21 October 2012

Stories from the Past - Living with our History

Over the last 15 to 20 years the teaching of history has had the potential to be a sadly neglected part of the general curriculum. It has still been there, as part of Studies of Society and Environment, but teachers had to look hard to find it. Teaching historical enquiry requires skill and an interest in the past. And so, over time and with a greater focus being placed on other areas of curriculum teaching and learning in history has faded away.

In 2013 all schools will be implementing history as a subject in its own right once again. And I am so excited about this. Having a sense of history is so important to understanding who we are and how we came to be this way, and for understanding who others are and how they came to be the way they are. For example, we cannot hope to understand the culture of Australian born Vietnamese families without knowing the stories of the Vietnam War and horrors endured in getting to Australia. And similarly, white Australians cannot partner effectively with our Indigenous peoples in building their (and our) futures without an appreciation of the ancient time they walked the land and the more modern times of white settlement.

And our youngest students cannot develop a sense of who they are without hearing and appreciating the stories of their own families and communities.

As a new school we will have to work hard for many years to build a history, to create a group of stories about how we came to be. My last school, Pomona SS, was over a hundred years old - the Resource Centre was full of artefacts from a time gone by - photographs of staff and students stretching back to the 1920s, tuckshop menus from the 1960s, a Tug-A-War trophy from one of the first King of the Mountain races. The things we learned about our school and the town of Pomona when we dug up a Time Capsule buried since the mid 1980s was a joy.

So we are collecting historical artefacts for our 'museum' - phones, cameras, kitchen objects, bric a brac and letters from a time gone past. These objects give us a new appreciation of our families and sometimes reveal startling facts and knowledge.

I visited my parents in the last holidays and asked Mum if she had any artefacts. She brought out her memory box and produces a copy of the Daily Mirror from 20 July 1969 - the day man landed on the moon! It was still in one piece and you can go and look at it in our Resource Centre. And what can we learn from a newspaper that's 43 years old? Well, one thing is that some stories never change - besides the moon landing, the newspaper reports on bashings, poorly behaved football players and local youth making a nuisance of themselves after dark! But it is also clear that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in Apollo 11 using less technology than we carry in our iPhones today! And, oh yes, there was a third man on that mission who everyone seems to have forgotten - and he didn't even get a mention in the paper produced on the day this historic event occurred. Perhaps our history lessons next year will help children question why.

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