April 22 is Earth Day, a day when people all over the world focus on caring for the earth and protecting the planet from things like pollution and deforestation. The day brings focus to the environmental challenges our world is facing and raises awareness not only of the problem but also the things we can all do to help make a healthier planet.
Humans have overdeveloped the land, overfished the oceans, polluted the waterways and destroyed the forests. Each year, it is estimated that over 10,000 species become extinct – the actual number is likely much higher.
Earth Day encourages us all to become more mindful of the planet. It asks us to:
This year’s Earth Day theme is “Invest in Our Planet”. It is asking people to identify and implement ways of working that are better for the planet and its future.
For First Nations people, caring for Country is part of our everyday lives. It is at the core of our culture. Traditionally our lifestyle and cultural practices revolved around looking after Country and ensuring that each of her elements was protected, healthy and respected.
For millennia, Aboriginal people have operated with sustainability at the core of lifestyle practices. For example, we made sure we left enough vegetation for other animals to eat; we practiced techniques, such as fire-stick farming, to encourage plants and food sources to be plentiful; we hunted only enough food to feed the mob, ensuring every part of the animal was used so nothing was wasted; we collected foods like eggs mindfully, only taking about a third of what was available so there was still enough for other predators and enough to hatch to ensure continuation of the species.
Slowly our ways of working are being recognised and adopted to help care for Country. Fire services are working with Traditional Owners to implement cultural burning methods to help manage the threat from bushfires; First Nations rangers work in National Parks to control weeds and support native species; community groups are volunteering their time to revitalise Country; and mob are sharing their cultural knowledge to support non-Aboriginal organisations to care for Country effectively.
This Earth Day I encourage you to consider First Nations knowledge in your discussions about looking after the planet. We have a number of lessons on the platform that can help –
We can all learn from the lessons that generations of First Nations people lived by. These are some ideas to consider this Earth Day, and beyond:
Your class could mark Earth Day by investigating First Nations groups who are caring for Country in your area or share a Dreaming story that contains knowledge about sustainability. But don’t stop there! We need to care for our planet every day and we have the oldest continuous living culture in the world right here to learn from!
It’s still a few weeks away but Easter craft is starting to pop up - it wouldn’t be Easter without Easter craft! We have more amazing basket craft activities this year. They are so gorgeous that I couldn’t wait to share! I have included one below and the other is available to Wingaru Kids subscribers in the Additional Resources section of the platform.
The artwork on this year’s basket is a piece called “A Pathway Through Diversity” by Dunghutti artist Aunty Cynthia Younie, or as I know her Aunty Cindy. Aunty Cindy is one of those Elders who is so generous with her time, her art, her story and her knowledge. I am lucky enough to have had her in my life for too many years to count and I know that I don’t express my appreciation for her support, guidance and knowledge enough.
If you have been following Wingaru for a while you may remember when Aunty Cindy shared some of her story to mark the anniversary of the apology a few years back: https://www.wingaru.com.au/blog/what-the-national-apology-meant-to-me.
Like every First Nations artist, Aunty Cindy brings her story to every artwork she creates. “A Pathway Through Diversity” is about individual strengths, building teams and resilience of people coming together. It is inspired by her community and their journey as they were faced first with drought, then the devastating bushfires of 2019/2020, then covid and floods.
Engaging in an activity like creating an Easter basket, is a good opportunity to have a yarn with students about Aboriginal art. It provides an opportunity to talk about how to respectfully engage with Aboriginal art and the stories it tells. This conversation will vary depending on the age of your students and the experience they have with Aboriginal art.
You might like to yarn about:
If making Easter baskets is not your thing, check out our other Easter resources (Wingaru Egg Basket - Chloe Webb, Wingaru Easter Egg Puzzle, Word Find Bush Tucker Foods - Eggs, Memory Game Bush Tucker Foods - Eggs, Look and Find Bush Tucker Foods - Eggs) where we focus on eggs and their role as bush tucker. If you are a subscriber, you will find our full collection of Easter resources in the Additional Resources section of the platform.
Teachers are educating for life. Simple conversations from a young age can support a growing understanding of what constitutes unacceptable art appropriation. There is so much to think about and discuss, turning a simple craft session into a meaningful inclusion of First Nations content.
The beginning of Term 1 is a busy time here at Wingaru as we set up all of our classes and touch base with the teachers leading Aboriginal education at their school. It is “all hands on deck” as we get everyone up and running as quickly as possible. This year, the pacing felt a little different as schools juggled the complexities of Covid along with everything else this time of year throws at them but by week 3 we were in the swing of one of our busiest times of the year and I LOVE it!
I love it because it is a time when we connect with so many of our teachers. We hear what they have been up to and how the school is doing with Aboriginal education. We get to celebrate the wins and help develop approaches to support schools looking to improve their approaches. Yep – I love a yarn! Not really that surprising, right?
Aboriginal ways of being and doing rely on connection so it is not surprising that these connections are a big part of how we operate. It is what makes my job so awesome and one of the things that many teachers say is the best thing about their job – connecting with students.
I have been thinking a lot about the power of a yarn lately and the role it has in Aboriginal education. For many people who are learning about Aboriginal people, culture and histories, it is the first time they are hearing truth. For centuries, truth has not been the focus of the narrative and now that it is, people need to process it and yarning is a great tool to support this. A good yarn shares ideas, points of view, and experience. A good yarn is engaging and gives people the opportunity to explore concepts, to challenge ideas and to resolve uncertainty about their thoughts.
Yarning and sharing stories has always played a key role in sharing Aboriginal knowledge so it isn’t a surprise that it remains a powerful education tool today. Yarning shares stories and stories are conduits for connection and connection can support people to see things from a different perspective.
This is why I encourage teachers to introduce a yarning circle in their classroom. While having a yarn can, and does, happen organically in classrooms every day, a yarning circle can help to engage students and encourage openness, trust and respect.
Yarning circles can: enhance students understanding of First Nations knowledge and ways of working; enrich the learning experiences for both students and teachers; provide a safe place to be heard and to respond to students; and build a connectedness within a school community.
If you haven’t hosted a yarning circle in your class yet, I really encourage you to give it a go. This is a tool that is accessible to everyone, doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t require any special equipment.
5 Tips for a Successful Yarning Circle
Set some expectations: Yarning circles are a safe space where everyone should feel comfortable to contribute. This means everyone needs to be respectful. Setting expectations around listening, using respectful language and not judging other students’ contributions, can help ensure your yarning circle is a positive space.
Provide focus questions: Kids like to have a yarn and the stories they share can fast take you off track. Introduce focus questions so that everyone knows what the focus of the discussion is and have some follow-up questions prepared to keep them on track.
Encourage sharing of ideas: encourages students to take turns to talk and to promote reciprocal sharing and learning. Give all students the opportunity to contribute but don’t force them – the experience will be better for everyone if students are given time to be comfortable with sharing and offering contributions openly rather than because they are pushed.
Make time for reflection: As a group, reflect on the conversation. Resolve any actions or issues identified by the yarning circle, or agree to follow up in future yarning circles.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.