Cultural exchange is a very important value for the school I serve. “A Wider World View” is encouraged through hosting guests, especially from our region of Asia, as well as travelling overseas. This year we have students and educators from Indonesia, Korea and India involved in exchange projects.
This week the Australia–India BRIDGE School Partnerships Project flowered in the gorgeous autumnal weather Sydney is currently experiencing. Earlier in the year Australian educators enjoyed the hospitality of our Indian colleagues and now we have the opportunity to reciprocate. The program was conducted at the Sydney Opera House and we had the opportunity to reconnect with exchange partners and the larger group of educators building connections between our two countries.
The program included a healthy focus on creativity, design thinking and learning about the digital programs on offer at the Sydney Opera House and National Museum of Australia. The Indian teachers learnt how a #TeachMeet operates in Australia to share pedagogical ideas and to present concisely. There was much sharing of our school projects, planning and progress made so far. We enjoyed some great presenters and workshop facilitators.
Lilly Blue is a visual artist and educator with a background in physical performance, installation and community arts. She is a Creative Learning Consultant with Sydney Opera House and The Red Room Company and you should check out her Big Kids Magazine. The Indian teachers particularly loved Lily’s flexible, organic approach to constructing poems and exploring what creativity means. Lily has worked several times with students at Dapto High so I already knew how successfully she engages, with genuine care and creativity, her workshop participants.
Chris Harte ran a Design Sprint that culminated in presentations of only one minute. These brief pitches were designed to focus us on the design process. The energy created was inspiring for all. Chris has a wonderful manner and everyone really enjoyed his approach.
We learnt from Robert Bunzli, the effervescent digital programs coordinator, about robotics tours at the National Museum of Australia. There was considerable opportunity to explore other personal/professional areas of interest and identify resources from the NMA for collaboration. Robert answered questions thoughtfully and in great detail.
The most interesting aspect of the exchange experience is our deepening professional relationships and knowledge of the context in which we all live, learn and work. The conversations over lunch, dinner and strolls around Sydney really helped forge these deeper levels as trust grows and flowers into a more sophisticated understanding of the challenge and opportunity to grow and connect our communities. For example, a group of us attended a performance of Talk at the Opera House which led to some interesting conversations about Australian and Indian society, politics and the mediascape. Here is a synopsis of the play:
John Behan (John Waters) is a radio talkback host with a city in the palm of his hand. He fills Sydney’s airwaves with biting wit and easy answers, hard facts be damned. Yesterday, he overstepped the mark. Today, the police have come knocking and a trial-by-media threatens to get out of control. Locking himself in his studio and broadcasting live, Twitter explodes. The court of public opinion seems firmly on his side. He has control of the airwaves and ratings are through the roof. Fuelled by the controversy, newsrooms all over town are chasing this sensational story. Will they reveal the truth? Perhaps. Or will they toe the line for the sake of their jobs? More likely. In this brand new Australian play, writer and director Jonathan Biggins (The Wharf Revue) sets his eyes squarely on modern journalism, social media and the 24-hour news cycle.
Mrs Sonia Chhabra, Headmistress at Bal Bharati Public School (Pitampura), a campus for students aged 3 – 18 years of age and one of many funded and operated by the Child Education Society, is my exchange partner. We have been making good progress since January with connecting our communities. Our “Ambassadors” have already been chosen, volunteered to participate in exchange and connected via Edmodo and Adobe Connect. These introductory sessions went well; two of our ambassadors share a passion for astrophysics across continents and are now connected.
We are particularly excited at the chance to help students understand and perform Nukkad Natak – traditional Indian street theatre – at our school. I witnessed a performance by students at Bal Bharati Public School that stunned me earlier in the year. The quality of the ideas, script and theatrical skills of the young performers was exceptionally high. This exciting, ancient theatrical form will be a vehicle for our students to explore social issues of mutual interest.
Sonia will conduct masterclasses next week that will involve our school ambassadors and drama students. The ideas and scripts will be developed online to be performed – when Indian students visit in May next year – live in our local community. Our students have had extraordinary opportunities to work on their video-editing skills at Adobe HQ and have been trained in using Premiere Pro so we hope to share the performances widely. Our Indian colleagues are also connected to Adobe now and similar opportunities will emerge. We also had Documentary Australia Foundation workshopping with our students. It will be great to have Sonia working with our staff and students this week on street performance.
This is all coming together nicely!
Sonia, her family, students and colleagues were so generous to me last January we are hoping she has just as wonderful an experience in our community. It is wonderful that Sonia is at my home and my family has been delighted to meet her. We look forward to the next week of sharing our lives and learning.