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The Value of Ancient Knowledge

“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through”
- Aboriginal proverb.

Through the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) Unit ‘Where We Are in Place and Time’, Wenona Junior School students gain a layered understanding of the interconnectedness of people and civilisations, often accompanied by a desire to bring about positive change.

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A prime example is our Year 4 students’ immersive, transdisciplinary work on Australian history this term. Over the last six weeks they have explored:

- Aboriginal life before the European landing (through topics such as shelter, tools and weapons, dance, art and music, totems, and The Dreaming)

- Perspectives of 18th-century industrial revolution Britain and

- the impact of the British arrival on Aboriginal communities.

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Some wrote research books, others created websites. All amassed substantial and sophisticated knowledge about Australian Indigenous culture.

“The girls have been really excited and engaged. I overheard those who made research books saying of their Aboriginal history knowledge: ‘I didn’t have to look it up again, I just remember it now’”, said Year 4 Teacher Ms Laura Monk.

“Because the PYP is transdisciplinary, their work crossed into other subject areas such as climate change, the impact of fossil fuels and sustainability. They also examined the viewpoint of the Aboriginal people in a way that connected to our Literature Unit about persuasive texts, which in turn linked to our Language Unit.”, said Year 4 Teacher Mrs Vicki Burkett.

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The girls’ perspectives broadened as they engaged in-class discussion about the impact of climate change and the value of listening to the wisdom of Indigenous voices. According to Mrs Burkett, one student’s comment summed it up well: “This is important because so far white people have had their story told in a way that Indigenous people have not”.

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The girls’ learning culminated in an exhibition of their work for special guests including Principal Dr Briony Scott and other senior leaders of staff. The girls presented formal speeches, served food they had prepared with Indigenous ingredients and took questions on the topics they had researched.

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