"Reviews by teachers (PDF) - Going Bush by Nadia Wheatley and "
Going Bush by Nadia Wheatley and illustrated by Ken Searle “Going Bush” is the culmination of a project in harmony, and understanding of our Australian History. Sixteen children from different cultural and religious backgrounds were brought together to develop an understanding of the history of the area in which they live near Botany Bay, Sydney. They learnt of the arrival of Europeans and how this changed the environment, particularly for the Eora people, who were custodians of the area. The customs of the Eora people were discussed and comparisons made to present day habits. Throughout the book poems, observations, personal experiences and history, as the children understood it, are interspersed with actual factual information. It is this mix that gives this book real power. Children will revisit it many times to examine the illustrations (photographs overlaid with the children’s drawings), and read the children’s comments. These I find make the reader part of the journey with the children. You too are walking, sitting, talking, and feeling the history, peace, friendship and harmony with them. Photographs and drawings have been cleverly arranged to emphasise the text, particularly that written by the children. Borders for each page combine the old and new, natural and man made. Teachers will find many uses for this book: Using the endpapers as an example, children could map the journey in a familiar story and add notes from the story. As a starting point for a discussion on the history of the Botany Bay area. To initiate an examination of the different aspects of life for the Eora people before the first settlers. As a model for an investigation pf a local area. Borders and artwork could be examined as a basis of class artwork. We used it as a basis of an investigation if our local area. Children were divided into groups and given a plant or animal as their totem. Before setting out on a bush walk, the teachers made a basic map of the local area using the endpapers as a model. Main changes in vegetation or landform were noted and the areas called “countries”. These were named with the different group totems. As we undertook the bush walk, we mimicked some of the activities in the book, such as making utensils and toys, and added extra of our own such as trading between different totem groups. As we went to enter a different totem area, a representative was sent with a message stick requesting passage through the country and offering trade items. By starting and ending with reflection on the original custodians of our area, using words of their language, identifying bush foods and role playing some customs, the children gained some insight into the history and their responsibility as present ‘custodian’s’ of the area. Suzanne Singleton-Brown, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Pymble, NSW When a group of children from a variety of schools in Sydney is taken on a walk with an author and an illustrator, magic happens. The 16 children walk through Wolli Creek, bounded by Sydney Airport, Cooks River and Botany Bay. The walk takes them over the ngurra, the land of the Eora people who lived along Sydney’s coast before European contact. Along the creek they are able to see things the Eora people would have seen, used, eaten and traded. The children are shown the introduced species, discover pollution, sit where the Eora would have sheltered, listen for the sounds, draw what they see, take photos and enjoy themselves with a group they have not met before. The results of this bush walk are stunning. Back in the classroom, the children were encouraged to write about what they saw and felt. They did a journey diary showing where they went and what they saw, annotated with their words, photos and drawings. They were encouraged to finish their drawings over the next 8 weeks, write poems, and research and share their memories. The result is Going Bush, which is far more than a picture book. Classes could use it as a basis for their own research and excursion, as it gives an incredible amount of detail about just what the students can do on such a trip. It is a most informative and enervating teacher reference book. The reason for doing the book, Harmony Day, resonates throughout the whole, as the children make new friends, overcome their shyness, build relationships, talk and discuss what they have found. ‘Our story begins with the ngurra, the land. That’s what we have in common. No matter where our families come from, this is the place that we call home.’ Each double page spread of this beautiful book, shows the children working, or at play, talking, writing, drawing, taking photos and looking. Each page is filled with colour and light, with drawings, photos, found objects, things the students have made and written. It is a superlative model for teaching. Fran Knight, (semi-retired), SA Australia is renowned for its evolution of a multicultural society. And yet, how often do we teach our growing generations about our own heritage? Going Bush follows the journey of sixteen students selected from eight Sydney based schools. A project on ‘harmony’ between people, the natural environment and history, leads them along a path that will forever change their ideals of learning. Part of this study was to research the ‘Eora’ people; their traditions and lifestyles prior to early settlement, how they used resources from the natural environment, and the language that was uniquely theirs. The book portrays an exceptional selection of artwork, photography and poetry by the children, and is supported with factual information. It is a lovely interpretation of the learning journey these students have taken as a group. As readers, we are able to step into their experience and join their journey. Through their contributions, these individuals momentarily transcend their role as students and become teachers of information. It is clear to the reader that, through research and collaboration, they have found their own sense of harmony in the form of friendship. This book is both an innovative and useful resource for teachers, and the classroom possibilities are endless. Students could map out journeys they have taken in other areas of Australia, using photographs and illustration to interpret their personal experiences. They could also research the different plant varieties native to Australia, or growing in their local area. There are numerous opportunities to discuss environmental issues, with particular regard to the current drought situation in Australia, and how this has affected the future of the natural environment. Individuals could also research their own family histories and traditions, and present their findings back to the class. Going Bush is a true reflection of what has become the Australian ethos…“Our story begins with ngurra, the land. That’s what we have in common. No matter where our families come from, this is the place we call home.” Linda Zammit, Trinity Grammar School, VIC For teachers who have used Nadia Wheatley’s and Donna Rawlins’ My Place, they now have a companion text. While this text is quite different to My Place, fans of this text will see some similarities. Author Nadia Wheatley and artist Ken Searle previously worked together with students and school staff from the Northern Territory to produce Papunya School Book of Country and History. They have teamed up again to produce a text with an indigenous