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.
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.
Over the next few weeks, students will learn about the settlement of Melbourne and consider the impact of Europeans on the Koori people. The Huddle’s program “Early Melbourne” focuses on events in the early 1800’s, through the lives of three characters: William Barak, William Buckley and John Batman. Learning about this significant event, enables students to consider indigenous Australia, intercultural understanding and events that form the basis of our existence in modern-day Melbourne. This is pivotal to reconciliation, knowing the place we live in and building our community by understanding our place within it.
The program begins with a pre-learning activity I call “Graffiti the Treaty” where students write titles, captions, thought bubbles and speech bubbles on a painting of white settlers (John Batman) making a treaty with Koori leaders in 1835. This is done on our Samsung Slates, using its stylus and a digital image of the painting.
They go on to learn about the lives of Barak, Batman and Buckley by viewing images and texts from the 1800’s – for example, a transcript of a treaty, paintings of the natural environment and early settlement, photographs of indigenous people at Flagstaff and paintings by William Barak. They also view video commentary on the significance of these that are sourced from Victoria’s key cultural institutions available through Culture Victoriahttp://www.cv.vic.gov.au and browse the National Museum of Australia’s interactive resource Batmaniahttp://www.nma.gov.au/interactives/batmania/shell.html
Discussion, being an important part of learning at The Huddle, enables students to question the meanings behind images, facts and events, to uncover the interaction during settlement and express their own views on what happened in Victoria and the situation that indigenous people found themselves in. Through images and discussion, students who are less familiar with Australia because they have only lived here for a short time, are also able to examine the origins of Melbourne and express their views on it. Students rotate through learning stations to examine pictures, maps and artifacts relating to the content so they can recycle language and grasp concepts through discussion with their peers. They learn new words in Koori languages and identify how central Melbourne, the docks, bay and Yarra have changed over the past 200 years.
At the end of the program, I will ask students to discuss whether the exchange of items such as axes, mirrors, flour, blankets and scissors was a fair exchange for 500,000 acres of land and how the exchange and settlement could have happened differently. The students will also make “freeze frames”, shot on Samsung Slates, depicting scenes from the extraordinary life of William Buckley – the escapee who lived with the indigenous people around Port Phillip Bay for 32 years prior to the arrival of Batman and Faulkner.
Over the past few weeks at The Huddle, we worked on a creative project using the NMFC club song “Join in the Chorus”. We asked a group of students to create a lip sync video collaboratively, based on “Join in the Chorus”.
We assigned roles to each member of the group so everyone was responsible for one element of making the video –
music/sound production – cueing the song
art production – enhancing the visuals and setting to be filmed.
Using Samsung Slates, art production was probably the most creative role. Instead of sourcing props and costumes, this role involved drawing on the screen with your finger or a stylus to animate the video and enhance the visuals around the person being filmed. The Samsung camera allows you to draw your own pictures on screen and then shoot; or to use preset frames, filters and animated emotions – or a mixture of both.
Given some roles carried a heavier workload than others, students were able to rotate through roles and gain a fuller experience of film-making. The acting role was somewhat challenging and could be done in a group, which would have the potential to make reference to the team singing the song after they win a game.
Though we talked at length about how to make editing easy, probably the hardest aspect of the activity is to edit the song together so that lip sync is achieved. So we have more thinking to do with the editing process and applications that might suit this activity.
AFL club songs are great and I love “Join in the Chorus” http://www.nmfc.com.au/video/2013-06-02/join-in-the-chorus. The lyrics are rousing, joyous and speak to the heart – making all True Roos feel proud to belong. But the beginning of the song which the players sing at the end of matches, is not recorded in the official release of the song, so it doesn’t present an opportunity for lip syncing http://www.nmfc.com.au/fans/multimedia/theme-song. After we ran the activity, we wondered whether we should ask students to video a rendition of the Hearts to Hearts verse – we may try that another time!
The best thing about the whole activity, is that it just made us laugh. I still laugh watching and thinking about it and I loved the way the students had fun with this and threw themselves into it.