Birrigai Boys Project
WHAT: Birrigai Boys Project (BBP) is a trial project working with a small number of at-risk Indigenous students in an outdoor setting. The project's potential has been backed by the ACT government, which on 7 December 2004 announced a grant of $330,000 from its Community Inclusion Fund over a three-year period.
WHERE: The project is based at Narrabundah Primary School in the ACT, but also makes extensive use of the nearby outdoor education facility in Birrigai. Students attending the BBP are drawn from six local primary schools: Narrabundah, Isabella Plains, Weston Creek, Gilmore, Richardson, Quamby/Flynn.
WHO: There are currently 10 primary students attending the BBP. They are Indigenous students who have been identified as requiring intervention work in such areas as attendance, behaviour, self-identity, literacy, numeracy. There is no set age-group, but current participants tend to be from the upper primary years.
"Society's problems are reflected in our classrooms," Narrabundah principal Trish Keller says. "We couldn't wait for someone else to do something; we had to do it ourselves and we did. Schools are catapulted into the front line of social welfare and we at Narrabundah, with support from our partners, are doing what Aboriginal elder Pat Dodson said: that local communities should find their own solutions to problems."
The aims for participants in the BBP are -
|Develop skills to work cooperatively as a team member|
|Identify causes of conflict and negotiate solutions (develop self-regulating behaviour)|
|Develop personal growth and self-identity|
|Build trust and responsibility|
|Develop knowledge and understanding of Indigenous social structure and rules|
|Explore ideas and feelings through written expression and visual art|
|Develop skills to present information in oral and written forms|
|Provide learning experiences that reflect contemporary learning technologies, including learning appropriate and efficient use of ICT|
HOW IT WORKS
The BBP operates twice a week, typically from 1-3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays.
The staff:student ratio is 1:3 or better. The regular staff are a Birrigai teacher, a Homeschool Liaison Officer, and an education officer from Gugan Gulwan Youth Centre.
"Our student management program was working for everybody except these half-a-dozen Aboriginal boys," Trish Keller says. "Nothing we did was working for them, so we had to come up with something different. We are a small team here, and we believe in finding strategies that work. We sit in the staffroom and talk until we come up with answers. Our Indigenous worker from the unit, Michael Hilton, helped us come up with the idea of taking them to another educational setting. Some of the reasons it works, I think, are that it offers a different setting, male mentors, one-on-one, different location, people with time for them, the focus on them and their immediate needs, social links with the families. They go out overnight camping in rain, hail or snow, campfire singing, art activities. It's a whole different ballgame to here at school
"We strongly believe that early intervention is a key to this program. I'm hoping this handful of children will be the leaders of this group and the peer tutors who will take on the new kids down the line. This grant will allow us to really get these kids on track. Part of the project's objectives is to start on a girls program within the next few years."
High- and low-rope work, flying fox
BACKGROUND NOTES TO PROJECT:
(Compiled by researcher Sue Gorman)
Students currently in the program come from diverse backgrounds but share common characteristics. Significantly, these students are in need either educationally, emotionally, socially or a combination of all three. They have been identified by teachers as underperforming despite competent teaching, special programs, and best efforts by schools to redress their problems.
A group reflection session following the learning activities enables students to develop self-regulating behaviour by self-assessing their performance in areas such as teamwork and leadership. Positive qualitative feedback is supplemented by a quantitative points reward system.
The BBP utilizes and integrates partnerships across a wide range of service providers within the Indigenous community; the program was initiated by the Indigenous Education Section and is managed by a team which is largely Indigenous.
All students in the program have demonstrated improvements in some of the target areas of attendance, behaviour, self-identity and literacy. Data collected to date indicates that the rate of major behaviour incidents has decreased since students commenced the program.
All teachers had some areas of concern:
|Extend students' Indigenous knowledge|
|Transferring of skills to the school setting (especially in Literacy/Numeracy)|
|Maintenance of improvements|
|Selling the Birrigai 'treat' to others in the class|
|Missing 'important' work at school|
Trish Keller, Principal Narrabundah PS, ACT Ph 0262 05 7077
|Students see it as a fun time rather than an opportunity|