Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sue Hodges on engaging students in Australian History ...

Sydney’s foreshore is one of Australia’s most evocative historical sites. So, how do you begin in engaging your students with this fascinating area?
First, explore the Sydney foreshore, including The Rocks, on foot. Make use of the wonderful resources of Sydney Learning Adventures, run by Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, which has a wide range of interactive tours and programs for students of all ages. Discover the site where the first plague outbreak occurred in 1900, find the house where members of the Sydney ‘Push’ murdered a young boy and examine remnants of convict life in the archaeological digs. Walk around The Rocks to get a feel for the physical effort required to live there daily. Find out where prostitutes plied their trade. Read Ruth Park’s Playing Beattie Bow to your students for an evocative journey between the present and the past.
Then, encourage your students to create something meaningful from their research. As well as essays, they could: produce drawings, a play, a scavenger hunt; use Foursquare to check in their location and record comments on a site; make a YouTube clip or tweet about their findings.
Ask your students to step into the shoes of a person from the past, such as an Aboriginal person before colonisation. Get them to imagine being a chain gang convict whose leg irons chafe and rub as he chips sandstone with a pick. Encourage them to think about being a free settler in this strange and wonderful land, which had harsher light than Europe and bizarre, jumping animals that looked like rats. Your English vegetables may not have grown because of the sandy soil and you may have caught typhus or another rat-borne disease.
In these ways you can make the history of The Rocks live and breathe for your students.

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