The Story of Buninyong has been an unforgettable experience for Grade 4 children at Buninyong Primary School for four years now. In this time, four cohorts of children have been a part of an extraordinary story, not just in their education, but in their understandings of bigger picture history. Working with Indigenous Australian storytellers, musicians, dancers, artists and craftsmen and women, and with their classroom teachers and parent volunteers, they have looked at ways that their school, their town, and their country is placed in relation to Indigenous and non-Indigenous events and issues. I have been pleased to be one of those who has worked with these children. I have been one of the parent volunteers, with my own grandchildren attending the school. I have told the stories; I have danced and I have sung with them; I have shown them how dance and song tell stories. I have seen their artwork as telling these stories as well. I have taken great pleasure in their achievements, and I have been proud to do the Welcome to Country for the audiences at performances.
The original idea to create a unique musical education experience based on the children’s knowledge of land and country of their school has been an inspired one. The school’s support by including it in its curriculum and making it its annual school concert stresses the educational importance of the program over past years.
The conversations with all involved in the program has always revolved around the obvious enjoyment of the children, their imagination in the stories they suggest for their production, and the development of important knowledge and understandings in these nine and ten year olds. We have seen how they have enthusiastically taken up the program for themselves, the effectiveness of the mountain walks, and the ways that they learn the symbols, stories, and characters of stories they have heard.
We have not had a complete understanding of what underpins the educational success, particularly in the ways that the children have worked through the information received. Some of that information is conflicting, and they have had to resolve the problems of this for themselves, with the help of the adults with whom they have worked.
With this research done by Margaret Zeegers, we have been able to find out about the impact on learning that the experiences of The Story of Buninyong have had on the children. We now have more to go on than our own observations, with careful and detailed research to confirm what we might have thought, but could not actually prove, about the program’s educational success. Margaret Zeegers’ research has provided insights to the children and other participants’ experiences in the program that have deepened our own understandings of what we ourselves have been doing. We have learned, for one thing, that each child has made it their own.
This study shows that the program adds something very special to the curriculum offered at Buninyong Primary School, for it shows how impressive the school’s program is in promoting rich learning experiences of Australia’s history that goes beyond the European view of it. Audiences at the production respond enthusiastically to what they see and hear, as they themselves are given the opportunity to learn about a larger view of history, and with this research, we will be able to communicate the unique aspects of learning that underpin the success we have seen.
– Ted Lovett