Creative Buzz

About 70 students from five Catholic feeder primary schools re-imagined the school environment to a fantastical fictional world at St Clare's High School, Taree, on Thursday 5 and Friday 6 March.

It was all part of a Manning creative arts project, an ASPIRE-led two-day workshop that picked up on the Catholic Schools Week theme of "drawing from the well".

An initiative of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle's Catholic Schools Office, ASPIRE provides an opportunity for students with a passion for the performing arts to grow, perform and shine.

The five feeder schools — St Joseph's, WinghamSt Joseph's, BulahdelahSt Joseph's, GloucesterSt Joseph's, Taree; and Holy Name, Forster — sent students from Years 4, 5 and 6 to the project.

Melinda Rego, a teacher at St Joseph's Primary School, Wingham who accompanied students to the workshop, raved about the opportunities the program provides.  

"It's such an amazing project. The kids can work within their talents, grow, explore different things and learn from each other," Ms Rego said.

As part of the program, students split into groups for Drama, instrumental, singing, and visual arts.

ASPIRE artistic director Anna Kerrigan, ably assisted by intern Ollie Crawford, wrote short scripts as the Drama group put together a story. The visual arts group, led by Lara Crockett, created a backdrop and made unique masks. Meanwhile, Lauren Harvey tutored vocalists and musicians learned some new chords with assistance from Lisa Pockran. 

Students embraced the opportunity to express themselves in the different workshops.  

Summar, a student from St Joseph's Primary, Bulahdelah who loves Drama said, "I can express myself as someone else. It's a nice thing to do to take my mind off what's happening in life."'

Nick, a student from St Joseph's Primary School, Gloucester, said he loved singing "because it's fun."

"It was a bit scary singing with students from other schools at first, but then I got comfortable," Nick said.  

Cornell, a student from St Joseph's Primary School, Taree, also enjoys belting out some vocals.  

"Singing gets me to express things in different ways and gives me the freedom to enjoy myself," he said, adding "I have enjoyed meeting different people from other schools, getting to know them and being guided by professionals." 

Like Cornell, several other students also shared that having the opportunity to get to know students from other schools was a highlight of the program.

"At the start of the day I was pretty nervous about meeting students from other schools, but then it got 'funner' as we started to work together," said Preston, who attends St Joseph's Primary School, Bulahdelah

Students who hailed from Holy Name Primary School, Forster to take part agreed. 

"Coming to the ASPIRE workshop has been great," said Grace. "You get to meet new people and do what you love to do."

Ruby, also a student from Holy Name Primary School who loves Drama said, "The two-day workshop has been good, lots of fun and it's amazing working with other schools. We've got a lot of new friends now."

Working in groups enabled students to refine their creative skills ahead of taking to the stage, where they showcased an integrated performance in front of an audience of peers, school staff and relatives.

Reflecting on the theme for the play, "drawing from the well," Ms Kerrigan said it provided a tremendous underlying message for students.  

"Knowing students tend to reference everything from their school experiences, we asked them to interpret the theme creatively; taking them from out of the school setting and placing themselves in another world. As a result, we produced a play set on Earth, and aliens came to visit."

While the thought of aliens coming to Earth may seem like a rather abstract interpretation of the theme to some, Ms Kerrigan said that type of originality is exactly what the program aims to inspire within students. 

"The program puts the students in charge of the performance and allows them to strive to create something truly original that works across all art forms. It also encourages creative thinking, confidence and collaboration," Ms Kerrigan said.  

Mary-Anne O'Dwyer, a teacher at St Joseph's Primary School, Taree said the performance was "absolutely brilliant."

"This program, which culminates in a performance, provides a great learning environment for children with interest in creative arts to come together and work towards a project as a collective," Ms O'Dwyer said. 

Bailey, a student who attends St Joseph's Primary School, Taree gave the two-day experience a big thumbs up. 

"The project is something new and unique. Not a lot of people have the opportunity to do it," he said. 

Nick, who attends St Joseph's Primary School, Gloucester, went one step further, saying the experience taught him how much he wants to be apart of the ASPIRE program. "Later this year I am going to audition for the major production for singing and drama," he said. 

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Brittany Gonzalez Image
Brittany Gonzalez

Brittany Gonzalez is a Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.