A learning adventure with lifetime memories - Education Matters Magazine
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A learning adventure with lifetime memories

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Education Maters magazine reports on how you and your students can benefit from taking your next school excursion to the Northern Territory.

Believing that a hands-on experience is the best learning tool, the Northern Territory government’s tourism body, Tourism NT, has worked uniquely with the state’s tourism operators, schools and universities to create ‘NT Learning Adventures’ that offers school excursions aligned with the Australian curriculum.

The unique partnership offers both students and teachers the opportunity to cover key learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities in an adventurous and exciting way in a truly captivating part of Australia.

In particular, this educational tourism program links with science and history and the cross curriculum priorities of sustainability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture as well as Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia.

Earlier this year some Australian teachers were given the opportunity to experience their own learning adventure in the Northern Territory. Incorporating experiences such as a night with the stars at the Earth Sanctuary, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and sunset camel tours, they walked away with a greater sense of understanding and appreciation for our great southern land, along with everlasting memories.

Wendy Kincses, a science teacher from Victoria’s Flinders Christian Community College, said along with the memories there will be many opportunities to enrich her curriculum from her Top End experiences.

“Much of the information given was probably more relevant to the History or Indigenous Studies curriculum, but I can see many links to science, my curriculum area,” she said.

“Some examples are:

  • At the telegraph station I saw the Le Clanche cell was used to power the signal, this is directly relevant to senior chemistry;
  • The low energy house and astronomy night, how to find south and north, the emu formed by the black of the milky way;
  • References to mega fauna in Indigenous dreamtime stories link to evolution;
  • Adaptations of Indigenous flora and fauna as shown in the desert park and observed in other locations; and,
  • The environmental impact of buffel grass introduced to stabilise the ground but now has led to destruction of habitats.

“Some of the best teaching happens when we get off track and ‘hook’ students with interesting titbits of information, I have a wealth of experiences from this trip to share with students. I hope that I can fascinate and inspire them to travel to Central Australia. I would like to encourage students to travel to the NT for their gap year and experience a different culture.”

Northcote High School teacher Natalie Wood echoed these sentiments and said schools should place more emphasis on Australian explorations rather than international trips, as she came to the realisation that our own backyard is rich with history and culture. Natalie is in the process of producing a proposal to offer a school trip to the Top End in place of a Gold Coast or international trip.

“With everything we participate in on a school level, we need to be able to articulate the impact on the student learning experience and what NT Learning Adventures has achieved is having the tourism operators directly inform the schools of the outcomes and clearly identify the educational purposes behind a tour to the NT,” she said. “In addition, this highlighted to me in a positive manner the partnership between tourism and education, I was thoroughly impressed with the background work that had commenced prior to showcasing to teachers the value in a Northern Territory tour.”

Teacher Ken Kincses, also from Flinders Christian Community College, said he would like to see the same educational and life opportunities available to all children across Australia.

“I feel the key from an educational perspective is to help students to appreciate, understand and respect Indigenous culture and values, but also into the future to form meaningful links between European and Indigenous culture,” he said.

All teachers enthusiastically encourage other schools to take their own learning adventure through the Northern Territory.

“Complete your investigations before going, understand why you are going, that it is not merely a sighting trip, that the students need to be prepared to engage with the opportunities and need to be prepared to absorb a rich array of information,” Northcote High’s Natalie Wood said.

Flinders Christian Community College’s Wendy Kincses said there are many resources available for teachers and students to gain an insight into remote Indigenous culture that challenged many of her presuppositions.

“I was both encouraged and appalled by what I saw and heard, and I think more of us urban-based Australians need to see the differences in the lifestyles,” she said. “The beauty of the environment needs to be seen to be believed – the desert is truly alive with so many unique species.

“All of the people we met were knowledgeable and passionate about their work and more than willing to answer our questions. I had been to Central Australia before but one significant difference about the NT Learning Adventures journey was the real emphasis on educating people, especially about the Indigenous communities. The Northern Territory is a great place to holiday but it’s a fantastic place to learn so much!”

Ken’s NT tour highlights

Bush food tours: There is the opportunity to undertake a bush food tour with an indigenous chef and tour guide, Bob Taylor. He prepares traditional foods and shares his experiences about being a person of aboriginal heritage in modern Australia.

Earth Sanctuary: The focus of the Earth Sanctuary in Alice Springs is sustainability. The site aims to be carbon neutral, and offers tours of the site that gives students an opportunity to understand the desert environment. There are also geodesic dome houses on site which are basically self-sufficient, and these are lived in by staff. Students have the opportunity to meet and link with local aboriginal students. A rhythm/drumming/dancing group has been established and can involve up to 30 students. These students present items to visiting groups and encourage involvement.

King’s Creek Station: It is possible to house student groups at this station, which is run by Ian and Lynne Conway. Ian has an interesting story to tell, and has a passion for educating indigenous children. He has funded efforts to educate children in Adelaide and appeared in an episode of Australian Story about five years ago.

Lilla: An interesting opportunity for students to live and work in an aboriginal settlement, including working with students in the local school. There are significant sacred sites on the property, which our host explained to us. He was part of Remote Education tours.

Yulara, Uluru, Kata Tjuta: The Yulara resort has areas for group accommodation, and a viewing area for Uluru. Uluru and Kata Tjuta are a short drive away. Walks and/or bike tours are available around the base of Uluru. Guides highlight stories that can be told by observing features of the rock. Close to the resort, groups can undertake a camel tour with views of Uluru. There was also the opportunity to participate in a dot painting workshop at Yulara resort, to learn how different symbols communicate different aspects of indigenous life. We took the sunrise tour to the park, which was located halfway between Uluru and the Kata Tjuta. After a short base walk and informative talk, we drove back to the resort. As we were driving back, I was fortunate enough to witness an eagle catching and flying off with a snake. Other tour companies, such as SEIT Tours, have access to remote areas of Australia such as Cave Hill in northern South Australia, which is a highly significant rock art site. They also incorporate traditional bush foods into their tours, the type where what you catch is what you eat.