First term was very much taken up with establishing basic routines, settling everyone in and getting to know each other. Now we have added another more complex routine to our week, with a formal acknowledgement of country each Monday.
We started talking about First People’s late last term when one of the children asked about the picture of Aunty Joy Murphy on our wall. We read her Welcome to Country book, which introduced Bunjil, and the Woi Wurrung language.
This week, we told the children some of the history of Australia, and talked about how the Wurundjeri people are the traditional owners of the land our kindergarten is on.
Our Acknowledgement of Country ritual involves Bunjil welcoming the children onto his country. We have a Bunjil puppet. To start our first morning meeting of the week, we ask the children to be completely quiet to respect Bunjil. Bunjil flies in and flies over each child, and then says the welcome words in Woi Wurrung that Aunty Joy put in her book. It is a solemn moment.
The children are very interested and are asking a lot of questions and sharing what they know about Bunjil.
I learnt a song last weekend, from Stiff Gins singer-songwriters Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs. It is called Opal Rainbow, and is in Language.
Nardi and Kaleena taught us this song in a workshop. We sang the chorus with them, and they filled in the verses. It tells a story of going searching the scrailings for opals that the miners might have missed. Nardi provides evocative mime that helps support the story.
For the first couple of days, a gospel song from the same folk festival took up residence in my head and blocked out the tune of Opal Rainbow. But on my walk to work yesterday, the tune and lyrics of the chorus came back to me.
I wanted to share it with the children, but I was not sure how I could manage it, and whether they could take to it. The group I am teaching at the moment are very little. I can barely get them to join in on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
But as circle time approached, I resolved to sing it to them anyway. At least it might help me remember.
I had a brain wave to add clapping sticks. I could not find the good ones at short notice, but I grabbed a few pieces of dowel from a wooden construction set. (Nardi uses her thongs, after all.)
I gave each child a pair of sticks, set up a rhythm and sang to them.
They worked intently on their clapping technique. They did not care about the song or the lyrics. But as I sang to them over and over, they fell into time.
The last line of the song is chanted, and the sticks are clapped fast and out of rhythm. It provides nice punctuation to end the song. It makes the children smile.
As I finished singing for the tenth time, the children cred ‘again’.
I have a hit.
The lyrics are (have to check the spelling) :
You can hear Stiff Gins on You Tube. This song Yandool is in Wiradjuri. It is a lovely taste of their music, though not so suitable for singing with young children. I have not been able to find a performance of Opal Rainbow yet to share with you.
Stiff Gins also do workshops for children (though more for schools than early childhood, I gather). They are very engaging and great performers and teachers, as well as good musicians. Look out for them.
I heard crows this morning. They are a familiar sound in my world.
Yesterday evening, a friend was talking about felt figures she was making for her children to play with when they go camping, including one of Waang the Crow.
Waang is a Wurundjeri Creation spirit. He is one of those mischievous characters. Plays tricks on people.
I’m thinking there is potential there for kinder activities. I’ll put Waang on my list of things to learn more about.
PS The Australian crow is technically a raven, I believe.
The Wurundjeri people are the traditional owners of the land that Melbourne was built on.
Yesterday a friend posted on her facebook status that Grass Flowering Season is ending and Kangaroo Apple Season is about to start.
As I think about how to include indigenous perspectives in my early childhood program next year, I should remember to learn about the seasons. Aboriginal people divide the seasons and mark them by particular natural events – a plant blooming, an insect appearing.
I have already planted some local indigenous grasses at kinder. There is some of this same Slender Spear Grass that grows in my own garden. I find it very beautiful. I love how it waves in the breeze, and catches the sunlight.
When I first went to buy some indigenous grass seedlings, the nursery showed me how the seeds of the spear grasses can be thrown like tiny darts, and will stick. Fun for children. Maybe too challenging for preschoolers – I can try.
My friend said Grass Flowering Season is called Buath Garu (though she did not say in what language). It has warm weather and lots of rain. In Kangaroo Apple Season we expect changeable thundery weather.