AN outdoor classroom became a storytelling space when indigenous elder Noel Nannup visited Sawyers Valley Primary School recently.
The ECU Elder-in-residence and cultural ambassador visited the school to talk to students in their nature play area, which is still evolving.
Teacher and sustainability co-ordinator Danielle Murphy said Dr Nannup was a well-known storyteller and cultural guide, instructor and mentor.
“He started the day by addressing the school; he spoke about his family and his deep connection to the land,” she said.
“This led to a brief introduction of the concept of traditional ‘SongLines’, this year’s Naidoc focus.
“He described how various clan groups extending across the land were linked by networks of songs containing aspects of cultural heritage, mythology and identity.
“The students were able to sit with Noel in our nature play area and listen to him elaborate on his initial story.
“The students were engaged; they asked interesting questions and related their own stories about their connection with the environment.”
Ms Murphy said the school received a State natural resource management grant to fund revegetation work in the remnant bush area, control weeds, do eco-education with students and develop an outdoor classroom in the nature play zone.
“Kyle from Custom Timber Creations, a local carpenter, has been instrumental in assisting us with the development of a beautiful seating and stage area to be constructed from recycled timbers,” she said.
“We are fortunate in having access to an ephemeral wetland at the base of the school that is home to a long neck turtle and a range of local frogs and other aquatic life.
“The outdoor classroom will reflect the school’s link with this diverse habitat and will feature water-based totems and carving of the six seasons into the seating, as suggested by Dr Nannup.”
The Noongar elder offered advice to the project team, which includes Lee Stohr, Emily Stanton-Clements, Nicole Willers and Ms Murphy, including the use of Noongar language, significant local flora and fauna species and the structural design of the outdoor classroom and its totems.
“Noel spoke with the staff and was able to advise us on how to weave aspects of the Aboriginal culture into our programs,” Ms Murphy said.