A “whole” school includes the whole community where creation knows no bounds . . .

A most important lesson we learned when our school was burned to the ground by the bushfires in January was that schools, particularly in regional communities, are the beating heart of their region.  The Minister for Education recognised this immediately following his visit to our community just days after the fires – it was the basis of his decision to build a temporary school and re-build a school on the site permanently. So let’s breathe real life back into this community as we plan the new school so that it becomes the life force for everything we do in this region.

But let’s make it a whole school, not a collection of buildings surrounded by a protective fence.   Let’s recognise that a whole school includes the community – the way it is built, operates, sits on the site, reflects what is beyond those fences, invites community in and welcomes them warmly.   Let’s have a school that is for whole of life, which generates enterprise, encourages community participation, that has the capacity to be flexible so that people learn through doing, not just through teaching.

What does a 21st century school look like anyway?   How can we make it flexible in design so it can keep up with the rapid changes our children face?   Imagine how our future teaching recruits are going to teach our students.   How do kids learn, what do they learn, what do they need to know?  It is obviously a very broad range of skills if they are going to average 14 careers in their lifetime, as the experts will now tell us! What is the level of parent engagement in education – and if we engage them in education, does this enhance the children’s experience?  How do we do that and make it valuable to their own life experience?

We have a magnificent environment, beautiful coastline, wonderful forests as well as enterprising, hardworking people.  Our local industries are currently focused around dairy, potatoes, fishing, timber, viticulture, sheep, wool, tourism, aquaculture, hospitality and a growing combination of these.   They are a reflection of what our school should encompass in the way it feels and looks and how it provides quality education and experiences that serve everyone.

The recently established but very successful Bream Creek Farmers’ Market stemmed from a school fundraising project when we held a Farmers Market stall at the Bream Creek Show, which then led to the establishment of a Committee to run a community market.  The School is a partner in this market with the purpose of developing an enterprise at the School to encourage the children, in conjunction with community members, to grow,  value-add and sell produce through their own or the community market stalls.   This was underway as part of the newly established Play Garden destroyed in the fires. The children are encouraged to assist the P&F in their own Farmers‘ Market enterprise, cooking and selling meals made from locally grown produce, and in turn raising awareness of the produce available in our region; being involved in the production and retail process; and developing their social skills through their interaction with other children and adults from their community.  It is a source of constant positive comment from patrons of the Market that the students are part of this partnership.  It underscores a fundamental tenet of rural life that everyone pitches in, even from an early age as children will learn by doing.  This resonates strongly with the wider community.

The Community Kitchen project planned for the school gym is another extension of this project where not only will the School benefit from having all the facilities of a kitchen for teaching, fundraising, health and well-being; but the whole community benefits by having a function centre, community kitchen for production purposes (in partnership with the Farmers Market) and enabling meaningful and supportive interaction between producers and students.  And importantly it extends the educational experience to people way beyond their formal school years through trade training or other hospitality, cooking or food production experiences.   It is a great opportunity to extend food tourism opportunities into our wonderfully rich region.    All of this stemmed from one small school-based enterprise.

There are no bounds as to how this example can be reflected in many other community enterprises but still enrich the teaching/learning process for teachers and students.   The boat building project is another example of our community reaching into the school to create real learning experiences for all of us and this can be and has been extended to the fishing and aquaculture industries, boat tourism; boat safety training and the Living Boat Trust project in conjunction with Dunalley Slip, MAST, local businesses, and the Neighbourhood House, to name a few.

Similarly, the community assets that will be re-built as a result of the destruction by the bushfires, such as the Memorial Hall and the sporting and youth facilities, will also reflect and serve the needs of the School and its students, and in fact enhance and expand their life experiences in the region.  Those new structures will all be used as alternative learning spaces for our students.  For example, the Memorial Hall will be built with a focus on performance and arts just across the road from our School – a great asset to our powerful drama programme.

Let’s drop the barriers and develop a school that becomes a creative force in the community, not just an educative one.

