Walcha Central School
Programming for Years 4-10
The school background
Walcha Central School is an isolated school situated between Armidale and Tamworth and has a K-12 population of 430 students. The school is proud of its many academic, cultural and sporting achievements which demonstrate that students learn, irrespective of where they live and work, and that achievement comes from students, parents and teachers working together.
What we did
We sought to devise a fun program and units of work that would train staff in civics, citizenship and democracy. We also incorporated the issues of Aboriginal citizenship and democratic struggles into the program.
The project involved two phases:
Involved programming and designing units of work for the middle school (Years 5 to 8).
Involved programming and designing units of work for Years 4, 9 and 10. The
feeder schools were also involved in this exercise in order to achieve continuity during theprimary - secondary transition.
Planning and development
An existing Years 7 and 8 unit, The Island, was used as it provided an introduction and integrated the HSIE unit with English, as well as visual arts. We identified relevant resources and professional readings that would help build our skills and knowledge in civics and citizenship education.
- taught The Island unit
- developed two units of work for Years 5 and 6 and integrated democracy and civics into our HSIE programs for Years 7 and 8.
The success of The Island encouraged our teachers to implement one of the HSIE democracy units based on the NSW HSIE K-6 syllabus. This unit was then taught and evaluated, and one unit will now be taught each year.
At this point, the lack of casual relief teachers and industrial issues impacted on the project schedule. We continued to develop a democracy and civics perspective for Years 4, 9 and 10.
In the democracy unit for Years 5 and 6 activities involved students surfing the net and locating information about human rights issues.
- Games and role-play:
The Aboriginal parliament and the parliamentary role-plays were highlights, where students were allocated ministerial duties and debated "real" human rights issues. Another highlight were the Model United Nations Assembly (MUNA) simulations for Years 7 and 8, where monthly meetings were held in each class.
- Craft making:
In creating islands in Years 7 and 8, students enjoyed learning about how to do map keys, create models, and design and plan their islands. This was a fun sharing experience.
Students and staff
Those not involved saw students in these classes playing dress-ups, role-playing, making islands and discussing real-life situations, which looked more interesting than their own class work in HSIE and English.
Because of the small number of staff, who all worked well, it was not too hard at all to share this work.
- Prior to teaching, we sought input from other staff and students over what they saw as enjoyable, boring and educational. Units of work were then re-examined.
- As the units were taught, students kept a journal in English as part of their English literacy work. During the class teaching, there was also informal feedback on which changes were made.Students were keen to display their work around the room and have others make responses.
Some of the student skills
- Research skills: More students can use the Internet and locate information from two or more sources.
- Knowledge: There is more awareness of Aboriginal parliament in Years 5 and 6, of world issues and possible solutions in Years 5 to 8, of how parliament really works in Years 5 and 6 and of the United Nations in Years 7 and 8.
- Social: There was an emphasis on cooperative learning and decision-making techniques in the role-plays and the games, as well as with some of the research.
Reaction and change
Very positive! "You mean, I'm the Minister for...", "I want to be President - I've seen on TV that we might be getting one" (Year 6). Also, comments such as, "Can I draw my own island? I want to make it without secondary industries!", from a Year 7 student were not atypical. Because we had a lot of input at the beginning, we did not need to change a lot later, except to improve the fun of the unit.
What we have learned
- Staff involved gained in knowledge and established a strong democracy perspective in our units of work.
- Students learned the needs and wants in establishing their islands, as well as the need for rules. More importantly, they have learned about the value placed on the individual citizen and how he or she can make a difference.
- The democracy units are the most sustainable because of the content and the ease of teaching.
- Before the project, we knew very little, despite a lot of the materials being in the school and the fact that some of us already taught aspects of democracy and civics. Now, there is a core of "qualified" teachers who confidently teach democracy by way of core units of work as well as through integration with HSIE, English and visual arts. We also learned how to make things more fun.
- School-based professional development allows staff time to develop material suitable for their own school. It has always been the best way to plan, implement and evaluate the educative process.
- Begin early and develop a planning schedule.
- Book casual teachers and put planning days on the school calendar.
- Involve community members.
- Before the first meeting, organise pre-meeting reading and tasks. At the first meeting, spend an hour learning about civics, democracy and citizenship and then spend another hour on teaching approaches. Finally, make two decisions:
- What approach will dominate the project, and
- What class or classes to work on first.
- What approach will dominate the project, and
- Then, begin programming from the known (a unit of work already done) and then move to devising your own, using either the English or HSIE syllabus.
The way forward
- Units of work in Years 5 to 8 will be alternated, so that one core unit is studied each year.
- The parliamentary role-play approach to democracy will continue in Years 5 and 6
- The United Nations approach will continue in Years 7 and 8.
Continuity of the plan
- The feeder schools will become more involved.
- Democracy projects will be displayed at key school functions (Walcha Show, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Week, Education Week, Australia Day activities).
- Democracy and civics content will continue to be integrated into other KLAs.
- The local democracy writing competition will become an annual event.