flavour, yet this time the 16 students are drawn from 8 inner-city Sydney schools. The students take part in a bush walk through the Wolli Creek Valley. Wheatley draws together their experiences, interspersed with quotes from the children and Searle’s illustrations are combined with photographs, maps and drawings by the students. Not only do these children learn more about the bush habitat and the involvement of local indigenous people, but along the way they learn about meeting new people and working together with people who had only recently been strangers. Interestingly enough, the group of children are representative of a multicultural cross-section of the Australian community, and spent considerable time together after the bush walk documenting their journey. This text along with either of the other texts mentioned, could be used as model for a class to produce their own recount in words and pictures, or used to demonstrate how text, photographs and illustrations can be married together to tell a story. This text would be particularly appropriate for a unit requiring study of indigenous plants and land use. Wanda Austin , Bohlevale State School, QLD This is a truly excellent book! Written in the first person in the manner of a school excursion information report, it maintains the project book style with its layout (approx. A4 sized pages, landscape orientation). This is the story of an eight week Harmony Project, involving 16 children from eight schools in the Lakemba / Kingsgrove / Bexley / Arncliffe area of southern Sydney who represent a rich variety of cultural backgrounds and communities. The children and their accompanying adults follow the general course of the Wolli and Bardwell Creeks upstream from near Turella railway station to Girrahween Park in Earlwood, walking through the bush (for some the first time ever). They learn how the Eora people of the past lived - perhaps a slightly romanticised view - and how remnants of the area survive into the present day. They learn too of the devastation and pollution that could have been avoided with more thoughtful care by those using the area in the interim. Of the considerable farming activities in the area during the 19th and early 20th centuries there is little mention. The children learn too about one another, about themselves and about difference and commonality. Readers can’t help being reminded of Nadia Wheatley’s earlier glorious book, My Place. As the blurb acknowledges, Going Bush follows the principles developed at Papunyah (N.T.) of the centrality of country in the curriculum. Each double page spread incorporates a variety of material - natural history description, historical background, individual creative writing response, childish illustrations and clear, candid photographs. The borders of each pair of pages reflect the content of that spread as the group moves through the journey. Helpful glossaries of plants and of Aboriginal words used in the book complete the work. The binding looks strong; the fonts are clear and easy to read; the general presentation is attractive and inviting. The highlight for me, who lived in that vicinity for some years, is the beautiful endpapers, incorporating a hand drawn annotated map of the path the children took through the bush. You dar not touch it - it seems the ink is still drying! I look forward to seeing this book on next year’s CBC Short List. In the meantime, I’ll be recommending it to our Stage 2 classes, for a range of HSIE topics, and to Stage 1 when they’re doing their unit on life in the olden days. Don’t miss the teacher’s notes on the publishers’ website. Julie Davies, Sutherland Shire Christian School, NSW What an inspiration this book is for all classroom teachers who are concerned with the environment and our indigenous cultures. From the first page we are invited to begin a journey with a small group of children as they enjoy a bush walk through the Wolli Creek Valley. We are bombarded with stunning visuals, both photographic and the children’s drawings. The authors have mixed the children’s writing with information about the land, plants and animals that are met on the walk. In the classroom I could use this book in a myriad of ways. It would be a wonderful launching pad for a similar walk through our own area and we could then record our thoughts and put them together in a computer photo editing program. The book is a spring board for nature study drawings, poetry and journaling. It weaves the past, present and future so tightly that you are totally immersed in the experience. Sandy Tyson, TAS Going Bush tells the story of a journey of discovery for sixteen children of differing backgrounds, about their local environment, as they walk in the footsteps of the local aboriginal people of the coastal Sydney region. Throughout their journey the students learn about the lives of the local indigenous people, indigenous fauna and flora and the impact of European settlement on the local area. The students tell their story through the main narrative but also through their drawings, research findings and poetry which are scattered throughout the book. The use of digital photography combined with the students own art work gives the book an interesting and authentic feel. It gives Going Bush a personal feel which connects the reader with the students and their journey through their local environment. This enables the reader to make connections with the students and their own situation. This would be a great book to look at the way indigenous people see the environment and what an important place it has in their lives. It would be an excellent model for a class to follow and to examine their local environment and the important place it has in their lives as well as the local indigenous people. Students could complete their own maps, as seen on the end pages of this book for their local environment. An excellent resource which could be used with all students from Reception through to Year 7 in a variety of ways. Melissa Buske, Mercedes College, SA Going Bush has become one of my favourite books! Working cross-culturally, I was drawn to the idea of sixteen children from eight Sydney schools working together to learn about Aboriginal history and their local bush environment. These children are introduced early in the book and share their journey of getting to know each other as they get to know their local surroundings. I used this book as a key text for Harmony Day at our two-campus, two-island, District High School. We shared the opening verse, from one of the book’s contributing students, as our introduction to ‘harmony’: We should have harmony among people who live on this beautiful planet. We should make friends With people we don’t know. We should play, share and have trust with everyone. Mohammed This book has great visual appeal, created by the montages of photos, children’s drawings and maps. The text layout has the appeal of a shared diary. The illustrations are interspersed with the story of the book’s creation, poems and prose by the contributing students. Non-fiction text about the Eora people, who lived in the Wolli Creek Area of Sydney, provides another text layer. I intend to use this text to model visual layout and the development of hybrid texts, across Learning Areas and year levels. This delightful book could be a valuable addition to every Australian school and community library. Dr Carmel Bochenek, Cocos Islands DHS, Indian Ocean Territories