Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Education Rocks

In her second blog post, education consultant Louise Zarmati writes about the exciting range of learning opportunities offered by members of The Rocks Education Network...

On Sunday 26 February The Rocks Education Network (REN) organised a free open day for teachers to showcase the education programs available to schools in 2012. When I began working in The Rocks 15 years ago there were fewer education providers than now. Even then we never thought of talking to each other about what we do or sharing ideas over morning tea. So the fact that REN now exists is testimony to the willingness of The Rocks education providers to work together to provide teachers and students with a smorgasbord of high-quality educational programs.

Rocks Discovery Museum
Louise Zarmati

Today The Rocks is an exciting and vibrant place to visit, full of tantalising shops, weekend markets and delicious foods and beverages in restaurants and cafes. But it’s easy to forget the significance of The Rocks in our national history. Whether we see The Rocks as the place of first ‘settlement’, ‘contact’ or ‘invasion’, we should always remember that it is a place of many firsts in our national narrative and that these stories should be passed on to the next generation through quality educational experiences.

Primary students with artefacts

The collaboration of REN is timely as we now move towards the implementation of a national curriculum in all Australian schools from 2013. Australian history will now be taught as a stand-alone subject in the context of world history. The Rocks is an excellent place for students to learn about Australian history from a local, national and global perspective.

The programs offered by the REN providers give students the opportunity to learn history (and other subjects) out of the classroom through a wide range of experiences. The point of taking students out of the classroom is to give them a learning experience away from their everyday school routines. And, because it is unusual, what they experience outside the classroom is often firmly imprinted in their long-term memory.

Students can visit actual places where famous (and infamous) people in Australian history lived, worked and died. They can walk the streets where they once walked and touch the objects they once touched. Most importantly, students can learn ‘history from below’, the stories of the working people of Sydney, not just the rich, famous and powerful.

Secondary students with aretfacts

Primary and secondary students can feast on one or many educational experiences during a day’s excursion to The Rocks that cover topics as diverse as history, archaeology, English, mathematics, science, geography, art, civics, legal studies and food technology.

Perhaps one of the most exciting innovations is the Aboriginal education programs offered by Sydney Learning Adventures (The Rocks Dreaming) and the Royal Botanic Gardens (Bush Food). Both organisations have Indigenous education officers whose moving stories of the impact of settlement on the people and environment of Sydney Cove are a poignant reminder that our magnificent city of Sydney is located on Aboriginal land.

Members of REN include:
• Sydney Learning Adventures (Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority)
• The Rocks Discovery Museum (Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority)
• The Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre (Sydney Harbour YHA)
• Sydney Observatory (The Powerhouse Museum)
• Historical Houses Trust (Susannah Place, The Justice and Police Museum, Museum of Sydney, Government House)
• The Rocks Walking Tours
• The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney
• The Museum of Contemporary Art.

For more information about education programs go to members’ individual websites or

Louise Zarmati has worked as a history teacher, archaeologist, museum educator and academic. She acts as education consultant for The Big Dig Archaeology Centre where she developed its award-winning programs. Ms Zarmati is currently completing a doctorate on teaching history in Australian museums.

1 comment:

  1. An Argyle wall! A canvas print such as this one of the Isle of Skye, painted by an American painter of the late 19th century, William Trost Richards, may take you right back to the wilds of the home country and go well with your Scottish wall. It can be ordered from