This presentation reports the evolvement of Sharing Place, Learning Together (SPLT), an integrated, inquiry-based education project involving an interdisciplinary team at the University of Melbourne and Maningrida College, a remote community school in north-east Arnhem Land. The project commenced in 2010 with funding from an anonymous donation to support Indigenous health-related activity. It collaborates across the faculties of medicine and education, recognising education as a critical social health and wellbeing determinant.
The SPLT project aims to support the development of multimodal scientific and literacy skills of remote Aboriginal students through knowledge exchange, and to deepen both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal student understanding of Australia’s biodiversity and natural resource management. This participatory, school based project aligns with Maningrida College’s operational plan that seeks to increase school attendance and halve the gap in reading and writing achievement for Indigenous students within a decade. Central to the fulfilment of this plan is the College’s Learning on Country program grounded in place-based pedagogy where learning and communication are structured around what is most meaningful to the students – their places, their culture, their experiences (Gruenewald, 2003).
The SPLT project is premised on learning being two ways, a meeting of Indigenous and Western knowledge and communicative capacities. Consideration of student engagement levels with multimodal practices, and their capacity to produce their own creative literacies (Kral, 2009) shaped interventions planned by the UoM team with the school community. The project built on the ‘eight ways’ model of Aboriginal learning developed by DET staff, James Cook University’s School of Indigenous Studies and the Western New South Wales Regional Aboriginal Education Team. This model informed holistic, relationally responsive practices to working with the community that were mindful of people, land, culture, language, roles, responsibilities, spirit and the relationships between them.
This presentation details the capacity and partnership building between the UoM Team and the Maningrida College Community over the project’s duration (2010-2013). The planned learning experiences that emerged from ‘on country’ visits are described, including a pocket book series (First Aid, Catch ‘n’ Cook, Animal Tracks and Bush Tucker), a student website and a student visit to Melbourne focusing on science-based activities. The presentation concludes with a discussion of how the project has embraced a pedagogy of responsibility (Martusewicz & Edmundson, 2005) engaging with questions of diversity, democracy and sustainability, which has shaped the team’s current research focus on partnership formation.