Reading and writing the landscape

Year: 2007

Author: Rennie, Jennifer

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Arnie is one of the children who participated in an extensive study that generated detailed case study information about the transition experiences of seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children as they moved from Year 7 in their community school to Year 8 in their new urban high school ( 2004). In particular the study documented the literacy and numeracy practices valued in the home community, community school and urban high school and highlighted the continuities and discontinuities between them (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Discontinuities were found in the ways in which children engaged in the various activities. Further, the data highlighted a lack of understanding, valuing and acknowledgement of the various community literate and numerate practices by schools. The results of the study suggested that student identities embodied different forms of knowledge and skills and these qualitatively different identities played key roles in the students' effectiveness as 'westernised' learners. In the opening vignette Arnie explained how to find mangrove worm, one of the local delicacies. All of the children who participated in this study actively read and wrote their landscape. They read their environment, the water and their bodies and they represented this through story, art and dance. As they moved to urban high schools these different literate practices were not valued.

The paper will explore an example from the data where another child, Darcy, shares his highly developed knowledge of place, self and significant others at the local art centre as he takes the researcher from the story of his favourite Grandmother’s painting to his late father’s pottery. Finally, it will highlight the need to redefine literacy, so we might acknowledge value and use different ways of reading and writing in productive ways.