Community engagement through the arts, sport and education. All views are my own.
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.
Yesterday, 80 students in Year 5 from North Melbourne Primary School showcased books they created about local history at The Huddle, sharing them with teachers, each other, their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
Their books highlighted their careful research, writing and presentation skills as well as their learning at The Huddle this year through the “Early Melbourne” program. Using the Sydney-based “My Place” book as a starting point, the students created books on the history of the North Melbourne area going back over many decades. They explored the changes to the landscape and the lives of those who live here now and have lived here in the past. They immersed themselves in creative writing, assuming the characters of past inhabitants, and the books were illustrated lavishly.
The students also took the opportunity to reflect on the learning process in the development of these projects over the semester. They reflected on the process, its challenges and their learnings via Prezi, eBooks and other digital formats.
The enormous effort they went to, illustrated the importance of a connection to place – of knowing it and of belonging to a community as well as feeling a connection to the communities of the past. Due to waves of immigration this is even more striking in a place such as inner city Melbourne. The students clearly valued the experiences of looking at the world through the eyes of past inhabitants, imagining past landscapes and empathizing with changes as they were experienced by people who once walked the very streets they know so well.
The depth of learning that these students were engaged in was very impressive. The breadth of the topic allowed them to explore their interests – people, cultures, the environment, food, housing, the built environment and so forth – and present them in a range of digital and print-based formats.
Shamso, her aunt and cousin with me on the day she received the scholarship
Shamso, her aunt and cousin with me on the day she received the scholarship
Last year, two young women involved in The Huddle’s Study Support Program were awarded scholarships by NMFC group ‘Inspire’, to support them with their studies. Shamso, a newly arrived migrant from Somalia, was one of the recipients and has used the award to support her studies in Year 10 at a local secondary school in Footscray.
Shamso has a most gracious presence in The Huddle. She is open, loving and thoughtful. She has moved here to live with her aunt and plans to study nursing. For now, she is working at acquiring English language and literacy skills and learning where to focus her efforts within a new education system. She is settling well into Australian society and is very grateful to be supported to achieve her best.
In October this year, thanks to the women of Inspire, further scholarships were awarded to female members of The Huddle community – read about it on the NMFC website and hear how they will benefit from this wonderful opportunity.
At The Huddle, one of the places we learn about through observation and images is the Moonee Ponds Creek.
The Moonee Ponds Creek is a neglected environment only a block away from The Huddle. Though many students live close to it, they do not recall the creek readily. Having been a swampy area with seasonal flooding, I understand the creek is currently categorized as a drain. Further upstream, it runs along a freeway and has been a concreted environment since the 1960’s. Near Arden St, it still tends to flood and running alongside the creek’s edge are a trainline, a bike path and an overhead freeway. Despite the urbanisation of the creek, with a focus on transport and other infrastructure, there is life in and around the creek.
The Huddle invites young people to document what they see along the creek on video. It also invites them to consider their vision for what a creek and indeed this particular creek should be like.
To date we have discovered a lot of wildlife at the creek including – black swans, ibis, turtles, ducks; indigenous reeds, peppercorn trees and grasses. We have also noticed that it is a flood plane which floods regularly, that people live under the bridges, and that there are gas lines, factories, an electrical station and a plethora of train infrastructure between here and the Docklands.
Young people visiting The Huddle have not been aware that there are major plans for development along the creek. This includes the plans relating to the Arden Macaulay Structure Plan, the East-West Road Link and a train station at Arden St. The vision young people at The Huddle have for the creek is that it should be a cleaner environment, that it should make space for plants and animals and that the impact of urbanization on the natural environment should be considered in future planning.
Their films document the environment as it is today. We wonder what will become of it in the near future …..
One student, the daughter of a cameraman from Iraq who has migrated to Australia, brought along her own video camera and made a movie narrated in her first language. I look forward to seeing what she may create in the future.
The Traditional Stories program at The Huddle develops language and literacy skills in primary aged students through stories from Arnhem land using multimedia and video.
Students view stories from the ABC’s Dust Echoes and practice retelling them using props such as scarves, felt, shells and rocks. The props help them to abstract meaning and the essence of each story and then focus on the language, narrative form and performance. Working in groups, they collaborate to learn the story by reading it aloud, viewing it, taking a quiz and doing a mash up on the Dust Echoes website. This tunes them into the language, music and sounds they might choose before they attempt to retell the story with the props.
Once the students have rehearsed the storytelling, it is then recorded on video as a performance to be shared at a later date. After their renditions of the story, they are readily able to lead a discussion around the community values, morals and learning from the story. They build intercultural understanding and discuss their own values as well as making connections to their own cultures and experiences.
Teenagers newly arrived in Melbourne come to The Huddle regularly to learn computer skills and build language around items that hold special memories for them. The computer skills of students vary greatly, depending on where they come from, their levels of literacy and education and the experiences with computers.
They practice personal pronouns and language to describe the object and its significance. This opens the possibility for them to share their feelings and experiences through speaking and listening, visually with photographs and in writing using the stylus on Samsung slates. They make a poster using photos and writing about their items which is shared online so that their stories exist beyond The Huddle.
At The Huddle we have a wall where we can write and draw places that hold special meaning for us. Anyone at The Huddle can contribute to the wall. We use our wall to dream, imagine and be creative and expressive. Through it we improve intercultural understanding, build identity and build a picture of our community for everyone to enjoy.