Young children need exposure to educational, stimulating and imaginative environments in their early years, to combat the cycle of poverty, poor education, drug and alcohol abuse. Often the stimulus does not come from home.
To address this need for stimulating, professional input for preschoolers at these hard-to-reach centres, 8 preschool country centres and Radford Early Learning Centre with Sarah Boardman at the helm and Gunawirra as the Masthead decided they would do something about this. Gunawirra and they have now developed a virtual Learning Centre.
Tracking the Milky Way
The site (www.TrackingTheMilkyWay.com ) provides support, training and stimulus based on Reggio Amelia for preschool staff, enabling them to develop engaging learning activities for the children in as many as a 120 Aboriginal and partly Aboriginal preschool Centres around NSW. Content for the program was developed by Radford and Gunawirra in conjunction with Directors and staff of these centres in Quirindi, Kempsey, Werris Creek, Gunnedah, Kootingal, and others to address the particular needs of Aboriginal preschoolers in regional NSW.
The site features clips of the Gunawirra Kids and their cousins the Boomerang Kids who model messages of: not bullying, helping each other, sharing things and playing together. There are also cartoons of the Gunawirra Goodhearts, cute little fellows who clean their teeth and eat fruit and good food etc. The cultural and emotional content of the site have been formed through collaboration with Aboriginal artists, professional photographer and health professionals from Gunawirra.
Communication between isolated preschools is encouraged and expressed and there is also a chat room and information exchange section.
This project has an awareness of trauma and problems in the home. Childhood trauma destroys imagination. The imaginative space to play and be is the best healing for traumatised little children. Music, dance, art, play and literature are highlighted in every section of this project. These are all ways the imagination can live and be enjoyed. It is preventative at the earliest formative years and it hopes to help children ‘like and enjoy” learning so that later they do not need to skip school, because they find it an unhappy place. Here they will find learning attuned to their needs.
The project is being evaluated by a senior researcher from the Department of Social Work Department (Australian Catholic University) who will assess site usage at the centres and the outcomes for the children.
Project status: The website is now online.
Gunawirra thanks our Sponsors: St. George Bank, Taplin Trust, Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, Philanthropy Australia Trust, Sisters of St Joseph (Perthville), Radford College.
Gunawirra seeks additional funding to maintain the program and the website and provide website access and activities at regional centres.
A new part of this program involving over 20 Radford College year 12 students is underway.