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image Project: Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School

Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School

Team : School : Narratives : Costs : Images


Architect Narrative

A full consultation process was facilitated by the architects to
· ensure the school represented the aspirations and visions of the indigenous community, culturally and educationally;
· enabled the expression of the group’s rich cultural heritage and
· engendered an ownership by the school community

Cultural sensitivities were considered during the consultations - eye contact when talking, acknowledging each member of a group, sessions kept to small numbers accounting for shyness, understanding that yes doesn’t always mean yes and treating all with respect. Focus sessions were held with small groups of students and their teachers. An initial session involved introducing the children to concepts surrounding the built environment, and where and how they learn. These found expression through words, drawings and art work by the children. This developed further and enabled the children to learn about design process. Sessions were held with the elders and teachers; both in small groups and on site, discussing the cultural significance of the flora and fauna, and educational values of their language and heritage.

The learning environment supports the school aims -
1. To improve educational outcomes for indigenous students
2. To strengthen and affirm indigenous culture
3. To increase student attendance and retention at school
4. To involve indigenous community members in school decision making and in lifelong learning

In line with the four key elements, the site plan was developed to
· enable the sharing of an oval between the new School and the adjacent Community School
· retain as much of the natural bush land environment as possible
· respect future residential development plans to the east and north east of the site and acknowledge existing residents and their relationship with the natural environment
· locate the playing courts to enable community use in the coaching and tuition of tennis players

The newly completed school caters for 250 students and draws on cultural and social intricacies by
· The establishment of a Cultural Centre in the heart of the school, to focus the elements of Art, Music, Indigenous Language, Food, Performance — Dance, Meeting place — fire pit and water.
· Orientating Learning Communities towards the Cultural Centre, incorporating an artistic “Tree of Life” and incorporating student designed mosaics to each flora/fauna themed building.
· Deriving the built form from a native bird species (from which the school’s name derives) reflecting the distinctive wing formations.
· Establishing ‘journey’ pathways through the school; a natural water feature; a cultural meeting place; and a native ‘bush tucker’ garden.
· Cement render to the curved retreat areas (with a bark texture); banded brickwork (a traditional motif) to the Cultural Centre

The Learning Communities
· Support individual mentoring and small learning groups lead by a teacher with 4 parent helpers
· Incorporate shared activity spaces between each two teaching areas for supervised project based activities
· Allow sound-field audio support for students suffering from the common hearing disability - Otitis Media
· Retreat nooks provide a space for small group reading, display of work, individual retreat, a class performance and quiet mentoring.
· Include covered external areas as important cultural, social and educational links to the natural environment

The Pre-Primary Building
· Relates strongly with the cultural heart of the school and enables multi-age learning activities across the school in family based ‘learning centres’.

The Administration
· encourages a relaxed, informal approach to staff through a ‘social’ interview room and access to an external meeting shelter

Educator Narrative

The school’s purpose is to ensure that all students develop an awareness and pride in their own culture whilst applying their knowledge, understandings, skills and attitudes to achieve their individual potential, thereby enabling them to participate fully in the school and wider community.

The school provides a caring, supportive environment for all children, particularly indigenous children. It caters for individual learning styles, sets high standards and has a strong belief that all children can learn. The school believes in and fosters tolerance, diversity and working collaboratively.

The promotion of Aboriginal culture in assisting Aboriginal children to accept and value themselves and their culture is central to the learning program.

Learning is developmental. The children are encouraged to be independent learners, with clear expectations and boundaries and are encouraged to be critical and reflective learners. The school works as a whole team with an expectation of commitment to improving outcomes for children and working within the school ethos. Children are encouraged and guided to make choices/decisions and be accountable for their choices.

As the indigenous culture is central to all the learning programs, LOTE (Language Other Than English) and the Arts (Drama, dance, visual and music) maintain a focal part in the curriculum. Each learning community moves to the Cultural Centre each day to participate in these parts of the curriculum, often integrated into the other learning areas of English, Mathematics, Science, Society & Environment, Health & Physical Education, and Technology & Enterprise. A bush wetlands area and a traditional cooking space are included in this cultural area enabling integrated real-life learning experiences.

The conference area attached to the staffroom has enabled collaborative planning between staff in a work friendly environment conducive to both small groups of teachers and large staff situations. As family and community members have entered the front office area for the first time many have commented on the friendly atmosphere the design has created. The counter is in a boomerang shape with two heights. The ends are child height so small children can be seen and heard across the counter.

Each learning community has provided not only a sense of place, but also an adaptability that allows a number of different pedagogies to be developed. Access to adjacent activity spaces and outdoor areas enables project based learning to be easily accommodated while maintaining adequate supervision and provide excellent facilities for cooking, science and technology work. The teaching areas have incorporated high bandwidth information and communications technology enabling computers and media to be integrated into all lessons, including wireless access to the external covered areas. The small nook areas are being used for quiet reading, puppet theatre shows, small group discussions and individual work.

The architects listened and incorporated the staff, elders, family members and children’s ideas. The colours of the materials were made in consultation with the students. The buildings blend well with the natural environment. This attachment to the land is culturally important. The children’s ideas were incorporated into other areas such as a bike circuit with a round -a -bout in the 4/5-year-old centre.

The students, staff, parents and extended family members are proud and full of joy at how the architects have included the community’s ideas and cultural values into the building design, while enabling an educational facility that strongly supports the curriculum.

Merit Award 2004

Western Australia


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