The pupils from Southwell Primary School are taking part in the Bush School program, a trial developed by Murdoch’s Associate Professor Libby Lee-Hammond and Murdoch School of Education’s Libby Jackson-Barrett, to educate and involve students in Indigenous culture.
The program involves the students, from Kindergarten to Year 2, attending weekly lessons run by Noongar elders in the Bibra Lake wetlands where they are taught songs and encouraged to explore and learn about the local environment.
“We wanted to investigate the idea that children can learn outside of the four walls of the classroom,” said Professor Lee-Hammond.
“This idea started in the UK with forest schools where the children would learn science, maths and English but in the woods where they could apply what they learnt while enjoying being outside.
“Research has shown that levels of wellbeing and engagement in children increase when they are outdoors. Teachers are really able to bring subjects like science and maths alive when children are engaged.”
Southwell Primary School’s Year 1 teacher Sarah Priest said getting the students out of the classroom had benefits.
“Some of these children don’t get a lot of opportunities to get into the bush to explore and learn in a natural environment,” she said.
“I believe this is important for the students, particularly now that information technology plays such a large part in their lives.
“This program also serves as a fabulous stimulus inside the classroom and the students have created work of a high quality based on these experiences.
“The children have enjoyed their time so much that we have seen an increase in student attendance on days that we are visiting Bush School.”
Aboriginal elder Noel Morrison said he enjoyed the sessions as much as the students did.
“We want to pass on our stories and our knowledge so that it doesn’t die,” he said.
“And it’s nice that the children are able to leave the classroom just for a little while and enjoy the natural surroundings at Bibra Lake.”
The researchers, joined by Associate Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker have recently won Public Education Endowment funding to run the program with pupils from Brookman Primary School in Langford.
Photo: Southwell Primary School students in their Bibra Lake ‘classroom’.
Students (from left to right) Savannah Pegler, Tuhleesha Walley, Marcel Wynne, Dwayne Garlett and Andrew Togba with Murdoch researches Libby Jackson-Barrett (left) and Libby Lee-Hammond (right)