A long history of learning

The Geelong College Junior School has a strong focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

As the Geelong College celebrates 160 years, early learning educators and children at the Geelong College have been reflecting on children’s developing understanding of the land on which we play and learn.

This began with a long-term project titled ‘Connection with Country’. In 2017, early learning educators initiated a professional learning project to develop our knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture in order to share this with the children.

The staff and students were privileged to develop a relationship with Corrina Eccles, a Wadawurrung Traditional Owner, who has guided them on their journey.

Within its Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy, children and educators explore big ideas together. When posing the question ‘What is country?’ to the children, it was hoped that highlighting what country is, and how we are connected to it in different ways, may result in the development of an understanding and appreciation for our shared history as people of Australia. One of the major learnings has been about Indigenous people’s connection to the land and the importance of caring for Mother Earth.

Young children have a natural inquisitiveness about nature, animals and birds which means learning in nature is a key feature of the school’s program. The natural outdoor play spaces in the new Junior School allow for long periods of time outdoors daily. This is complemented by the Bush Connections program, where children spend a day each term in the bush and play only with natural materials. In the bush, the day always begins by acknowledging Country and thanking Mother Earth.

Learning Wadawurrung names for birds such as Bunjil (eagle) and Parrwang (magpie) occurs at Bush Connections, and river walks at the Barwon Yaluk (river) with Corrina Eccles are a wonderful opportunity to hear stories about the land and animals, and to learn songs and dances. The children’s Acknowledgement of Country developed out of this project work. Children’s thoughts about Mother Earth and First Peoples were discussed, collated and refined to express their big ideas.

“We are on Mother Earth! She is the water and the flowers and the grass – the trees are on her too.”

“Being on country is going to find treasures. Country is important to Aboriginal people and Aboriginal people are important because they came on this land first.”

As well as being embedded into the daily program, the Acknowledgment of Country is now used throughout the Junior School at assemblies and all formal occasions.

“We acknowledge the Wadawurrung people as the Traditional Owners of this land. We thank them for taking care of the land and the animals. Together we will care for Mother Earth and all her colours.’”

As the new school evolved, there was an opportunity to further foster connection to the land by using local Wadawurrung names for the new Junior School’s learning spaces. The Geelong College thanks both the Traditional Owners and the School leadership for enabling children to have daily reminders of the place on which their new buildings are located, sitting up above the Barwon River.

The Junior School looks forward to celebrating these new spaces and honouring the history of the land through literature and art. Children will work with expert local community members to tell the story of this place that will create a lasting memento which can be shared with Campbell House students for years to come.

Discover more about the College by visiting www.geelongcollege.vic.edu.au or attending an Open Day on Wednesday 20 October or 17 November.