The Orality Centre is on Dja Dja Wurrung Country. We acknowledge the Elders, past, present and future.
Lynne Kelly started working with Aboriginal leaders, Kath Coff and Aunty Julie* last week at Castlemaine Secondary School (CSC). Although funding comes through Nalderun, The Orality Centre (TOC) will be working with both indigenous and non-indigenous students at CSC. One of our goals is to show all students how much we have to learn from Aboriginal cultures. Aunty Julie, Kath and Lynne went bush with indigenous students and talked about knowledge, the stories, the dynamic nature of oral tradition and so much more.
[* For non-Australians, Aunty or Uncle are terms of respect for Aboriginal Elders, only used with permission.]
On Friday 5 May 2017, Paul Allen and Lynne Kelly visited CSC. We set out the Engineering Precinct Memory Trail of 40 locations in the area between the Engineering Precinct and Administration building. By making every 5th location a door, traversing the trail in memory is much easier as four locations need to be found between the doors.
Paul Allen checking out a service door, one of the key locations in the new memory trail.
We met with quite a few teachers and discussed applications. Of course, using the methods for specific applications also teaches the methods so students and teachers can use them whenever they see fit.
Initial trials include Lynne Kelly doing the periodic table with Dino Cevolatti’s Year 9 Science class as well as working with the Nalderun students. Other topics suggested by the few teachers we had time to talk to included the fact that all years of science need to understand units and converting units. Year 10 Science Biology including anatomy and organic chemistry were proposed as a good testing ground. A challenge will be the request to look at quadratics in maths which teachers and students struggle with, but are a fundamental foundation for further years.
We are also starting a CSC Memory Club at lunchtime this week.
Discussions with the teachers indicated a number of clear directions for initial engagement. Both primary and secondary level teachers have emphasised that the major benefits would be in grounding the fundamental knowledge. Most commonly mentioned are multiplication tables. The secondary teachers estimated that at least 70% of students do not have a basic ability to do tables. Paul and I looked at the tables from a mnemonic point of view. Clearly learning the 144 tables by rote learning leads to kids knowing the tune but not the words. Understanding along with visualising could be done in stages. Tables are used individually, not in a sequence, so they need to be known that way. We have many ideas which we will start testing at both primary and secondary level soon. We dream big!
We all agreed that the memory methods shouldn’t be used for everything, but we are looking for where they would most support the curriculum. It is the solid ground for higher cognitive discussion and understanding which teachers feel is the most needed.
Our favourite door in the Memory Trail – now named the Munchkin Door. At location 30, for the periodic table, it will be Zinc. We could immediately see the munchkin sneaking out to sunbake on the little path with his zinc cream applied. Easy!
Paul and Lynne talked with senior art staff about the art curriculum in general. We didn’t raise the issue of the role of art for other subjects – there was too much to be said about the art curriculum itself. CSC is particularly strong in this field.
With Art teacher, Ken Killeen, TOC staff Lynne Kelly and Alice Steel have put the 20 VCE art elements and art principles into the Engineering Precinct Memory Trail with the Year 11’s.
Location 7 is now named Square-Monster. Once you see the monster with his tiny eyes and flat mouth, you will never lose him. For the periodic table, this will be Nitrogen. Monsters/night – that’s an easy association.
It was suggested that an art history memory trail for the various art movements, with a few significant artists in each, would be very useful for junior years. This would also put the art forms in the broader historical context. That naturally led us to …
CSC History Trail
The history trail we have just started at Malmsbury PS is going extremely well. We are looking to set up the same thing at CSC, separate from the Engineering Precinct Memory Trail. As an art teacher himself, Paul has already documented a basic history of art to place in such a trail. The beauty of memory trails is that they are infinitely expandable. It doesn’t matter what aspects of history are added, there is room for everything. Students will be able to walk through time.
We left the school knowing there was a lot of enthusiasm from the staff. Now we just need to make it work.
Even at this early stage of our work, we have already been approached by a number of other primary and secondary schools. Lynne is also working with John Monash Science School. We will expand our reach but are keen to restrict our work at this stage to what is manageable and what will be the best partnerships to explore the combination of orality and literacy for the regular curriculum. We are learning from the students and teachers very quickly what works well.