Let’s remember that we were able to create the temporary school in 40 days because the Minister, the Department of Education and the community worked as one to achieve a vision that was real, purposeful and heartfelt.  It was what the community wanted and needed.

Above all, let’s fully recognise, as we all did in a time of crisis, that the school is the beating heart of the community.   How do we design it to ensure that the community flows in and out of the school; that it becomes a school of  life;  that it reflects the life experiences that our children encounter every day in their own community; and,  importantly, that it is flexible enough for the children to create what they want to out of their education?    We only have to look to and around our community for the answers.

Elizabeth Knox, Chair

Dunalley School Association

May 2013

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

                                                                                                   Benjamin Franklin 

A QUACKER OF A DAY

The annual Dunalley Duck Run on Saturday was this year a big day out for all the school community, with each student given their very own rubber duck to cheer on in the big race.

A friend ducks in on Dunalley for Saturday's event.

A friend ducks in on Dunalley for Saturday’s event.

In windy conditions for spectators on the Dunalley Bridge, the ducks all but flew down the Denison Canal in a dramatically close finish. Congratulations to Ebony Daly from the kinder class whose Duck was first past the post and well done to the Dunalley Hotel for organising a great event.

The day was a fantastic opportunity to welcome the Launceston Bush Fire Appeal team to the district. This generous bunch have been working tirelessly since early days post fires to help the bushfire affected communities back to their feet. Touched by the school disaster, they have been contributing significantly to one of our wishlists and to the needs of those badly affected by the fires. After the school duck race, the LBA team provided a free sausage sizzle for one and all, after which the many Dunalley Primary children who flocked to the event were presented with a goodie bag thoughtfully put together by the Launceston crew – there were some very happy faces to be seen.

Launceston Bush Fire Appeal Co-ordinator Michael Singline, with some happy care-pack recipients.

Launceston Bush Fire Appeal Co-ordinator Michael Singline, with some happy care-pack recipients.

Many thanks to Michael Singline, Tracy Rosier & Leigh Ratcliffe who co-ordinated the effort, their team and all who supported their cause from the North of the State. It feels so good knowing that Tasmania is just one big supportive family.

THANK YOU LAUNCESTON!

3 SPECIAL DONATIONS

From Elizabeth Knox, School Association Chair.

Support has come to us at the School in many ways. One of those which will benefit us into the future is financial assistance – and these donations have appeared in a variety of forms which are all relative in their level of generosity . . . Here are three special donations, among the many we have received…

donation

Corporate assistance

Within only a matter of a couple of days of the fire, the Commonwealth Bank were at the recovery Centre at Dunalley supporting individuals and businesses at a time when there was little communication or access to the area. The State Manager, Darren Fraser, who is also a local resident affected by the fire, approached me about ways the Bank could provide support to the school at a time when we didn’t even know whether our temporary school would be built. On the morning of the school opening last week, at our School Gate Morning Tea at the Dunalley Fire Station, the Commonwealth Bank presented the School Association with a cheque for $25,000 to assist in the re-build of our permanent school to ensure that we have facilities that benefit our whole community into the future, as well as 8 new i-Pads, and swim backpacks for every child in the school. It was a very generous and supportive gesture from a national corporation for which we are deeply grateful.

2013 Feb 12_Pump House

Girl Power

Another amazing form of support has been people just getting together, more or less spontaneously, because they wanted to “do something” to help us. The Dunalley Primary Fundraiser held at Pumphouse West last week was a great example of these random acts of kindness. These three beautiful young Hobart women, Olivia Shekleton, Kirilly Crawford and Carla Johnson, who have no association with our School at all, just pooled together their talents, resources, friends and connections to plan a trivia and auction night at Pumphouse West. Without any hoop-la and with much respect for the time we had to devote to our own community, they quietly got on and raised over $10,000 on the night. Thank you to all who supported them in achieving this amazing result. We will honour their commitment to help us rebuild our precious school.

photo4

A Boy with a Big Heart – My letter to Sonny (aged 7)

Dear Sonny,

I wanted to write and say thank you for selling the ginger beer at your gate, with Oliver, to raise money for the school.

