stories of North Melbourne Football Club (NMFC) players, young people are able to identify what keeps footballers motivated, disciplined and ready to meet the challenges of being an AFL player.

All visits to The Huddle aim to build identity and a sense of community. The Schools Program also embeds positive education, digital technology and student creativity as a path towards students viewing them selves positively and feeling empowered. Middle and Later Years students from a wide range of schools visit The Huddle to further their understanding of self and others, through discussion with players, reflection activities and digital storytelling.

Recently I hosted groups from rural Victoria and suburban Melbourne taking part in The Huddle’s “Character and Careers” program where they listened to the journeys of AFL players at NMFC.

The program begins with the vocabulary, exploring strengths of character and building language to do this. The aim is to understand each word or concept by identifying connections and differences through an activity I call “a community of inquiry”. This supports us all to reach a common understanding about each word and for EAL students (bilingual students who are new to English) to uncover and discuss meaning. I use nouns on cards and I weave in verbs, synonyms and antonyms as well as paraphrasing with examples and stories to support students to visualize the concept in practice and to practise each word. From here, students may also identify strengths that they think would be useful in particular lines of work.

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The group then meets a player from the NMFC list, who is asked about his journey into AFL – from childhood to the present day – and his hopes and aspirations beyond football as well as the strengths he draws upon to meet the challenges of being an elite sportsperson in the AFL. Students ask a great range of questions and players answer openly. To complete the time spent with the player, the students are asked to identify 3-5 strengths that they think are most evident – the ones in the photo above were selected for Jamie MacMillan (player 34) with modesty being the quality they noticed to be strongest. The player will then comment and make any changes that he thinks are more applicable to him as a footballer.

After this focussed discussion time, individually, the students explore videos of players on the same theme which we have filmed at The Huddle. They report back to the group on the character strenghts that they noticed and give examples of these in action, drawing on the stories they have listened to. To complete the program, in pairs, they use Windows 8 Mind Mapping software – Nova or Mind8 – to consolidate their learning by documenting the stories around a key strength relating to NMFC players or to them selves.

I have found this to be an effective way of supporting students to understand others and to begin to reflect upon them selves. By scaffolding and recycling the language and by identifying strengths in others, they become more able to identify positive qualities and activities in them selves and to focus on strenghts rather than on weaknesses.

The Huddle creates a safe space for learning through discussion. The players are honest and articulate their hopes – they “speak to” young people which supports open discussion. Given events in the AFL over the past two weeks, the discussions have also included attitudes towards racism, where students have built understanding around the #racismstopswithme campaign and identified areas for improvement in their own schools. It is a privilege to provide a context where the issues and events surfacing from AFL in the media can be discussed openly with young people and used to build intercultural understanding and social cohesion.

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Author: maireadhannan

Community engagement through the arts and education. Musician and composer. I initiate and develop community arts and education projects to improve social cohesion including: education programs at The Huddle, arts projects, digital storytelling to inspire creativity, build identity and belonging and empower diverse communities in a range of settings.

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