St James' celebrates NAIDOC 2016

On July 20 St. James’ Primary School, Muswellbrook, took part in National Aboriginal and Islanders’ Day of Observance Celebrations (NAIDOC).

Students spent the day engaged in a variety of activities to help them connect and learn about ‘Songlines’.

The day began with our entire school community and visitors gathering in the hall for an Acknowledgement to Country, given for the first time by Josie Matthews, one of our Year 5 students. This was then followed by a detailed introduction to the meaning and importance of ‘Songlines’.

Students, teachers and visitors then returned to classrooms where they were involved in a rotation of 3 activities throughout the day. These were:

ART- Students began their lessons by looking at a variety of symbols used in Aboriginal Artworks and identifying some in this year’s winning NAIDOC poster which was displayed and discussed in each classroom.

K-2 students then painted their own modified version of this spectacular painting. Our primary students were challenged a little further with their paintings as they were also shown topographical and street maps of our local area.

They were then set the task of designing and painting their own ‘Songline’ artworks where they could choose to incorporate their own physical or spiritual journey, utilising symbols where possible.

STORYTELLING- This activity was based on Dreaming stories which form part of local ‘Songlines’. K-2 heard about Tiddalik the frog from the Wollombi region and Years 3-6 learnt the story behind Burning Mountain, the Wingen Maid.

Each class had a special visitor on the day to tell not just the story but the historical and geographical background belonging to the story. Photos and film were also used as a visual to aid students in their understanding of these important stories.

MUSIC-Each class had an opportunity to discuss what they thought would be important information to include if St. James’ had its own ‘Songline’.

They were asked what lyrics would help a visitor to know how to move safely around our school, where to find food, what rules or routines need to be followed, our lore etc. This led beautifully into learning to sing the song, ‘Our St. James’ Songline’, set to the tune of ‘I am Australian’.

The song had been written especially for the day and really personalised it for the students, giving them a deeper understanding and appreciation of the significance of traditional songlines.

At the end of the day the entire school and our visitors came together again in the hall to share what they had learnt and enjoyed most about the day. Each class displayed and explained the meanings behind their best artworks.

Prior to the day, students had submitted entries for a NAIDOC competition, colouring-in for Infants and story writing for Primary.

 Winners and runners-up for each class were selected and presented with a certificate during our afternoon gathering with the winners also being awarded a prize package purchased through Koori Kids which they were very excited to receive. Our special visitors and helpers on the day were also thanked and given a certificate and gift to show our appreciation.

Due to poor weather we were unable to finish the day in our new hall which is set up with audio and visual equipment so we culminated our NAIDOC activities two days later when our school was also taking part in our Community Day.

On this day we were able to share the new books we had purchased for the school library which included ‘Tiddalik’, teacher resources on Indigenous Studies along with many more.

Finally, to the surprise and delight of our school community, we played the video of ‘Our St. James’ Songline’,

This was a collection of footage and photos of our students captured specifically to help tell the story of our ‘Songline’. The soundtrack was recorded the day before our NAIDOC and performed by some of our students who had been practising enthusiastically throughout their holidays.

This was a fantastic way to finish the week as the students spontaneously started singing ‘their’ song as they eagerly watched to see themselves or their friends on screen.

The goal of NAIDOC 2016 at St. James’ had always been to have our students understand and appreciate the importance of ‘Songlines’ and it seems this has been well and truly achieved.

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