It is a very precious gift and I have carried the jar with me ever since your Mum dropped it off at home. I have taken it to all my meetings with Mr McKim and with the lovely people from the Education Department and when we have met with the builders on the oval and when we have had meetings with the teachers, because it reminds me every time how much you wanted the school to stay at Dunalley and how much you want a beautiful play garden and even more it reminds me that it will be the kids of Dunalley Primary School that will make it the best school around.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a school that is as beautiful as the Play Garden was on that one special day that we all got a chance to play in it together? It can be a school that all of us can be part of and it will be lots of fun to plan together. I bet you have plenty of ideas.

Always remember, Sonny, that you played your part in helping the school stay at Dunalley because you have such a big kind heart.

Love from Elizabeth.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them”. – John F Kennedy

What we have heard over the past week is true – that many people have worked hard to get to where we are now. But there is an important point to add to this – we as part of the Dunalley community must acknowledge the incredible support we have been given from people far and wide who are not necessarily part of our community. These are individuals, groups, businesses and corporations who may or may not have a direct link with us or our catastrophe, but have been touched somehow by the loss of a school. It is to these people we say…

Your thoughtful, practical, supportive and personal contributions have become more and more obvious as we contemplate the gift we have received through our buildings, as we continue to unpack our resources for our temporary school and as we start focusing on what we want to see in our new school. There are hundreds of specific thankyous and acknowledgements to make, but until we have the time to get to those that we can (and in time we will endeavour to do so), we just have to say: you know who you are and so do we; we appreciate what you have done in so many ways more than you can imagine and are utterly touched by every gesture large or small. Your gifts to us will be used specifically to benefit our children now and we will ensure we direct our energies and your donated resources to building the best community education facility possible to support our region into the future.

Thank you – from the children, parents, staff and School Association of Dunalley Primary School.

PRECIOUS BOOKS: Just to start with .. On Saturday and Sunday, a huge team of dedicated book coverers gave up some stunning weekend weather to turn up to the school gym and cover some of the 3,000 books donated by hundreds of wonderful people – we must thank all those who helped, those who organised and especially the Library team and Natasha Webster who has made it her job to see the library re-stocked with sorted, covered and catalogued books.

379360_289618311166639_374827003_n
65961_290161044445699_192868502_n

 

Thank you Tash!

 

 

DAY 4 & 5: KINDER SURPRISE

On Thursday of last week we welcomed the newest members of the Dunalley School community – our precious kinder students. Twenty-two four to five year olds arrived for their very first day of school. We are very proud that they have a school to attend, only a week later than their peers in other schools!

Welcome little ones, you make our new (temporary) school complete.

We do not yet have parental permission to include pictures of the kinder students, but they are in there!

We do not yet have parental permission to include pictures of the kinder students, but here in the distance you can just see our wonderful kinder teacher – Mrs Steiner (not to mention our wonderful school).

On Friday, we had a surprise visit from Premier Lara Giddings, who praised the Dunalley community for the enormous commitment shown in getting the children back to school as soon as possible.

“It is a powerful symbol of a community which has not allowed its spirit to be broken by the devastation of fire and has instead regrouped and begun to rebuild,” Ms Giddings said. “An incredible number of people have worked tirelessly in a very short time to ensure that the students in the Dunalley area could continue their learning in their local community.”

Premier Giddings was unable to give us a definite time frame for the permanent school rebuild, saying “…it would certainly be more than 12 months, it can take a couple of years for these sorts of schools to be rebuilt but we’re conscious of the need to get that done as quickly as possible”.

Now that the students are settling into their daily routine, please rest assured that we as the School Association are utterly committed to and focused on seeing the planning process get underway as soon as possible so that the permanent community school can become a reality sooner rather than later.

DAY 3 – A FIRST CLASS WELCOME

IMG_2465

Emotions ran high this morning as our children were brought for the first time into their wonderful new classrooms. Joy, excitement, relief, sadness, gratitude…all shown in smiles, laughter, tears and hugs.

