Aunty Alma Jean Fishing
Alma-Jean Sullivan’s 2010 Fishing Calendar – Ideas for Incorporating this Resource into Classes for Aboriginal Perspectives.
In 2009 we found some funding to help Aunty Alma reproduce her '96 fishing calendar again for 2010. She was nice enough to give us half of her calendars so that every classroom in the Bourke group of schools could have one for free. We made a booklet to go with it, explaining how to use the calendar to bring an Aboriginal perspective into the classroom every day. Some of the 8ways notes from that booklet are included below, along with a sample page from the calendar.
Reading these notes may give you ideas for incorporating similar authentic community texts into your classroom using 8ways.
Introducing the Calendar to your Class
Place the calendar on the wall and record important dates – holidays, assessment due dates, etc. Make the calendar part of the housekeeping business of your class, a daily point of reference. Use it to embed an Aboriginal perspective at the organisational level of your class.
Share your personal stories about fishing, rivers, camping etc. with the students, and then hear their stories. Compare these experiences with Aunty Alma’s. Wherever possible make links between issues raised in student narratives and your course content. Identify processes and skills in these stories that could be applied to classroom learning activities (e.g. problem solving strategies, evaluating probabilities, time management, listening skills, etc.).
Using the calendar as a reference, you could make a visual map of your plan for a unit, a term or even a year’s work. You can incorporate images and ideas from the calendar as metaphors. For example, your map for the term might be represented by a river, with carp representing negative behaviours to be avoided, black bream representing assessment items, etc. The seasonal changes indicated in the calendar can be incorporated in the map to indicate timeframes – e.g. You might use Aunty Alma’s statement that “Cod will be biting when the weather gets cool on yabbies shrimps and grasshoppers” and draw a cod in the river to indicate the end of term 1 and beginning of term 2.
For lower primary stages this could involve miming some of the activities shown in the calendar. It might also involve kinaesthetic activities using the text, like sequencing photocopies of the calendar pages. In higher stages you might analyse the images in the calendar, ask students to comment on the body language of the people in the pictures. This is a point of entry for problematic knowledge – examine the implicit messages in the text by asking questions about the cultural background of the people who put the calendar together, and the relationship between them and Aunty Jean. Who is the audience? What kind of images and messages are being presented about Aboriginal people? Non-Aboriginal people? What are the unspoken beliefs, relations, values and attitudes that can be read (e.g. “You whitefellas might find it easier to bring a can of fly spray with you”)?
Symbols and Images
Examine and discuss the visuals in the calendar. E.g. Significance of yellow, black and red colour scheme, department logos, flag, Aboriginal rock art in the background, etc. These could be good stimulus for the “Story Sharing” activities suggested above – e.g. students respond to picture of the Bourke weir with their own stories of weirs and community activities there. See if there are any symbols in the calendar that you could use to represent aspects of your classroom management or curriculum knowledge (which can also be incorporated into your Learning Map).
You are already making this link by including the calendar in your classroom environment. You can build on this connection by putting similar images/photos from yourself, your students and your community on the walls of your classroom. You could also place specimens of plants and animals (e.g. flowers, gumnuts, fish tank, snake skin, echidna quills) around the room, preferably linked in some way to curriculum. These links may be metaphorical, e.g. witchetty grub segments as mnemonic device for remembering a mathematical sequence. There may also be aspects of land-based knowledge in the calendar that you can link in with your curriculum content throughout the year. E.g. calendar could be a starting point for any unit or text that explores aspects of the Murray-Darling basin or environmental issues in general.
The easiest way to include this way of learning is to overlap different knowledge domains. For example, you might do some brainstorming or researching to create a Venn diagram showing similarities and differences between western scientific and Aboriginal knowledge of rivers. Or it could simply mean using ecological knowledge as part of a maths lesson – bringing together knowledge domains that are seen as unrelated in the usual scheme of things. This way of learning is about synthesising, innovating or going (seemingly) off-topic in a learning sequence to create new knowledge. For example, you might reconceptualise Aunty Alma’s Johnny Cake recipe as a framework for a science experiment.
You have already begun this work in the “Story Sharing” activities, asking about students’ background knowledge of the places, species, people, objects and activities depicted in the calendar. Wherever possible, try to relate curriculum knowledge back to the students’ home world in this way. Then return their school learning to the community in some way, for local benefit. This could involve a project such as organising a fishing competition like that described in the calendar by Aunty Alma. It could also involve displaying students’ work publicly with the goal of educating and informing the community on a certain issue, or simply creating useful texts for the students to take home (e.g. they might make their own calendars based on your unit topic, and modelled on Aunty’s calendar format).
This is about providing a model of any work students will do up front, and demonstrating the process for that before asking students to do it. This is how Aunty Alma taught her grandchildren about fishing. This is not just a process for literacy scaffolding – if you expect students to do an equation, you will provide a model text. For literacy activities, there are a number of print texts in the calendar that can be scaffolded and taught as specific genres. These are indigenised print genres that are influenced by an oral language tradition and customary Aboriginal communication purposes. These can be deconstructed and reconstructed as a way of exploring and mastering contemporary Aboriginal forms of written expression.