Tjuntjuntjara student enjoying the explore phase

Supporting Remote and Indigenous Students

Published 01 May 2016

PrimaryConnections recently hosted a workshop to help support teachers from schools with significant Indigenous enrolments in Perth. This 'One Day Introduction to PrimaryConnections' workshop was fully funded by the ‘Enlightening Campaign’ donations and gave teachers such as Jennifer Frost from Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School the opportunity to attend. 

Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School is Australia’s most remote school. At present the school has 30 students all of which are from the Ananyu (arn-a-noo) community. Pitjantjatjara is the first language spoken by this Aboriginal community, followed by Aboriginal English. The community established its own school in 1988, and Tjuntjuntjara officially became a school (today teaching SAE- Standard Australian English) in 2008. 

Jennifer Frost, who was granted an ‘Enlightening’ travel bursary to attend this workshop on the 27th April 2016, has lived and worked in isolated communities throughout her life. She began teaching in Tjuntjuntjara as a 50 year old mature age graduate from Edith Cowan University. Apart from the various difficulties of living in an isolated community away from family and friends, there is also significant language barriers which have forced her to learn as much of the Pitjantjatjara language as possible. 

“Working at Tjuntjuntjara is very challenging but, as much as it’s a cliché, it is very rewarding. The children are free spirits and certainly keep you on your toes but they are genuinely caring and eager to learn new things. Just like children anywhere else in the world they are fascinated and intrigued by science. They are also very willing to share their world and cultural knowledge with you, and are extremely tolerant of my misunderstandings and mispronunciation of their language. I certainly take away with me as much, if not more, than I give to these students.” 

Jennifer expressed her interest in attending the PrimaryConnections workshop not only because she is extremely fond of the units, but also because she says that the structure of the PrimaryConnections program has helped overcome several issues faced in the community including student transiency (moving from one community to another for cultural business), “An advantage of using PC is the children’s familiarity with the content and processes which assists them settling back into the classroom routine when they return.” 

With generally all of the students facing hearing difficulties, units such as ‘Look! Listen!’ have also proven fantastic tools to engage students to listen and focus on the world around them. “The Indigenous students in Tjuntjuntjara are very connected to their country and find multiple ways to connect me with their own knowledge to their understandings of this unique environment. PC connects these children with the world around them in a different way through inquiry, questioning and investigation. The inquiries are easily adaptable to suit the environment that they are conducted in.”However, she mentions that a bit of planning is involved when an inquiry needs garden snails and worms when you live in the Great Victorian Desert! 

Her principal Charlie (Wilbur) Klein was eager for her to attend the workshop. He states, “We see this as an excellent opportunity to provide professional learning to support our science program and improve our knowledge and skills. On Jennie’s return we will utilize her increased knowledge and understanding through a local professional learning activity to share the learning with the whole staff.”The school’s belief is that the programme offers prospects for students to develop and consolidate their learning through the formation of inquiry questions. “All the Australian Curriculum links, including science, numeracy and literacy links are set out clearly in the beginning of the books taking a lot of the stress out of term planning. Throughout, lessons generate occasions for diagnostic, formative and summative assessment,” states Jennifer.

Jennifer is currently training new teachers at her school with the knowledge she gained from the workshop and on behalf of all the staff and students at her school would like to thank the donors for helping their school community by offering her this generous opportunity. 

Jennifer Frost (far left) with other teachers at the 'One Day Introduction to Primary Connections' workshop in Perth, April 27 2016