It is a temporary school without the temporary feel – already the school feels at home in the demountables that house classrooms, toilets, storage, offices and staff room, surrounded by decking, lawn and play equipment – and if you look away from the burnt surroundings and out to the familiar sea view, you could almost imagine that the fires never came.

Principal Matt Kenny held a short assembly on the deck to welcome the students to their new school, to reflect briefly on the year’s events so far, to welcome new staff and thank all who have helped us reach this milestone. Only just the day before, staff and volunteers had worked tirelessly to unpack resources and equipment in order to transform their rooms into comforting, welcoming, familiar environments.

The amazing team of teachers, parents, friends, family and the wonderful AEU staff who helped get our classrooms and the school ready in one day!

The amazing team of teachers, parents, friends, family and the wonderful AEU staff who helped get our classrooms and the school ready in one day!

Following the assembly the School Association hosted a morning tea in the fire station for parents and community supporters – an opportunity to see each other again, emote, laugh, drink tea and eat cake. It was also a time to direct thoughts to the future, to the building of the new school. The School Association will be working to raise funds and to plan ahead to ensure that what rises from the ashes is the best possible place of learning for generations of children to come.

IMG_2460

Representatives from the Commonwealth Bank were there to present the school with gifts of library bags, i-pads and $25,000!! Thank you so much to the State Manager, Darren Fraser for this enormous act of generosity. And thank you again to the tradesmen who worked so very hard to get us to this day – in about 4 weeks.

But most of all, welcome back children – only a few days late!

Check out the stories and pictures in the Mercury – here and here:

528738_10151304148657883_993387714_n

DAY 2 – WE ARE A HAPPY TEAM

After our excursion on Thursday, Friday saw the children reacquainting themselves with all things familiar around Dunalley.

After mustering together at the Fire Station first thing, the students then headed off in different directions to explore Dunalley. Some went to the church, which the parishioners have so kindly cleared of pews in order for it to be a community space for a while, and there they undertook some music therapy.

Others used the church grounds to start potting up plants and sowing seeds to create their first gardens in the new school grounds; other went to the Neighbourhood House for a variety of activities; while some spent time on the canal park creating some works of art.

But the big moment came when the children headed up to the cricket oval to partake in a magnificent, long table country lunch laden with platters prepared by parents and/or donated by our wonderful local businesses and producers, and all washed down with gallons of Gillespies’ Ginger Beer.

Sumptuous

Sumptuous

Of course, that wasn’t the main attraction for the children – it was the visit by the Hawthorn football club. Eight Hawthorn players swooped in to bring more smiles to the school community. They kicked the footy, chatted with the children and signed their names on shirts, hats, school bags, arms, flags, balls, dresses and across the heart of our School Executive Officer (and Hawks tragic) Melinda Blacklow.

Mrs Blacklow and some of her boys.

Mrs Blacklow and some of her boys.

Other highlights of the day were the blackberry and apple pies (thank you Ellie), Stacey Belbin’s hat and Mrs Blacklow’s brilliant performance of the Hawthorn Footy Club song…

We’re a happy team at Hawthorn
We’re the Mighty Fighting Hawks.
We love our Club, and we play to win,
Riding the bumps with a grin (at Hawthorn).
Come what may, you’ll find us striving
Team work is the thing that talks,
One for all and all for one
Is the way we play at Hawthorn.
We are the Mighty Fighting Hawks.

Thank you to those who supplied the sumptuous country feast, with special mention of the Dodges Ferry School Association members who came along to lend a hand and the Bream Creek Farmer’s Market committee who pitched in to help. Thank you to Dayna Mackenzie (Community Manager for Hawthorn Football Club) for organising this event with our School Association.

Being together again for the last couple of days has shown that Dunalley Primary School can truly ride the bumps with a grin.

GO THE MIGHTY FLYING HAWKS!

2013 Feb 08_3749